The Kingdom of Christ is Not What Most Think
Enjoy a portion of CFW Walther’s preaching on the Holy Gospel for the Second Sunday after Trinity, St.Luke 14:16-24.
The majority say, if not in words, then in their hearts, “I have purchased this or that; I have to do this or that; I have married a wife or a husband, and so on, and therefore please have me excused; I cannot come.” It is impossible, as they suppose, to tear oneself away completely from the things of this world, be they earthly goods, earthly pleasure, or earthly honor; they think that one should not turn one’s back recklessly to the good fortune which smiles at them. Another is already sated with the good things which the world serves up to her children. Another is intoxicated with the cup of joy. Another is too entangled in the world’s worries and troubles; he finds no time to go daily to Christ, if I may say so, as His guest. He fears he will lose too much and win too little. Christ and His kingdom are considered hardly worth sacrificing one’s whole life for. Yes, he considers life in Christ’s kingdom an irksome, difficult task, whereby he fears to make himself more unfortunate and embitter his life.
Alas! How foolish such thoughts are! How foolishly they act, who let the things of this world hinder them from entering Christ’s kingdom! The world is well worth leaving; the kingdom of Christ is well worth sacrificing everything for in order to squeeze through the narrow gates of this kingdom! For what is life in this world? It is, as Christ describes it, the joy and care of field, cattle, wife, and child. As Moses writes “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). It is, as Jesus son of Sirach writes, a miserable wretched thing for the life of all men, from the womb to the tomb, which is the mother of us all. There is always worry, fear, hope, and finally death. This is true of him who sits in honor as well as with the least on earth; true of him who wears silks and a crown as of him who wears a course blouse (cf. Ecclesiasticus 41:1-4). Who among us must not agree with this discription of the world? Merely look back on your life; must you not admit that true fortune is youth’s empty hopeful dream which never goes into fulfillment? Must you not acknowledge with Solomon, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)? Would it not therefore be foolish to set one’s heart on anything in this world, even if there were no kingdom of Christ?
But what utter foolishness to let the miserable things of this world hinder one from entering into this kingdom! For the kingdom of Christ is not what most think. Whoever enters this kingdom does not embitter his life; it is, as Christ shows in our Gospel, a banquet. It is neither hard work nor bitter service but, as it is called in other places, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever dismisses the world and sets his heart on Christ discovers that God is a gracious and friendly Father who will not remember his sins in eternity, who removes all care from his heart, who lets him live in His home, eat at His table, and drink of His cup, and thus daily and richly provides and refreshes him body and soul. Whoever dismisses the world and sets his heart on Christ for the first time begins to live; for the first time he experiences what it means to be happy. For the first time he feels how blessed he is to be free from the shackles of sin. For the first time he sees how blessed he is to have the sun of grace over the darkness of his heart.
CFW Walther, Gospel Sermons, Volume 2. Trans. by Donald E. Heck. Concordia Publishing House, 2014. pp. 23-24