Sunday, October 7, 2012

Homily for The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 20)


Matthew 22:1-14; Ephesians 5:15-21; Isaiah 55:1-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

You are invited. Only, you can say “No, thank you”. You are in. Only you can make yourself to be out. Such is the nature of kingdom of heaven. Everything is prepared. God has done it all. He has slaughtered His Lamb. He has done what was necessary so that you could come. He has sent His servants to you with this Good News, that you are invited, that you are in. It’s done! It’s finished! Only you can say “No”. Only can make yourself to be out.

The invitation was sent first to the King’s chosen ones, those ordinary, sinful, idolatrous people upon whom God chose to show His mercy and shower upon His grace. The invitation went to Abram and to his descendents, a people who were no nation, whom He made to be a nation, even His own children, by grace. Their history has been one of faith and prosperity followed by betrayal, idolatry and denial, leading to judgment, repentance, restoration, repeat. But then, when the time was right, God sent His only-begotten Son to end that vicious cycle by fulfilling God’s holy Law and by suffering and dying in the place of men. It’s done! It’s finished! God, the King, sent His servants to call His children to the feast, but they would not come. Some were distracted by the pleasures of life and they paid no attention. Some were embroiled in their work, their wealth, and their possessions. Some violently opposed Him, and treated His servants shamefully and killed them. The King was angry. He sent His troops and He destroyed those murderers, and He burned their city. They were invited. They said “No, thank you”. They were in. They made themselves to be out.

But, the King did not prepare the feast for nothing. His only-begotten Son did not suffer and die in vain. His wedding hall will be filled. Therefore, He sent His servants to the main roads to invite as many as they would find there. And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good, for the wedding invitation is not based on the qualifications of those invited, but it is based upon the grace and mercy of the King and the merit and work of His Son. The feast is free, as the Prophet Isaiah declared saying, “he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” You are invited. Only you can say “No, thank you.” You are in. Only you can make yourself to be out.

Thus far, this parable of our Lord Jesus proclaims the universal grace and mercy of God the Father, and the universal atonement accomplished by the selfless, sacrificial, and substitutionary suffering and death of His Son. There is no one who has ever lived, or who will ever live, that is left out of the LORD’s gracious invitation. There is no one for whom the Lord Jesus did not suffer and die. There is no one for whom is not provided the wedding garment of Christ’s holy, innocent, and righteous blood. But, that garment is necessary. Jesus’ blood is necessary for admittance into the wedding hall of heaven.

It is here that our Lord’s parable takes a slightly unexpected turn. There was a man there in the hall that had no wedding garment. He had been invited. Likely he was one of those good or bad found walking on the main roads. He was there at the LORD’s invitation and as His guest. But, he was not wearing the proper wedding garment. Perhaps to your ears this seems a light, pardonable offense, and perhaps you are taken aback at the King’s response to the man found without a wedding garment? The King said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” You see, the man was not even expected to come wearing the proper garment, but wedding garments were provided all of the guests. The implication is that this man refused to wear the garment. He insisted on participating in the feast on his own terms, according to his own will, desire, and wisdom. Can you now see the great offense this was to the King? However, the offense is seen even more clearly when the spiritual meaning of this parable is understood, that the wedding garment is the sacrificial blood and righteousness of the King’s Son, Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’ atoning blood, you are invited. Only you can say, “No, thank you.” You are in. Only you can make yourself to be out.

The ungarmented man had no answer, he was speechless. Then the King said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This is the King’s righteous and just judgment. Does it seem harsh. Yes, indeed it does. But, as much as we misjudge the breadth and depth of God’s mercy, grace, love, compassion, and forgiveness in Jesus, so too do we misjudge His holiness, righteousness, and justice. God’s holiness and righteousness cannot permit even the smallest sinful imperfection – that’s simply the nature of who God is, His holiness, and what it means to be God. Yet, He has made it possible for all of us and everyone to stand before Him without fear by covering us with the cleansing, holy, innocent, and righteous blood of Jesus. This is the garment that is absolutely necessary to enter His presence. You receive that garment when you believe what God has done for you in Christ Jesus and do not reject Him. Baptism is a sacramental sign and seal of God’s promise made and kept for you in Jesus. To reject Jesus, or to attempt to enter God’s presence apart from Jesus, without His cleansing blood, is to stand before God naked in your sin. Thus, it is not wickedness on God’s part that casts you out, but it is your own refusal and rejection of the atonement He provided for you at great cost in the blood of His own Son, Jesus.

And, what of the weeping and gnashing of teeth? Is this not the fruit of the knowledge of what could have been and what should have been? Those who reject the LORD’s gracious invitation and the garment of Christ’s righteousness, when they find themselves locked outside of the feast in the wedding hall of heaven, they will weep and gnash their teeth in the full knowledge of what they gave up entirely of their own free will and of their own fault. As the time will be too late then to repent and receive God’s gifts of love and forgiveness, grief and sorrow over their self-chosen fate consumes and contorts them so that they are bound hand and foot in anger and fury and grief in the darkness of separation from the God of light, holiness, and righteousness. For many are called, but few are chosen. Indeed, all are called through the chosen One, Jesus Christ. And, rejection of Him alone is the cause of being cast into darkness.

So, what are you to make of this parable? What does it mean for your lives today? Well, you can take great comfort in the breadth and height of God’s love for all mankind in Jesus Christ, that He has invited all to the wedding feast in heaven and that He has provided in His Son Jesus all that is necessary to stand in His holy and glorious presence. And, you know that His invitation is for you today, now, as St. Paul has taught you, “Now is the day of salvation.” Further, Isaiah teaches you, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near,” and St. Paul exhorts you, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” For, if you are invited – and you are, and, if you are in – and you are, then what do you have to fear? Nothing! What do you have to be anxious about? Nothing! All that you need, all that is necessary for your eternal life and salvation has been accomplished for you, and no one can take it away from you. You are sealed and clothed in Christ’s holiness and righteousness, cleansed and purified in His innocent shed blood – You are in! What does this mean for your life now? Live like you believe and know that this is true! Live like you already have one foot in heaven and that you’re patiently looking forward to standing there with both feet, body, and soul. That is to say, live like the Christ you have been given, the Christ you have received, and, indeed, the little-Christ you have been made to be – now! – making the best use of the time, because the days are evil, not being foolish, but understanding what the will of the Lord is, not getting drunk with wine, but being filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. For, the time is short, and while the Enemy seeks to lead men astray by means of lies and deceit, let yourselves, people of God, work to lead your brothers and sisters and your neighbors to believe and receive the LORD’s gracious invitation and live, now, and forevermore.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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