Sunday, October 5, 2014
Homily for The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity (Michaelmas 2)
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.
The king had prepared a wedding feast for his son. Absolutely everything was prepared and paid for by the king. Even the proper wedding clothes were to be provided the king’s invited guests. All there was to do was come, come to the feast.
Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like that. God the Father is the King. Jesus is His Son, the Bridegroom, for whom the feast is being held. And you, you are the King’s invited guests. More than that, you are the Bride! And, the wedding garment that the King provides, it is nothing less than the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, your Bridegroom. Clothed in the wedding garment the King has provided, you are in, and you never need fear being out. However, without that wedding garment, without the blood of Christ, then there is no place for you but outside the gates. There, there will be only weeping and the gnashing of teeth, not because you didn’t deserve to be thrown out, but precisely because you will know then that you did. You will know it, and you will know that it is your own damn fault, because the King had prepared a wedding feast for His Son. Absolutely everything was prepared and paid for by the King. Even the proper wedding clothes were provided the King’s invited guests. All there was to do was come, come to the feast. And you wouldn’t, you didn’t, and now you are in the outer darkness, and you gnash your teeth and you weep beacause you know that it is your own damn fault.
But, this did not need to be. It does not need to be even now! But, the invited guests in Jesus’ parable “paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business.” They were invited guests. They were in, but they made themselves to be out. Even worse, some of the invitees seized the king’s servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. So, it wasn’t mere apathy, but outright hostility to king that was at play. Not surprisingly, the king was angry, and he justly “sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” Now, some will want to say that the king was unmerciful and hasty in his wrath. Maybe, by man’s reason and reckoning. But, remember, this king isn’t a man, but our holy, righteous, and just God. His wrath against sin is not His proper will, but His alien will. Remember, the LORD has invited all to the wedding feast of His Son. Jesus’ death upon the cross is atonement for all people of all times and all places. This is God’s proper will. However, for those who will not receive this free gift in accordance with His gracious and merciful proper will, there will be only God’s wrath and judgment according to His alien will. The LORD alone is good – the very rule, measure, and standard of goodness. And, the LORD has provided a way for all men to be saved. But, how many will seek for, wait for, and look for another way, a different way? How many will accuse the LORD of injustice for providing only one way? Sadly, too many, indeed.
Then the king told his servants, “The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.” A truer statement could not be uttered. None of the invited guests were worthy of the king’s gracious invitation. But, they were made to be worthy by the king himself who of his own grace and mercy chose to count them as worthy. Those who ignored or rejected the king’s invitation did much more than offend his grace; they rejected his kingship, his lordship. They made themselves out to be kings and lords over themselves. Once again, the LORD alone is good, is just, is holy and righteous. The LORD is the Law and it’s sole source, rule, guide, and measure. To reject the LORD is to reject His Law; it is to be a law unto one’s self. This is the height of pride and arrogance, the root of Lucifer’s fall, of our First Parent’s fall, and of the fall of all mankind. Indeed, the king’s invitation, the LORD’s gracious invitation, is to leave all that behind and to truly be free in the Law of the LORD, which is true freedom, and to truly live in the LORD who alone is and gives life.
Again, the LORD’s proper will is displayed as the king commands his servants to go “to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.” The servants did as the king commanded; they “went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.” The wedding hall was filled with both bad and good; once again, none of the invited guests were worthy of the king’s gracious invitation. But, they were made to be worthy by the king himself who of his own grace and mercy chose to count them as worthy. And yet, amazingly, there is still a problem. One man was found in the banquet hall without a wedding garment. Remember, the king provided the proper wedding garment for all of his invited guests to wear. The king provided absolutely everything that was necessary. They only way that someone could be without a wedding garment would be that he willfully, stubbornly refused to wear it. Once again, this was the height of pride and arrogance, an affront to the king’s grace and mercy and to his kingship and lordship as well.
The king is the LORD. The king’s son is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The wedding garment is the shed blood of Jesus for you, His Bride. There simply is no entering the wedding feast without this garment; there simply is no entering the kingdom of heaven apart from the atoning blood of Jesus Christ – His forgiveness, sinlessness, and righteousness imputed to you. In Jesus you are worthy. The LORD has made you to be worthy. You are in, only you can make yourself to be out. If you make yourself to be out, you will have only yourself to blame. The king, the LORD, has done all that was necessary to make you in. All is prepared for you in the grace, mercy, and love of the LORD through Jesus Christ. To be out, and to know full well that it is your own fault – this is the cause of the weeping and the gnashing of teeth: anger, resentment, hatred of self, hatred of God, hatred of everything. Jesus ends His parable saying that “many are called, but few are chosen.” Indeed, all are called, all are invited. Those who are chosen are those who do not refuse the LORD’s gracious invitation.
Jesus’ parable echoes the continuous theme of the Holy Scriptures from the LORD’s first proclamation of the Gospel after the fall of our First Parents. We heard it today from the Prophet Isaiah: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” We are always on the receiving end of God’s grace and mercy. When we receive from Him we acknowledge and confess Him to be God and LORD. This is why the Lutheran Confessions state that the highest worship of God is to receive His gifts. Indeed, our German forebears called this Divine Service Gottesdienst, which means, God’s service, for here, in Word and Sacrament, our God and LORD serves us. Indeed, this Divine Service is a foretaste of the wedding feast that is yet to come. The King has called you to the feast through His servants who bear His Word of gracious invitation. In Holy Baptism He has clothed you with the wedding garment of Christ’s holy and innocent blood. All is prepared for you, all you need to do is trust and receive His gifts. You don’t need money. You don’t need works. All you need is faith, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness, life, and salvation.
“It can’t be that easy,” you say? Indeed, it is. However, being the LORD’s invited guests, the Bride of Christ, means that you won’t be the same. The LORD accepts you the way you are, as a sinner, but He will not permit you to continue to walk in the same sinful path. It won’t happen over night, and it won’t even be perfect until you die and are raised again. Indeed, it will be a lifelong struggle. However, you will put away the ways of the world and the flesh and walk in the Law, life, and liberty of the LORD in Jesus Christ. This is why the Apostle 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. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” The will of the LORD is that you receive His gifts free, without cost, works, or merit, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Any other way is the way of the world and the flesh. This you must crucify and leave behind.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.