Sunday, October 7, 2018

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.
“A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.” Martin Luther penned those words in twenty-eight theses known as the Heidelberg Disputation in April of 1518. In many ways, the Heidelberg theses were more important for the reformation of the Church than were the ninety-five theses Luther nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg five months earlier. For, in the Heidelberg Disputation, Luther drew the Church back to the unchanging Truth of God’s Word, regardless of its making sense to human reason or whether men truly like what it says or not. The theologian of the cross believes and trusts in God’s Word no matter what, acknowledging that God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts and that man’s ways are not God’s ways; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than man’s ways and His thoughts than man’s thoughts. In contrast, the theologian of glory often has great difficulty with God’s thoughts and ways. When God’s thoughts and ways seem foolish, backward, or simply wrong according to man’s reason and wisdom, the theologian of glory bends God’s Word to make it more comfortable, omits part of it to make it more doable, and reinterprets it to make it more acceptable. And, often, God’s Word is denied and rejected altogether in favor of man’s word to the effect that the theologian of glory calls God’s good thoughts, ways, Word, and deeds evil, while calling man’s evil thoughts, ways, Word, and deeds good.
David’s father Jesse considered it foolishness that his young and ruddy shepherd son could be the LORD’s anointed, so he didn’t even bother to bring him before Samuel for consideration. Yet, as strong son, after wise son, after mighty son, was passed over, the Holy Spirit fell upon the LORD’s chosen David, “for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” The Prophet Isaiah prophesied of Jesus’ humble and unexpected appearance saying, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” When Jesus began to preach and teach, the people were amazed saying, “Is this not the carpenter’s son from backwater Nazareth?” Because He did not meet the expectations of what men consider powerful, great, virtuous, and valuable, most rejected Jesus and refused to listen to Him and trust in Him. The Pharisees and scribes and the leaders of Israel even called Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and works blasphemy and the work of Beelzebub, the devil – for, a theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil.
Truly, God has chosen what is foolish in this world to shame the wise; God has chosen what is weak in this world to shame the strong; God has chosen what is low and despised in this world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are. Look at yourselves! Take a look around at your brothers and sisters in Christ sitting next to you and all around you. Any one-percenters out there? Any of you live in a mansion, made the Forbes 500, drive a Maserati, eat steak and lobster and drink the finest wines every night? No, I didn’t think so. Most of you aren’t truly poor, but few of you are truly rich; and, none of you are truly famous, so far as I know. The best of you, by worldly standards, are likely considered quite average and unremarkable to your fellow man. Under the theology of the cross, that’s actually a great blessing. You see, maybe they don’t call you evil, but they certainly don’t think much of you, do they? They look at you and yawn; nothing to see here, move along. In Jesus’ day they would have “wagged their heads.” But, not your God; not your heavenly Father. When He looks at you He beams with joy and godly pride. When God your Father looks at you He sees someone rich in spirit, exalted in their meekness and humility, satisfied in righteousness, rich in mercy, and pure in heart; that is to say, when God your Father looks at you He sees His Son Jesus, into whom you have been baptized, purified, cleansed, forgiven, and restored to a right relationship with your heavenly Father, God, and LORD.
Truly, one of the most difficult things for the theologian of glory to understand – indeed, they cannot understand it, for their eyes and their mind are blinded to this Truth – is that we are all poor and helpless, that we are all dead in our trespasses and sin and cannot believe in Jesus Christ or make any movement towards Him. The theologian of glory cannot, will not believe this Truth. To him it seems supreme foolishness and is a detestable and evil thought. Believing themselves to be rich in knowledge and wisdom and righteousness, the theologian of glory rejects the invitation to come to the waters having no money, to come buy and eat wine and milk without money and without price. “I am not poor!” they insist. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch!” “I will not be indebted to anyone.” And so, they reject the free gift of God – which is the only way – and put their trust in their own righteousness, which is no righteousness at all but filthy rags. Like the invitees to the King’s wedding banquet for his son, they refuse to come, they reject the King’s gracious invitation. When the King, in supreme patience and mercy, sends His servants to call them a second time, they react violently in anger, treating the King’s servants badly and murdering some. The theologian of glory, while feigning to praise God, truly despises and hates Him for continually exposing his sins, unrighteousness, and inability to help himself in His unchanging Word proclaimed by His servants whom He has sent to call them to repentance and faith.
Still, the LORD’s kingdom will be full. The invitation goes out to all, both the bad and the good, “Come.” The feast is prepared. Everything is ready. There is nothing to do. It is finished. “Come.” Even the wedding garment is provided, the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all your sins. Yes! Even that is provided you! In Jesus’ parable, there is one man in the King’s wedding hall found not wearing the provided wedding garment. Though he responded to the invitation, this theologian of glory refused to put on the provided wedding garment; he refused to be covered in Christ’s righteousness, and so he remained naked and exposed in his sin and guilt before the LORD. Undoubtedly, he did not think of himself as sinful and guilty; indeed, he called his evil sin good and the LORD’s good gift evil. The King had His servants bind him hand and foot and cast him out into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth: weeping, because of the now undeniable, irrevocable, and eternal judgment; gnashing of teeth because of hatred of God’s righteousness and justice. Lord Jesus, send us Your Holy Spirit and change our hearts and renew our minds that we see with new eyes the truth of our sinful condition and the truth of your gracious forgiveness. Make us to be theologians of the cross who call a thing what it is, what You say it is in Your Word. Amen.
Another attribute of being a theologian of the cross is being prepared for the Lord’s coming in judgment at any time. In this regard St. Paul exhorts you in today’s Epistle to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” You are blessed by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word and Holy Baptism to be able to see things are they truly are, not calling evil good and good evil. Therefore, you do not put your trust in material wealth and possessions and you do not permit yourself to be ruled by your fleshly passions and desires, but you receive all things as gifts from the LORD and use them for His glory. Likewise, your attitude towards your fellow man, particularly those of the family of faith, is one of mutual submission and love out of reverence for Christ, as we address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with our hearts, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And now, everything is ready. The feast is prepared. Come to the wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom that has no end. Come, eat and drink without money and without price. God has chosen these lowly things – Word, water, bread, and wine – to call, clothe, feed, keep, equip, and send you bearing His grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness to others to the glory of His Name.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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