Sunday, October 17, 2010

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.

God is holy, and God commands that you must be holy as He is holy. But, what does it mean to be holy? For God to be holy means that He is not like you. God is wholly other than you; His holiness is the state of His being. And, for you to be holy is not what you think, it is not to be moral. Holiness is not morality, and sanctification is not moral improvement or self-improvement. Holiness is a state of being in which you share something of God’s holiness, for only God is holy. Your Holy God makes you holy in the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. The pre-requisite for sharing in God’s holiness is purity, being cleansed of stain of your sin guilt – it is to be justified, before being sanctified. Only God is holy. Thus, when He commands that you must be holy as He is holy, He is not commanding something for you to do, He is commanding something for you to be. In fact, He is declaring something about you that is true – you are holy – because God has made you holy in the atoning death and resurrection of His Son. In Christ, you are clean and you are holy, you are justified and you are sanctified. And this is entirely God’s work, done for you, done to you, in Jesus Christ your Lord.

To shed more light upon this truth, let us consider these very familiar words of Jesus: For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Now, this is not merely a description of God’s great affection for you, His love for you, though it is that, but, first and foremost, this is an explanation of the very way in which God has loved you – God has loved you like this: He gave His only Son for you. God gave His Son, not for His chosen people, not for the moral and the upright, not for the faithful and the good, but, God gave His Son for the world – that the world, and everyone in it, would be holy as He is holy.

This is the doctrine of objective justification – That is to say that the reason that you are pure and clean before God lies entirely outside of you in the objective death and resurrection of God’s Son Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Lamb of God, died for the sins of the entire world. This is the doctrine of Universal Atonement – That is to say that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection was for the entire world and for everyone it. There is no one who has not been cleansed in the blood of the Lamb of God. Therefore, there is reconciliation with God the Father, there is forgiveness, there is cleanness from sins, there is purity and there is holiness for everyone. This is an objective fact for you, for everyone you know, and for everyone that has ever lived or will ever live.

But, do not be confused, that Jesus Christ died for all, that all are cleansed in His holy blood, does not mean that all will join in the marriage feast of the Lamb and His Bride the Church, for, as Jesus said in the parable, many are called but few are chosen. That is to say that, though all are invited through the blood of Jesus, all are atoned for, cleansed, and made holy through the blood of Jesus, many still refuse to come to God, many still refuse to receive His gifts. In the parable, some persecute and kill the Lord’s servants sent to call them to the feast. Others try to come on their own terms, by their own worth and merit and they are cast out into utter darkness. Still, all were invited, the prominent land owners and business men first, then the commoner, then the strangers, sojourners, and outcasts from the highways and the byways. All were invited, all have been cleansed, purified, and sanctified in Jesus’ blood; still, so very many refuse. So, if you find yourself in the kingdom of heaven, that is entirely to God’s credit and glory, not yours; but, if you find yourself in darkness and damnation, well, that is entirely your fault.

For, that is what the kingdom of heaven is like. The kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. They were invited, that was a fact, by the king’s love and grace; all they had to do was come and receive the gifts the king desired to bestow, but they refused. Some were simply disinterested. Others were too preoccupied, to busy with work, possessions, and play. Others were belligerent, angry, and violent; they mocked the king’s servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. They were in God’s grace, but now they have incurred God’s wrath. Jesus says that they were not worthy, but that is only because they despised the Lord’s gracious invitation. They counted their own affairs of greater value than the Lord’s invitation. Therefore, they are judged according to their own works and merits and worth, and they are condemned. The King orders the destruction of those murderers and the burning of their cities. They will be as stubble.

But, then the king sent his servants, amazingly, to gather both the good and the bad and to invite them to the feast, for, the good and the bad, alike, are holy in Jesus’ blood, and the wedding hall was full of guests. Yet, there was one man who did not have a wedding garment. Now, you must remember that none of these guests was prepared to attend a great wedding banquet; just moments earlier they were out and about their business, presumably in their normal day to day attire. So, it was the king who provided his guests with the proper wedding attire upon entering his hall. This, in fact, was a custom in Jesus’ day. Then, how is it that this one invited guest does not have on a proper wedding garment. He was an invited guest. The king addresses him as friend. He was provided clothing just like all the other guests, but he refused to wear it; he rejected the king’s provided clothing. Again, the king is angry; He commanded his servants to “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness” where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Perhaps the weeping and the gnashing is due to the fact that the souls there were invited guests, they had everything, and they willfully chose to reject it because of their pride, envy, sloth, or whatever. It was their own damned fault.

For, God is holy, and God commands that you must be holy as He is holy. And, God has made you holy in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. You are invited to the wedding feast and you have been clothed in Christ’s righteousness that covers all you sins. If you refuse God’s gracious invitation and do not come to Him, if you reject the garment of Christ’s righteousness, then you stand only with what you have to offer, your sin-tainted works, your sin-corrupted flesh and blood. God is holy, and God commands that you must be holy as He is holy. And, God has made you holy in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. But, you are not holy on your own. And, to accept God’s invitation and His garment of righteousness is not a choice that you make or a work that you do, but, it is the way things are, a true and present reality, by God’s grace, mercy, love, and holy will. The only choice that you make is to say “No”, to reject God’s grace, mercy, and justification. God has already judged you holy and righteous in Jesus Christ, to reject this is to stand in His condemnation and wrath. All persons in the parables that end up being judged were first chosen.

God is not like you, He is wholly other. God is holy, but He is not remote. God is with you, and He has invited you to this foretaste of His wedding feast now. For, the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified and kept you in the true faith. He has clothed you in the baptismal garments of Christ’s righteousness and you are clean. And, now He feeds you with the choicest of meats and the finest of wines in the holy body and the precious blood of the Son of God become Man, Jesus Christ, your Savior. The invitation reads: 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.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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