09. October 2011
Ephesians 5:15-21; Matthew 22:1-14
Last week Jesus said to you: “Take heart, My son, your sins are forgiven!” This is our Lord’s declaration of pardon and peace for you. He has given you His perfect righteousness. When your final hour comes, you need not fear the judgment. Your glimmering white apparel is Christ’s obedience of His Father, even unto death. The holy and righteous judge will open the narrow gate, that you may enter into the joys of paradise.
His pardon and peace also purges you of leaven of the pharisees and gives you instead Christ’s own holiness. Without Christ’s holiness, your service to the Lord would be full of doubt and fear. Having received the peace of the Lord, you now can go about your daily vocations with a clear conscience and peace of mind. Your daily vocations are lived in Christ’s forgiveness, sanctified through Christ’s Spirit, made holy through His shed blood.
Knowing that the final verdict in Christ and the holiness granted by his Spirit compels us to look how we walk, not as unwise but as wise. Christ is the wisdom of God unto salvation, to all that believe, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.
We receive both Christ’s righteousness and his holiness, both being prepared to enter into and live for an eternity with the Holy Trinity in heaven. For this brief time, we are pilgrims, wakeful and keenly aware of every opportunity for grace, for service, of life, and communion with God and his children.
We are attentive to ourselves because we know the enemy is attentive to us. There’s no greater joy for demons and the Devil than to see a Christian make a shipwreck of their faith. These wicked spirits rejoice when you cast off the things of God for the things of men.
Indeed, you may become intoxicated with earthly things until you neglect the heavenly things. You can love their money more than they love Giver of money. You might be drunk with passion for the latest and greatest when your passion should be for Jesus. You are consumed with thoughts of women or men, forsaking God-given chastity and marriage. You lust after earthly mansions, and like a stiff drink, you can never get too much.
Instead be filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit. How? Fill this holy place with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Fill your cups to the brim with Godly encouragement and admonition for both your own life and for the life of others. Fill this chamber with song and melody to the Lord with all your heart.
Fill your mouths with Godly encouragement and admonishment, comforting the weak and correcting the erring. Fill your will with submission to one another, out of reverence for Christ. Fill your hearts with thanks for everything the Father has given you in Jesus. The Word of God, the Spirit’s workmanship, dwells here richly. Drink, be filled, and never tire of doing good.
Sounds like a feast, doesn’t it? It is! Jesus considers it a great feast of pardon and peace. [He] spoke to them in parables saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.”
The heavenly Father’s wedding feast is unlike no other. His son is the bridegroom and His church, the bride. His guests are the bride and they feast on the Son’s gracious Word of promise. Within the banquet halls, all serve Him with peace of mind, that is, a clear conscience. All have received pardon and peace. There is no thought of failure or ineptitude. Even our work is redeemed by the Lord.
But that’s not the only nor the main theme of today’s readings. Consider the parable: it points not simply to the joyous feast or even to the sin of ingratitude towards God but the even greater sin of rebellion against God’s holy invitation and institution. The penalty for this sin is outer darkness.
Jesus describes three types of rejection have and will occur. We ought to heed their example as a warning to continue in Christ and full of the Spirit.
The first batch of men would have nothing of the feast because they would have nothing of the King. What is the reason for this refusal? They reject the happiness of the King’s feast because this means service, giving one’s will and heart completely to God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
To be part of this feast requires obedience and fealty to God. It requires us to say, “I love the Lord my God with all my heart, my soul, and my mind; and I love my neighbor as myself.” Our fallen will hates these words and hates to serve God. Such rejection begins with God’s gift and often leads to the greater rejection of God’s command and will.
Not only are there those who refuse the Lord’s gift and service, there are those who are openly hostile to the invitation and institution of this feast. These are not the agnostic or atheist. These are the “religious” pious crowd who ought to know better but they rejected it.
Rejection of our Lord’s clear will expressed in the Holy Scriptures always leads to great shame and vice, even in the church universal, the Missouri Synod, and in this congregation.
They paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. But the judgment of the king was (or will be?) fierce for them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops (angels) and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
Some Christians and even church leaders reject the Lord and his messengers. They seek to burden the conscience of faithful pastors or to discredit them. They will even kill the messenger or his ministry for the sake of new and better ideas.
They would undermine pastors and congregations for the sake of their own pride or ego. They would seek after false Gods, foreign feasts, and be drunk on the ways of this world. Such worldliness leads some to forsake the blessed gifts of Lord’s Word and Sacrament, instead favoring bait-and-switch marketing and selling church buildings for millions.
This is not the character of our heavenly King’s invitation or Lord’s kingdom feast. Both good and bad are gathered together.
The people that Jesus has in mind for his wedding feast are the impious. These are the ones you don’t want anything to do with. Not only are they poor, these are the ones who make you squirm. These are the stinky white-trash, the vile sexual offender, the social outcast, the addict, and the thief. He those who are chosen are the ones who need a savior. Those who are not sick have no need of a physician.
Yes, that’s right, Jesus wants the pews of Grace and all our churches filled with low-life scum, scum who need Him. You may have already today reflected upon your sin and know you are such scum in thought, word, if not also, in deed. But yes, Christ’s servants are to call all, both good and bad. He wants those infesting the brothels, the crack houses, the OTB, or the ditch to hear His voice and join us in this communion. He wants them to receive the call of repentance and the gospel of forgiveness.
What sort of members do you crave? What sort of growth do you desire? If I had to wager a guess, it would be that you’d want more people like yourself. White, blue-collar, hardworking, middle-class people with children. Considering our financial situation, I wonder if its for more warm bodies with fat wallets to sit in our pews?
Be honest. You’d rather have someone who is both an unbeliever and hypocrite who at least puts $25 dollars in the plate each week, than those who would continue to sap our finances. Better a few bucks than the poor, the lame, the blind, or the crippled, who all cost money.
This is outright hypocrisy. You don’t want to serve God completely, caring for the church, her needy, her pastors, or her facilities. You’d rather have someone else take care of that while you reap the benefits. This totally undermines the wedding feast. Christ did not only call the wealthy. The invitation to this banquet goes out to everyone, whether they have or have not, some who can support the church and others who need the church’s support.
To be more concerned about the budget than doing the work the LORD has given us to do makes you like the one man at the end, cornered by the King. The one in the parable without the proper garment has clothed himself in hypocrisy. He desired to outwardly be numbered among the saints, but in sinful rebellion refused the blessing and joy of the King. He wanted to keep up appearances but neglected to follow the will of the King.
When the King comes, He will find one without the wedding garment of sanctifying grace. One has cast off the mantle of righteousness, the garment of salvation, and chosen instead the filthy robes of his own work and Law.
Having personally rejoiced in such a great feast, we should find it surprising that one attendee would do such a thing. Yet, we know that faith and righteousness can be both outward and inward. When the God the King looks upon each one of us on the last day, as we enter the wedding hall, he will not look the clothing of our flesh and to outward appearances. Instead, as the Creator of all, he will peer into our hearts and discern whether it has been clothed in Christ.
In other words, outward membership or even Christian appearance is not enough. These are filthy rags if they come apart from Christ and his righteousness. This king knows that appearances can be deceitful. He knows the sin of hypocrisy. We must live according to the will of God, not just outwardly or civilly, but inwardly with faith, love, and hope in God through Jesus Christ and towards our neighbor.
The holy garment of the wedding feast was clearly offered last week, that is, “Rise, My son, your sins are forgiven!” Be clothed in Christ’s forgiveness and delight in his service. If any suffer this fate of being cast into the outer darkness, it because after hearing the call, they refused to put on the new man. If any do not experience the joy of the service to the Lord, it is because they will not be served by God.
That’s what it means to be a part of the Holy Communion. Even now, in this congregation, Christ’s Spirit has called and gathered us as wedding guests. Our bodies and souls have been redeemed from the pit, anointed with cleansing oil, washed clean in baptismal waters, and clothed in Christ’s own blood.
We enter into the church as newborn babes, craving the pure spiritual milk of the Word. Even as we grow in faith and charity, the Word and Sacrament continue as our feast. It creates in us lives of faith and devotion. Our daily callings are renewed.
This heavenly banquet is continuous. The blest communion of saints and angels, both in the past and into eternity is a prophetic picture of heavenly marriage feast of the lamb that will never end. There we are, the good and bad, equally forgiven and made righteous. The King appears to you now with foretaste of future coming. His will is being done on earth even as it is in heaven.
He has promised you a great feast with Christ and all the dearly departed. He has promised you the wedding garments needed to be dressed for the occasion. Look carefully, do not be foolish. Wear the garment as has been given and is required. It is provided for you as a gift of our Lord’s pardon and peace. Rejoice and feast!
And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”
And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:6-9)
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church