7 October 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Matt 22:1-14 (Isa 55:1-9, Eph 5:15-21)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Our Lord speaks in parables for many reasons. One advantage of parables is that they are open to different interpretations. There is a central message of every parable – but the same parable can be applied to any time or place.
The Lord’s Parable of the Wedding Feast is about those who are invited into the kingdom, but take that kingdom for granted. The Lord patiently repeats his invitation over and over. “Come,” He pleads. The Lord even tolerates a certain amount of stubbornness and even abuse. And yet He continues to invite: “Come!” But eventually, the Lord withdraws the offer and calls in other people into the kingdom.
Of course, the Lord is speaking of the Old Testament people of God, the children of Israel, and the rejection of the Messiah by most of them. When the Lord’s own dear people turn against Him, the Lord’s mercy is directed to Gentiles, and the kingdom begins to be filled with them. He invites them to take the vacant pews: “Come!”
That is certainly one interpretation, and it is a correct interpretation. It’s also a comfortable interpretation for us. But this parable was not recorded in order to make us glad that we’re not Jews. The Lord is warning us, dear friends. For just as surely as first century Jews in the Roman Empire found other things more important than the kingdom, so too do we twenty-first century Lutherans in America. Perhaps even more so.
For the Lord is still throwing a banquet, a feast, a holy meal of thanksgiving – and that banquet is offered in this place twice a week. The Lord is still inviting His beloved people to come, to dine with Him, to receive the gifts of forgiveness and life and salvation, to hear the Good News, to pray, praise, and give thanks, “making melody to the Lord” with others who have been called.
And yet, how few answer that invitation. The Lord calls servants to invite the guests again and again: pastors and elders and lay people, calling us to come and dine, enjoy the Lord’s richness and mercy, “but they would not come.”
He calls yet again and again. He invites yet again and again. He sets the table of the Holy Altar yet again and again, week after week, month after month, year after year, “but they would not come.” And again He pleads: “Come to the wedding feast.” But “they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business.” Instead of attending the feast, the invitees work, they play, they find other more important uses of their time. They teach their children through their absence that the kingdom of God is unimportant, and that Jesus is unimportant in our lives. Unimportant. They confess before the world that Christianity is a hobby at best, certainly not anything of importance. “One to his farm, another to his business.”
And when the servants of the Lord reissue the invitation, when the pastor or the elders or loving family members call or write or visit, many respond angrily or defensively – as if their willful and longstanding absence from the Lord’s Feast is no-one’s business but their own. They may well insult the one who loves them enough to re-invite them to the feast, “while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.” And here is where it becomes frightening, dear friends, here is where we shudder for our beloved family members, friends, and fellow Christians who continue to refuse to come to the feast: “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘the wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.’”
Dear brothers and sisters, please hear these words: the Lord is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” But the Lord is also just, and when His mercy is rejected and spurned, He will not force Himself on anyone. He called Noah to build an ark and called Noah to invite the people to be saved from destruction. But when they would not answer the invitation, when they would not come, God Himself closed the ark and sent the cleansing flood. Their foolish pride was drowned with all life, except for the eight souls who responded when the Lord said, “Come.”
Our Lord’s parable is a warning, dear friends. It is a warning for us to be diligent in our continuous and ongoing battle with our own sinful flesh and with the devil. It is a warning that we must plead with our family members, our fellow parishioners, and others who continue to spurn the Lord’s invitation, to come back! Come to the feast! Come without defensiveness or excuse. Just come! Come and taste the Lord’s goodness and feast on His mercy!
“And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
This invitation is a common thread running through the Bible: “Come,” cries 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.”
For indeed, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food…. Come to Me, that your soul may live.”
“Come to Me,” says the Lord, “that your soul may live.”
Those who reject the invitation, those who find farm and business, hobby and entertainment more important than the Lord’s Supper, are killing themselves spiritually, cell by cell, poisoning themselves with “that which does not satisfy.”
Dear friends, “come!” Come one and all, “both bad and good,” come back to the feast! Bring your brothers and sisters, your friends and relatives who have forgotten just how sweet the Good News of Jesus Christ is, just how satisfying the Feast is, how glorious is the Lord’s Word and forgiveness.
Hear anew St. Paul’s invitation: “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… understand what the will of the Lord is…. Be filled with the Spirit.” Sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs 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.”
Just come. And when you are tempted to stay away, when Satan gets the best of you and convinces you not to come, that is when the invitation is all the more important.
Don’t wait for the door to close – whether it is the door of the Ark, the door of the church building, or the door of your coffin. Now is the day of salvation! Come! “Seek the Lord while He may be found,” says the holy prophet. “Call upon Him while He is near.” Come!
“Come to the wedding feast!”
Among the last words spoken to us by the Lord Jesus Christ in the last book of the Bible, the final revelation to us before His return, the Lord Jesus re-issues the invitation in this age of grace, in the time of this window of opportunity, these final days in which the door is unbolted and open: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”
And “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
In the name and by the authority of the One who is coming, who has called me to call you, I say to you again, “Come.” “Come to the wedding feast.” Come week after week. Come and hear the good news. Come and feast on Him who is coming soon. Come to the table where the sacrificial Lamb is served. Come to Him who pleads with you to come. Come, “return to the Lord… for He will abundantly pardon.” Come!
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In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.