Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 20 - 2017

8 October 2017
Text: Matt 22:1-14 (Isa 5:1-9, Eph 5:15-21)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“The kingdom of heaven,” says Jesus, “may be compared to 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.”

This is the story of mankind: rejecting God and the gifts that He offers because we are too busy, we are bored, we have other priorities, we don’t get anything out of it.  It’s boring, I want to sleep in, I already know this stuff. I read my Bible at home, I watch the preacher on TV, I’m a good person, my parents made me go to church, my children should pick their own religion.  And so on.

And yet, God sends servants “to call those who were invited to the wedding feast.”  I can’t tell you how often my colleagues in the office of the holy ministry are hauled on the carpet by the leadership of their congregations: we want open communion, we want the sacrament less often, we want Polka services, we want children’s sermons, we want contemporary worship, we want you to be less Lutheran, we want you to overlook the children of legacy families who are living in sin, we want you to stop hassling us about coming to church.

And those servants are sometimes removed from their pulpits, and in some cases, thrown out of the ministry entirely.  I have seen a shocking number of faithful pastors treated shamefully, and it seems that this number grows with each passing year.

But again, God, “sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner… everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”

God is inviting us to live fulfilled lives feasting on the finest that He has to offer!  He invites us to live like kings and share the choicest morsels at His table.  He offers us the Holy Supper of the body and blood of His Son, a glorious eternal wedding feast that gives us everlasting life!

“But 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.”

This, dear friends, is how the Israelites treated the prophets whom God sent to call them to repentance.  They silenced them.  They killed them. 

And so God invited others to take their place at the table.  “The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.”

Think about this, dear friends.  Our worthiness is not in ourselves, but rather in trusting and responding to God’s gracious invitation.  We did nothing to be invited to the feast.  We didn’t even prepare the meal.  This is how the kingdom of heaven works.  We are poor, miserable sinners, and yet God, in His mercy, sends servants to call us.  These servants may be parents who teach us to pray, or teachers who teach us the catechism, or pastors who preach the Word of God to us.  The prophets and apostles continue to speak God’s invitation to us through the Holy Scriptures.  Jesus Himself continues to bid us to come to His feast, to take part in the Supper that rebuilds us from the inside out, and to hear the transformative Word of God, that bears the power of the Creator and the promise of the Redeemer. 

These servants drag us in from the roads and the byways of life in all its complexity, all of us who desperately need Good News and a new life, people of every walk of life, “both bad and good,” and we are called to be where our King is and to join Him at the table.

And this is how it works, dear brothers and sisters.  We are not here because we are worthy.  We are here because Jesus is worthy.  We are here because we were invited.  We are here because we have the “wedding garment” of Holy Baptism, being invited to join Christ in His burial and death, buried with Him in His sacrifice for our sins.

And maybe this is why we have such a problem with the invitation.  To come to the Lord’s table is to make an admission of guilt: “We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.”  Without this confession of sin, and without the cleansing of this sin by Holy Baptism, we are unworthy, and we will be cast out of the feast.

If you try to get into the banquet in the style of Frank Sinatra’s famous song, “I did it my way,” you will hear the King say, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Dear brothers and sisters, we are chosen when we come to the feast Christ’s way, in our humility, in our need, in our desperation to find the truth, to find Jesus where He promises to be.

If people truly believed this promise, this gracious invitation by God Himself to partake in a literally miraculous meal that transports us into eternity – paraphrasing Luther, we would be willing to walk a mile on our knees on broken glass to get to the church.  Our churches would be as packed as our stadiums. 

But the good news, dear friends, is that you are invited.  You have been brought here by the will and providence of God.  Maybe you didn’t feel like it this morning.  Maybe you worked hard all week and are a bit resentful of having to be here.  Maybe you would rather be somewhere else.  But hear the Word, dear friends, listen to the gracious invitation you have received from God Himself!  Think about our Lord’s suffering and death upon the cross to save you, to love you, to give you life that extends beyond the grave!  Think about His patience with us in our rebellious attitudes.  And think that He holds out His very flesh and blood to you, withholding nothing from you.  

In His mercy, He has brought you here for this reason: to hear this Word and to receive His gifts, to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him, and to join with the people of God of every age to participate in the eternal feast. 

By God’s mercy, we were spared the destruction of a hurricane.  By God’s mercy, we woke up this morning, our loved ones with us, enjoying prosperity and freedom that is the envy of the world.  By God’s mercy and His Word, you are being forgiven by the Lord Himself, and by God’s mercy, you recall your own baptism through which the Lord issued you a wedding garment.

Now is the time to stop resisting, and revel in His kindness.  “Seek the Lord while He may be found,” says the prophet Isaiah, “call upon Him while He is near.”  He is as near as the Word that He caused you to hear; as near as His body and blood.  “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts.”  For we are all invited, “both bad and good.”  We are all dependent upon Jesus to be invited.  “Let him return to the Lord,” says Isaiah, “that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”

St. Paul exhorts us to make “the best use of the time,” to be wise, since the “days are evil.”  St. Paul invites us to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all 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.”

This, dear friends, is why we are worthy to come to the table: because He is worthy, and He has invited us.  “Everything is ready.  Come to the wedding feast.”  Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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