Sunday, October 13, 2013

Trinity 20 Sermon

Trinity 20 – October 13th, 2013 – Matthew 22:1-14

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
          Something to think about before we begin to look at this parable today.  “And again, Jesus spoke to them…”  Them who?  Whom is Jesus speaking to in our Gospel lesson?  Well, this takes place in Jerusalem, in the Temple, during Holy Week.  Jesus has ridden in on Palm Sunday, He has cleansed the temple – and there He is, Tuesday of Holy Week – and before the week’s out, He’s going to be killed.  This is the type of parable that gets Jesus killed, that riles up the proud and arrogant.  It is double barrel buckshot.  It is straight, no chaser.  Hold on to your hats, because we are diving in.

          “And again Jesus spoke to them in parables saying, ‘The Kingdom of heaven may be compared to a King who gave a wedding feast for His Son, and sent his servant to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.’”  Right away, this is a slap in the face.  We like our wedding receptions today – not like they did in Israel though.  The wedding feast was THE party, and it was be there or be square.  There would have been nothing more disdainful than skipping a wedding feast, nothing ruder.  In fact, there would have been nothing more foolish than blowing off a wedding feast, especially one thrown by the rich and powerful, because it mean great food, great wine, great music, great everything.  You don’t skip the royal wedding feast.  Think of it this way – If you get invited to a presidential inauguration, you go, even if you didn’t vote for the fellow, because that is going to be one fantastic shindig.  Now kick it up a few notches – and that’s the feast that is going on here – and they don’t go.  Utter stupidity.  They cut off their nose to spite their face.  And everyone listening would think they are foolish.

          “Again, he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who were invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready.  Come to the wedding feast.’”  An appeal is made again.  Guys, it’s gonna be a great party!  There’s nothing chincy here – nothing sub par.  It’s prime rib and veal, and it’s ready.  Come on – even though you’ve been rude – come on!  Come!  And still nothing.  Well, not nothing, worse than nothing.  “But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants and treated them shamefully and killed them.”  They don’t even listen.  They don’t even smile and nod and think up of nice excuses.  They just walk off.  “Come to the, wait, where are you going?”  And it gets worse.  The ones that stay to listen – “Ah, yes, you can come to the w… hey, wait, let go of me, wait, wait, why are you picking up those stones…”  

          Now, we can hear that and think, “Man, that would be terrible.”  But remember to whom Jesus is telling this.  There He is, in the temple, and the Chief Priests and the Elders of the people had already confronted Him there this day – and this is what He says to them.  Here’s Jesus’ History lesson – here’s the History of Israel in a nutshell.  God sends people, and you ignore them.  Moses goes to lead you to the promised land, and you grouse and complain and are left to die in the desert.  God sends you Judges, and you ignore them, Kings and you rebel, Prophets, and yes, you even kill them.  And God has sent Me, and you even disdain and ignore Me.  And you know where that’s going to get you?

          “The King was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”  Yep.  You keep ignoring God and disdaining His feast, His salvation… guess what’s coming your way.  And know the full insult – the King sends His troops.  What’s the big problem politically in Jerusalem back then?  Caesar.  Rome.  Roman troops who threaten to destroy Israel.  Yeah, chief priests – when they wipe you out, they’ll be doing the work of God more than you guys have been.  Heavy stuff.  Jesus is not pulling any punches.  Calling a spade a spade here. 

          But note what comes next.  “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.  Go, therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.  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.”  The King – he’s not a jerk.  He’s not mean.  He’ll do what he has to – I mean, if you are hell bent on destruction and chaos, he’ll put you down.  But that’s not his primary goal, that’s not what he wants or delights in.  Look, there’s a wedding feast, I’ve got my prime rib, I’ve got my veal, I’ve got my good wine because that’s how I like my wine – now go get some guests!  And so the servants go.  And they pull in folks – and note this, both bad and good.  We like to judge by bad and good, but this isn’t the contrast the king makes.  The ones destroyed by the King – they were “not worthy.”  Why were they not worthy? Simply because they ignored the invitation, they didn’t want to come.  So who are the worthy?  Well, they are from all walks of life, they are both ‘bad and good’.  Folks in that feast will be ones that you would like to have around and folks you in your sinfulness wouldn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole.  It’s not a matter of good or bad, naughty or nice, rich or poor, male or female, Jew or Gentile – nope, everyone is invited, regardless of how rich, nice, strong, awesome, or wonderful they are.  The feast is on, come and get it.  And the ones deemed worthy are simply those who hearing the invitation, believe it.  The King wants me – sure thing!

          And to hammer the point that it is those who listen to the King who are worthy, Jesus adds this: “But when the king came into look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.  And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’  And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”  Now we don’t get this at first.  Garments are provided – they were a gift of the host.  Think about it this way.  Let’s say there’s a kid’s birthday party, and everyone’s wearing those stupid little cone hats with the point and the string.  And so you have the birthday party, and everyone’s having a great time – and you walk in, and there’s the one adult who just refuses to put on the hat.  Really?  Really?  Oh, I’ll assume you just didn’t get one handed to you – wait, what’s that in your hand?  The hat crumbled up… really?  Just go you party pooper.  You aren’t going to spoil this for everyone else with your sulking, so out you go.  And the party will go on perfectly fine without you.  But those who come and rejoice and let God be God and throw His party how He wants it, we are going to rejoice and have fun in Him.

          Because that’s the point of this parable.  There is Christ Jesus, standing there in the temple, in Jerusalem, and there He declares that the Heavenly wedding feast of the Son, the eternal salvation of His people is going to happen.  The feast is ready – the calf is fattened, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world is ready to be slain.  And nothing is going to stop it.  Do you have the good people, the religious sorts, like these Chief Priests and the hoity-toity who want to stop it and ignore it – well, you can’t stop the feast.  It is on, Christ will go and He will suffer and die and rise and sins will be forgiven, even the sins of the people you don’t like, and if you Chief priests, you elders, you respectable folks don’t like it, well, you can just stubbornly hang out here until Rome tears this city down around you.  Salvation is coming.

          And this is the point of the parable for us.  We are those who have been called into the Kingdom of God from the highways and the byways – it’s a long journey from Jerusalem and the Holy Lands to here in Oklahoma, but still the messengers have gone out, and here we are, those who have heard God’s invitation.  But a danger remains for us.  The point, the focus, is and must remain on the feast of the Lamb.  The good Jewish leaders – they thought they had things more important than Christ and His feast of forgiveness.  Gets them into trouble.  The same temptation remains for us – don’t be distracted.  The feast is on, it’s all ready, we’re just waiting for the dinner bell, the trumpet call of the Last Day that will raise the dead so the feast can be served!  Satan would have us neglect this, have us focus on the here and now, on worldly stuff – disdain Satan, and cling to Christ.

          And as for the feast – you are ready.  You have been clothed in the right wedding garments, you have your silly party hat – for you have been baptized.  This is the thing – you aren’t here in this Church because you are good, or because you are wonderful, or because you are getting better.  Nope, you’re a sinner whom God has called and whom God has redeemed – Jesus is your Savior and He will make sure you are dressed properly – He will wash your robes in His own blood and make them spotless garments fit for the eternal wedding, He will wash His bride and make her spotless.  It’s not about how great you are, it’s how great He is. But make no bones about it – the world thinks all this is pretty silly, the world thinks you’re pretty silly.  And the temptation will be to take off the party hat, to shrug off of the robes, to in pride and arrogance say, “See, I’m good, I’m worthy in and of myself – I’m an awesome person, I deserve to be here, I don’t need the forgiveness that these other folks need, certainly not as much as her, I don’t need the party hat – I am too cool for school.”  It doesn’t work that way.  The feast of the Lamb is for sinners who are forgiven.  And if you don’t want forgiveness, don’t think that you need it… God will let you have your own way – out you go.  But the celebration feast of the Lamb will go on, forgiveness will be proclaimed here until the day when we see its full effect when we and all the dead are raised to the new and everlasting life and there is nothing but the joys of the world to come, the never-ending feast and celebration of God and His goodness.  And nothing will stop that.  Not Satan, not the smug and self-righteous.  The Lamb who was slain has begun His reign, alleluia.

          And so, today, once again the call, the announcement of the feast is made.  Christ has been slain, He has been raised, and the time is approaching.  But you, my dear friends, you are ready.  You have been baptized, you have been clothed in Christ’s righteousness (not your own righteousness), and so you are ready.  Remain in Him, rejoice and give thanks, for the feast is coming, and it will come soon.  Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy, His feast which He brings us to, endureth forever.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen


Steve Martin said...

That, is a great sermon, Rev.!

The law wielded in such a way as that NO ONE is left standing...but the One who is throwing the feast. And then the doors to the banquet hall are opened...and He brings us in to the feast! Those who have no right to be there...but not for His good pleasure.

Thank you, so much!

Mike Baker said...

Nicely done.