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TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY – OCT. 9, 2016
MATTHEW 22:1-14; EPH. 5:15-21; ISAIAH 55:1-9
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To the saints who are at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


No commoner who invites you – but the king!  No lecture or common event to which He invites you - but a feast!  No common feast or general get together to which He invites you - but a marriage feast – for His Son!  It is the King who makes all the preparations – those invited must do nothing!  It is the King who furnishes all the food even and the wedding garments – those invited must bring nothing!  Everything is ready.  Come to the wedding feast. 


It is difficult to overstate the weight and the impact of the wedding image Jesus employs.  In Jewish tradition God’s gift of marriage was seen as the fulfillment of the divine plan to be fruitful and multiply.  It was considered so important - the Rabbis ruled that even the study of the Torah may be suspended in order to rejoice with and bring joy to a bride and groom (Ketuvot 17b).  Rabbis extolled the covenant at Sinai as the marriage of Yahweh with Israel.  The complete fulfillment of this divine marriage was expected in the days of the Messiah. 


Then Jesus came and proclaimed Himself as the Bridegroom (Mark 2:19).  So did His best man – John the Baptist (John 3:29) saying, The one who has the bride is the bridegroom.  The friend of the bridegroom who stands and hears him rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.  Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.  He must increase but I must decrease. When Jesus spoke this parable it was Holy Week.  John had decreased to the point of imprisonment and martyrdom and Jesus’ increase is very near the hour of His glory.  It was glory He began to manifest in the first of His signs – also at a wedding feast - in Cana (John 2:11).  The abundance of His gift of wine surely points to the length and the joy of the wedding feast!  From His first sign - to the hour of His glory - to His enduring and eternal gift of God’s feast of salvation – this much is clear!  In Jesus the Father says everything is ready!  Come to the wedding feast.  Come, everyone who thirsts…without money and without price…delight yourselves in rich food.


But those the King’s servants invited found other delights…more delightful.  They would not come.  Again he sent other servants saying, ‘Tell those who are 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.  But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business…


Farms and business are good things – normal occupations.  But they are not good before God when they become preoccupations.  Nothing is!  It is possible to worship the work of our own hands, the earthly good we are doing, the earthly security we are seeking to acquire.  It is possible to be so busy making a living that life itself is rejected – the Father’s gift of life in His Son.  For some the rejection of the King’s invitation to the marriage feast was seemingly made in the pursuit of good ends – farm and business.


While the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully and killed them.  The bearers of the King’s invitation were outrageously attacked and man-handled – and even put to death.  The king was angry and sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.  The city Jesus speaks of is the city He was speaking in – Jerusalem.  In a few years the Roman army would come and torch the city.  One might think – just retribution for those who killed the King’s servants – the prophets and apostles He sent inviting to the Messianic banquet.  But what about those who were simply not interested – consumed with farming and business?


Jesus words to the sheep and the goats in the final judgment have place here.  To those on His left – Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…I was a stranger and you did not welcome me…sick and in prison and you did not visit me.  To their protest He said, Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.  The Scriptures make clear that the least of Jesus’ brothers include those servants – those prophets and apostles – sent out with His invitation.  To ignore Gods’ marriage banquet invitation – to go about earthly business and daily work while His servants are man-handled and killed – is to receive the same judgment as those who man-handle and kill.


The king was angry and 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.  Those who were not worthy were those who feel quite worthy and well situated before God and so do not accept the King’s invitation.  Worthy and unworthy are not character descriptions (Matthew 10:11-15) but rather those who reject or receive the invitation that the King sends His servants to extend.


Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.  What a remarkable transference!  Before – sent only to those “invited” – now sent to 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 insists that His banquet hall be filled with guests – for God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).  He does not discriminate.  He instructs His servants to pick up guests from the roadway whether they are bad or good.  So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 


It is sometimes clear in Scripture that the marriage festivities have begun already and fall within the public ministry of Jesus.  When asked why His disciples did not fast – Jesus said to them, can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? (Matt. 9:15)  It is also clear in Scripture that sometimes the marriage festivities are said to await the Bridegroom’s return when the cry goes up at midnight and the virgins go out to meet Him (Matt. 25:1-13).  This is the tension in which you now live.  The wedding feast is now and it is yet to come.


In this time of yes – the Bridegroom is with us - and wait – for He is coming soon, Dr. Luther preached that Jesus here warns against false security.  While the world plays its little game – bustling around with activity – the greatest sin is scorning the invitation to God’s wedding feast.  Luther notes that all are invited guests but they are not all dressed alike.  He speaks of those who make believe they are Christian and use the name of Christian – never serious about how to rid oneself of sin (Luther’s Postils – Vol. 3 – pp. 91-116). 


But when the king came in to 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.’  For many are called but few are chosen.


Fellow redeemed, we too face a future judgment and Jesus warning of the same is a loving warning.  In the parable many were chosen and only one was rejected.  Without the wedding garment - which the king would have supplied the guests - he was speechless – without excuse.  But from this one cast into outer darkness Jesus surprisingly adds – For many are called but few are chosen. 


He is clearly warning His hearers against false security.  He is clearly warning you not to think – it’s in the bag – no need for me to look carefully how I walk – not as unwise but as wise.  In these evil days - no need for me to make the best use of the time understanding what the will of the Lord is.  No need for me to avoid drunkenness and be filled with the Spirit – which happens through the hearing and study of God’s Word and receiving in faith Christ’s forgiveness.  No need for me to sing Psalms and hymns – giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For many are called but few are chosen. 

 

It is good to lack security in yourself – to see that your old self is one among many – not properly clothed for the wedding feast.  It is a motley crew the Father’s servants gather – both bad and good – but all needing spotless clothing they do not have.  It is good to recognize that if this depends on you – you will be left bound and in the dark.  But this parable is not about you – telling you what to do.  Jesus here is beautifully proclaiming what your loving Father is doing for you in Him. 


Jesus here proclaims that it is absolutely wrong for you to lack confidence in the Father’s love for you and the Father’s hold on you in Him – the Bridegroom.  In another double standing in Scripture – those invited as Jesus’ guests are also seen to be Jesus’ Bride (John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Rev. 19:7; 21:2; 22:17).  Beloved of God – that is the depth and strength with which the Father loves you in His Son!  The one wedding garment that dwells securely in the wedding hall is Christ Himself – His righteousness – His holiness - and He has you covered.  He clothed you with Himself in your washing of new birth.  Those are the preparations the Father makes in love for you and He will never take that garment away from you!  An individual may proudly lay it aside in unbelief – wanting to wear their own clothing before God.  But that is not you!  Faith which receives the righteousness of Christ is the true wedding garment. 


You did not come to the Divine Service today to throw off your wedding garment but to see to its presence to cover your filthy rags.  You do not come into God’s presence speechless but confessing your sin against Him by what you have done – by what you have left undone – and by praying “Lord have mercy.”  You did not seek the Lord today to parade yourself before Him but to receive His compassion to abundantly pardon.  Beloved of God in so turning to Him for forgiveness for real sin – stubborn sin - you worship Him in the highest possible way.  It is as He says, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 


Who of us would have thought that the King’s Son – the Bridegroom should have been bound hand and foot and rejected from the King’s presence in order to bring us in?  Who of us would have thought that the Light of the world should be cast into outer darkness in our stead on the cross – shown by darkness over the whole land from the sixth hour until the ninth hour (Matt. 27:45).  Who of us would have thought that He would sacrifice His body and shed His blood in order that in listening to Him we might eat what is good, and delight (ourselves) in rich food at His table – indeed forgiveness food?  These are the preparations made by your heavenly Father for you – in love!  Christ Himself is the garment the Father gives you!  Christ Himself is the food the Father gives you - the very Bread of Life.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 


You are the Father’s dearly loved ones and it is such a happy occasion – this wedding banquet in which the risen Christ unites Himself with you even now.  It is the King who makes all the preparations – those invited must do nothing!  It is the King who furnishes all the food and even the wedding garments – those invited must bring nothing! This parable is not about you but about Your Father’s love for you which is higher than the heavens!


Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9).  It will be beautiful and delightful forever!  Even now - there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents!  Even now – Lift up your hearts - for Everything is ready.  Come to the wedding feast.


In the Name of Jesus, Amen. 

 

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