MATTHEW 22:1-14

19th Sunday after Pentecost, 15 October 2017

Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center

The Rev. Dr. Jason D. Lane

“Deal with us not in the severity of Your judgment but by the greatness

of Your mercy!” – Collect for the Day

GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY

FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. The

text is the parable of the Wedding Banquet, Mt 22:1-14

Very few of us realize that if you went to a wedding banquet during the

Renaissance, you were supposed to bring your own knife and fork. Really.

They’d have been amazed at the extravagance of a host providing all the

silverware for everybody. Today, of course, if you’re invited to dinner, you

really shouldn’t bring your own silverware, not only because it’s weird, but

also because it’s really insulting to the host. On the other hand, at a

wedding today you have to bring your own clothes. That’s our custom.

Everyone dresses nice for weddings. But that’s also why we’re amazed at

the customs of 1st Century Judea, where, if a rich man, in this case a

KING, invited you to a wedding dinner, you weren’t supposed to bring

your own clothes. You showed up dressed down as a way of

complimenting your host, as if to say, “I have nothing fit for so grand an

occasion!”

It’s a wonderful custom, especially if, like Jesus, you have a lot of really

poor guests, who aren’t fit to show up at an extravagant wedding, who’ve

been dragged off the streets. They need wedding clothes. And the clothes

that Jesus has in mind—which, if you wear, you will never be asked to

leave—is His own righteousness, His record, His life and death for you to

put on as if it were yours, every Sunday, every day, the inexhaustible

goodness of Jesus Christ. You just slip it on. Or rather, it’s just slipped on

you. It was made for you. And those who have taken this ROBE OF

RIGHTEOUSNESS are chosen, elect, and prepared to live forever in the

Banquet Hall of High Paradise.

But Jesus said, V. 14] MANY ARE CALLED, BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN

and what He said gets twisted in at least two ways. One way is to say,

“Well, if we’re all invited, then we’ll all be there, even if we don’t go.

Because the important thing is the invitation! Right?” Wrong. No, the

important thing is the FEAST. You can’t eat an invitation. But what you

can do is answer it. You can come when you’re called. And you’ve been

called, so COME! It means on the most basic level: Repent, believe the

Gospel, and follow the One who called you.

But the other way those words are twisted is what’s more of a danger to

us. I mean when Jesus says, MANY ARE CALLED, BUT FEW ARE

CHOSEN, it can sound like He’s saying, “MANY ARE CALLED but few

are really wanted,” which leaves us chilled and uncertain about anyone’s

salvation. And there have been Christians who have imagined that sure, He

called and, yes, they came, but now He’s measuring them to see if they’re

keepers.

What does that say about Him? What? That He called us to a

WEDDING to have us perform? It wouldn’t be the first time that people

have accused Him of using humanity as a puppet show. As if He made us

and this world only for His own entertainment, or His own glory, or His

own praise. But you know Him better than that. And that’s why it’s

surprising to hear the way so many Christians talk about Christ, so that

when Christ says, MANY ARE CALLED, BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN,

they have it in their minds that He’s saying, “Many are auditioned, but few

are hired.” Or “many come to the try-out, but few make the team.” It’s

surprising that Christians can treat the Church like a fitness test or a moral

test, because it doesn’t have anything to do with reality. Come out, come

out and hear the Lord! Because God does not say, “There’ll be a tryout on

Sunday.” He says, EVERYTHING IS READY now! God says,

EVERYTHING IS PREPARED! And God has always said, COME! So

very MANY ARE CALLED, and He wants everyone. What for?

Well, Jesus said, “Think of A KING, WHO’S ARRANGED A

MARRIAGE FOR HIS SON, AND SENDS OUT HIS SERVANTS TO CALL

THOSE WHO WERE INVITED TO THE WEDDING. There’s a KING who

has this huge happiness in his private life and he wants to share it.

Which is why you were created. Because the Blessed Trinity has this

huge happiness in His Private Life. He is LOVE into infinity times three

and They want to share it. Thus says the Lord, COME TO THE FEAST!

Ye, who have not so much as a thing to wear, RIGHTEOUSNESS is

provided at the door! It comes free with your Baptism. It’s the

RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ. It’s big, but then it covers anybody, BAD or

GOOD, poor or rich, small or great. It’s bigger than you need, but that’s

good, because then it gives you room to move and to live and to dance. It’s

WEDDING CLOTHES and it makes you fit to celebrate with the Triune

Majesty, here, and in High Paradise. Why else do you think He CALLED

us? It’s just that He has this huge happiness, and ever since Eden He’s

SENT OUT HIS SERVANTS, CALLING, “COME TO THE FEAST!

GREATEST AND LEAST! COME TO THE FEAST!”

That’s the whole history of the world from Genesis to Jesus: It’s all His

Holy Prophets: Seth and Enoch, Noah and Moses calling, COME TO THE

FEAST! “But,” Jesus says, “THEY DIDN’T WANT TO COME.” Which is

most of the history of the world from Genesis up till now. Why didn’t they

want to come? God would like to know. Why hate what’s wonderful and,

instead, love what kills you? As He shouted through Isaiah: COME! YOU

WHO ARE HUNGRY! WHY DO YOU SPEND YOUR LIVES FOR

WHAT DOESN’T SATISFY? And so through all the prophets, till He

came Himself, turning water into wine and giving banquets in the

wilderness, and calling, “You’ve got sin; I’ve got innocence! You’re in

danger; I’ve got safety! You’re weak; I’m strong! You’re foolish; I’m wise!

You’re dying; I am THE RESURRECTION AND ETERNAL LIFE!

COME TO THE FEAST!

And they said, “Who are You to offer us charity? Do we look like

charity cases?” Jesus actually wept for them when He said,

“JERUSALEM! JERUSALEM! YOU KILL THE PROPHETS I SEND

TO YOU. HOW MANY TIMES I'VE WANTED TO GATHER YOU AS A

mother bird GATHERS HER CHICKS UNDER HER WINGS, BUT YOU

WOULDN’T. And oh how they wouldn’t! They sent the invitations back

torn and mutilated, bloody, bruised, and dead, even when the invitation

came in Person.

So He came back from His grave and SENT OUT MORE SERVANTS,

it says, with orders to TELL them the BANQUET IS SERVED! And

EVERYTHING IS READY! “Just tell them to COME!”

BUT—and it’s like a bad dream—THEY IGNORED IT. You see the

servants, the Apostles and so many pastors and Christians since then—you

see the servants holding out their hands, and so many people walking by

like their numb to love, walking by, ONE TO HIS FARM, ANOTHER TO

HIS SHOP, another busy day for the damned. WHILE THE REST, who

were insulted by free invitations, who didn’t appreciate being told they

were poor and dying, who’d been good do-bees all their lives, and now

what? The apostles are offering them forgiveness for it and not applause?

No admiration, just love? Well, it just made them sick, and—this is the

nightmare—they TOOK HOLD OF THE KING'S SERVANTS AND

COMMITTED OUTRAGES AGAINST THEM, AND KILLED THEM.

Like a nightmare, they stoned St. Stephen, beheaded St. James, and

crucified St. Peter upside down.

AND, just as Jesus prophesied, THE KING WAS OUTRAGED AND

HE SENT HIS SOLDIERS AND DESTROYED THOSE MURDERERS

AND BURNED THEIR CITY in the year 70 AD. Which was the end of

that city’s history and the start of ours.

Because THEN HE TOLD HIS SERVANTS, “GO INTO THE WHOLE

WORLD AND PREACH THE GOOD NEWS!” Or in the parable, HE TOLD

HIS SERVANTS, “THE WEDDING FEAST IS on the table, BUT THOSE

WHO WERE INVITED WEREN’T FIT.” Because if you don’t want it, you

can’t have it. If you won’t come, you can’t enter. If a free meal is beneath

your dignity, you’ll never taste it. So, He said, GO OUT ON THE BUSY

STREETS AND INVITE AS MANY AS YOU FIND TO THE WEDDING. SO

THEY WENT OUT ON THE STREETS AND GATHERED EVERYBODY

THEY FOUND, GOOD AND BAD—which, O beloved, is where we come

in, and how we come in. We were picked up on the streets!

They brought in as many of us as they could find UNTIL THE

WEDDING HALL WAS FILLED WITH GUESTS AT THE TABLES. BUT

WHEN THE KING ENTERED TO LOOK AT THE GUESTS ... HE SAW A

MAN THERE WHO WASN’T WEARING WEDDING CLOTHES, which was

really bizarre, since WEDDING CLOTHES were provided at the door, but

this guy said, “What? I want to be the way I am. I’m comfortable like

this.” As if one of us here were to pray, “All-Powerful God, merciful

Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess to You all my sins and

unrighteousness. By them I have continually offended You, but take it or

leave it. That’s just how I am.” God says: “I won’t take it.”

THE KING SAW HIM sprawling at the table, AND HE SAID TO HIM,

“FRIEND,—He still says FRIEND—FRIEND, HOW IS IT YOU CAME IN

HERE WITHOUT WEDDING CLOTHES? I know I bought them for you.”

BUT rather than cry for mercy, HE WAS SPEECHLESS. So THE KING

TOLD THE SERVANTS, “BIND HIM UP HAND AND FOOT, AND THROW

HIM IN THE DARK OUTSIDE, WHERE THERE’S WEEPING AND

GNASHING OF TEETH.

MANY ARE CALLED. But some don’t want to, and some are busy

dying by inches. Some are insulted by the invitation, and some can’t see

what’s wrong with what they’re wearing. Then how does anybody arrive at

all? Because all of us at some point have blown Him off, or didn’t want

Him, or thought we didn’t need any charity, or couldn’t see anything so

wrong with us that we had to be covered by His blood. So how are we

here? Are we just lucky? Is it, MANY ARE CALLED, but few are lucky?

Because I happened to want Him now, lucky me, and now you

happened to know you need Him, lucky you, and here we are because—

what? I happened to be born to a Christian mother who had me baptized,

and you happened to run into God’s SERVANTS, and then you happened

to hear this guy say something about Jesus and forgiveness … and it all

seems like a long string of lucky breaks. Till it seems like, wasn’t it lucky

—for me, at least—that the first guests didn’t show, so there was room for

you? And wasn’t it lucky for you, that He told His servants to pick up

absolutely anybody? And weren’t we all lucky that we were on the right

street at the right time? And okay, looks like we weren’t on the A List, but

isn’t it lucky He needed people to fill the HALL? And aren’t you lucky

you got the chance, cause if not you, He’d have found somebody else,

right? No wonder people wonder if they’re keepers.

Beloved, there is no lucky! There is no chance. This strange, long

parable winds through all human history, twisting through invitations and

rejections and offers and refusals, but at the end the WEDDING HALL IS

FILLED—with whom? Jesus says, “With THE CHOSEN.”

There are no accidents. You can only have it if you want it, and only the

CHOSEN want it. And if a free meal’s not beneath your dignity, it’s

because IT WAS PREPARED FOR YOU. The CHOSEN come for

forgiveness because they’re CHOSEN, and they want His joy, because it’s

what they were CHOSEN for. And why are you here? Is it just because the

Triune Love wants to see you glad? Doesn’t that seem unlikely? Doesn’t

that seem outrageous? Aren’t there a million other people who ought to be

with Him instead? MANY ARE CALLED. Why did you come?

God says, YOU WERE CHOSEN TO OBEY AND TO BE SPRINKLED

WITH HIS BLOOD. YOU WERE CHOSEN TO BE SAVED THROUGH

FAITH IN THE TRUTH. Thus says the Lord, HE CHOSE YOU BEFORE

CREATION TO BE HOLY AND BLAMELESS IN HIS EYES.

And I’m talking to you who feel your sins. In fact, I’m only talking to

you—to you who feel your weakness and nobody else, to you who’ve been

up and down, close and far, who’ve promised and failed, who’ve got no

righteousness of their own but only the righteousness that’s by faith in the

Son of God. He’s talking to people who’ve stumbled and gotten up and

stumbled again so you can’t trust yourself for five minutes. Good. Then

TRUST GOD! COME TO THE FEAST! EVERYTHING IS READY!

Grace and forgiveness, and life and salvation. TAKE; EAT. TAKE;

DRINK.

I mean, you feel like you don’t know how you’re still His at all, and

pretty often you feel like you just stumbled in; like you just crashed this

private affair, just blundered into God’s party. But then, there’s your

name ... on the place card, the name He called when He baptized you, the

name that’s been written on that place card from the dawn of time.

TODAY, He says, IF YOU HEAR MY VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN

YOUR HEART: FOR MANY ARE CALLED, and you are obviously

CHOSEN. Amen.

THE PRAYERS

In peace let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.

For the peace that passes all understanding, for hearts that rejoice in Christ

and His salvation always, for faithfulness in this life, trusting that the risen

Christ has swallowed up death forever, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have

mercy.

For the Church, for all ministers of the Church, for missionaries and all

church workers, for the agencies of the Church that assist in the mission of

witness and service, and for glad and generous hearts to support the work

of His Kingdom, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center in preparing to

call a pastor, that this work move forward in the unity of the Spirit, with

love for one another, and with prayer that God’s will be done, let us pray to

the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For the nation and the world, for our president and Congress, for our

governor and all local government personnel, for God’s mercy on peoples

whose lives are torn by disasters in nature or by terrorism and warfare, let

us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For the homes in which our people dwell that husbands and wives fulfill

their vocations to one another, that children are taught and learn the faith,

that we are anxious about nothing but in everything petition God, let us

pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For the needs of children, for the protection of the unborn, for the care of

those with special needs, for those children who suffer neglect and abuse,

for the agencies charged with overseeing their care, and for those in foster

care, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For hearts to welcome the stranger in the name of the Lord, for love to

speak the name of the Lord before the world, for minds that think about

whatever is just and pure and lovely and worthy of praise, let us pray to the

Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For repentance and faith as we approach the table of the Lord, for unity of

doctrine, reconciliation of those estranged, and for the restoration of the

fallen to the fellowship of Christ’s Church, let us pray to the Lord: Lord,

have mercy.

In thanksgiving for Lou’s return home from hospital care, for him and all

who are sick and receiving treatment, especially Rufus and Gabriel and

Sherry and Teresa, that God would grant healing to their bodies and

strength to bear their infirmities with patience and grace, let us pray to the

Lord, Lord, have mercy.

In thanksgiving for all the mercies which the Lord of life gave to Russell

especially for calling him to faith in Jesus Christ. In petition that He

would comfort Barbara and all who survive Russell with His everlasting

comfort and cheer them with the hope of a blessed reunion in heaven.

That He would grant to the lifeless body rest in the earth and a joyful

resurrection to life everlasting together with all the saints teaching us all to

number our days aright that we may apply our hearts to wisdom and finally

be saved, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.

Holy Father, from You and through You and to You are all things and to

You be glory forever; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with You and

the Holy Spirit are one God, now and forever. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a