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
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
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;
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
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
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,
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.