Have you ever seen one of those church signs that says, “Come as you are”? Maybe it caught on 10 or 20 years ago. But it’s become a wildly popular slogan. Now, I can’t speak for the pastors or church leaders who put the sign up, but I have my suspicions of what’s behind it all.
Come as you are. It’s the idea that God should accept me just the way I am. But here’s the thing! It’s just the way we are that’s precisely the problem!
Our example of this comes from our Gospel this morning. A man steals his way into the wedding feast with just such an attitude. Come as you are. The king should accept me just the way I am. So when he gets to the door of the wedding feast he actually turns down the white, gleaming robes which are being handed out freely to all the guests. And he proudly bellies up to the table to feast. You might say “come as you are” was his personal slogan.
But it’s not long before the king arrives to have a good look at all of his invited guests. Just imagine the disappointment when the king’s eyes fall upon this party crasher who stubbornly refused to wear the white gleaming robe – the wedding garment that the king himself had provided for all his guests to wear. He refuses and opts for his ratty street clothes instead. You could say he had a come-as-you-are attitude. He presumed that the king should just accept him in whatever way he wanted to stumble into the feast.
But the king didn’t go for it. “Friend,” he said, “how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” The man was speechless. It was the silence of guilt and condemnation. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.”
Ok, so what’s going on here? I like to think of today’s parable of the wedding feast as another CliffsNotes summary of all of salvation history. Jesus says the Kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. The king is God the Father. The son is Jesus, the bridegroom. The marriage feast is none other than Christ and His beloved bride, the Church.
This generous King, God our heavenly Father, sends His servants, that is, the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, to invite the whole world to come to His wedding feast, to eat and drink and bask in the love of God. That’s what you heard all about in our first reading from Isaiah today.
But how sad, how tragic, when that gracious invitation is rejected. How heartbreaking when the love of God is spurned. How sad when those servants whom God sends out are all abused, mistreated, and even killed – even His own Son.
God took that rejection personally, because underneath it all was a rejection of Him. And because of that, forty years later, a storm was unleashed as Roman soldiers marched into Jerusalem, the city that killed the prophets and stoned God’s messengers.
They utterly destroyed and burned that city down to the ground. You might say what really did them in was a come-as-you-are attitude. The idea that they could stand before God by their own merit. They rejected the very righteousness of Christ Himself, who alone can save and clothe us with the righteousness which alone avails before God in heaven. But they wouldn’t have it!
Despite all this, God our King still sends out His servants, His ministers and evangelists, to do His will – to preach the Gospel to the whole creation. To invite the whole world to a wedding feast, extending far beyond the nation of Israel, and out to the whole world.
So back to that man without the wedding garment. He was bound hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness because he was not wearing what God Himself had given him to wear. He had the gall to appear before the King in his own dirty, filthy garment, in his own righteousness. He presumed to go before God on his own terms. With no repentance and no faith.
You might call it a come-as-you-are attitude. God should accept me just the way I am. But as I said, it’s precisely the way we are that’s the problem. Our sin is too great. And God’s holiness is too severe. And sin and holiness just don’t mix well. In fact, it’s deadly to even try. Just ask the man bound and cast out into the darkness in today’s parable.
The truth is, you need more than a little makeover to stand before God. You need a whole new look. A whole new wardrobe!
So stop and think what it cost God to clothe you with the holiness of His Son. Consider that God sent to you His most precious treasure. He was stripped naked and nailed to a tree. And there the Father clothed Him with the guilt and shame and filthy garment of all your sin. Folks, we’ve got nothing to give God but our sin, and He’ll take nothing else from us.
In your Baptism, Christ gives you everything that belongs to Him – His righteousness, His innocence, and His blessedness. Most importantly, He gives us the costly duds of His own righteousness. Listen to the way the apostle Paul describes it in Galatians: “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). And this is how Isaiah has it: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Is. 61:10).
Don’t make the mistake of trying to belly up to the altar this morning, presuming to stand before God by your own righteousness, which is nothing but filthy rags. Instead, have a look up at Jesus on the cross and claim His righteousness as your very own. Eat His body and drink His blood and taste and see that the Lord is good.
It’s worth considering that when you come into this sanctuary for the very last time, your casket will be clothed in a white pall, a white robe draped over your resting body.
And the pastor will say to all those present, “In Holy Baptism this Christian was clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covered all of his or her sin.” All will look at the white pall covering you – a symbol of your Baptism into Christ.
What a great final confession that will be. Not come as you are. Not accept me as I am, but instead, receive me, O Lord, only because of Your Son Jesus – who alone is my righteousness. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
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OFFERINGS TO LMC
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