Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (A)
October 12, 2008
Text: Matt. 22:1-14

The Lord has prepared a table before us in the presence of our enemies. Behold, our cup overflows (Ps. 23:5). God, the King of all creation, has bid us come to the wedding feast of His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ is the Bridegroom. The Church is His holy Bride. And you and I are blessed to be members of the one, holy, Christian Church. We are members of the Church by virtue of our Baptism into Christ, and the wedding garment that God Himself has given us is faith in His Son. The Lord Jesus Christ so loves His Bride, His Church, that He gave Himself up for her, gave Himself into death on the cross for her, shedding His holy, precious blood, “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:26-27; ESV). Beloved, God has invited you to the wedding feast. He has, in fact, invited you to be the holy Bride of Jesus Christ. He bids you come here to the Church, where the feast begins, and to the great wedding feast on the Last Day to process as “the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). O, what grace! God calls sinners and joins them with His Son. The Son becomes one flesh with humanity, that humanity might be one with God. The Church is now bone of His bones and flesh of His flesh. God puts His new Adam, Jesus Christ, into the deep sleep of death, and opens His side with a spear. From His riven side flow blood and water, from which the holy Bride of Christ, the Christian Church, is formed. And so you are born in baptismal water and nourished with the holy blood of Christ. So do not refuse this precious invitation. The Lord of hosts prepares “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well-refined” (Is. 25:6). The feast of salvation and eternal life, of heaven and the resurrection, this feast is for you.

But not everyone accepts the invitation. Not everyone comes at the Lord’s bidding. The Lord has prepared a great feast, and He sends out His servants, the prophets, the apostles, the ministers of the Gospel, who deliver the invitation even today in your hearing. Come to the feast! But many believe they have something better to do. “(O)ne went to his farm, another to his business” (Matt. 22:5). One went off to the lake for three months and didn’t have time for God’s Word. One was too sleepy on Sunday morning to give the invitation any heed. One thought to himself, “there will always be other banquets. I will wait for another one, when it’s more convenient. I’m too preoccupied at the moment.” Repent. Dear friends in Christ, this isn’t just any invitation… This is the King! This is God!! You don’t refuse God!! And yet we’re so good at convincing ourselves we don’t need to take the invitation seriously, or that there are more important, or at least more entertaining things to do. Repent.

Still, the Lord sends out His messengers. “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast” (v. 4). It is a sign of God’s grace that again and again He sends out His servants to call ungrateful sinners to the wedding feast. In His grace, God preserves the world, as wicked as it is, extending the time of grace so that all receive the invitation, so that all are without excuse. But there is an end to the time of grace. For the unconverted, the time of grace ends at that person’s death, or when the Lord returns on the Last Day. After that, it is too late. There is no more time for repentance. No more invitations are issued. No more messengers are sent. For those who reject the Lord’s invitation out of hand, there is a judgment. The judgment is eternal death in hell. God sends the invitation now, in this earthly life. That is why it is so important that those who are already at the feast support the mission work of the Church, the messengers God sends. That is why the work of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, whom we celebrate this morning, is so important. Because through those messengers, pastors and missionaries, and through the Word spoken by each of us present this morning, God sends out His invitation: Come to the wedding feast!

So great is His grace, He keeps sending His messengers. “‘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” (vv. 9-10), filled with tax collectors and prostitutes and other notorious sinners, filled not only with Jews, but also with Gentiles, sinners from every nation, tribe, people, and language. Whoever recognizes his unworthiness is welcome at the feast, called by God Himself. And when that guest arrives, God cleans him head to toe, forgives him his sins, anoints his head with oil, and puts the best robe on him, the royal wedding garment of faith.

But there is yet a second warning for us in this parable. As the King enters the wedding hall to enjoy the festivities with His guests, He notices a man who has no wedding garment. In other words, this man was certainly invited, and when he arrived, he was certainly washed and clothed in the King’s wedding garment. But He cast off that wedding garment. He wanted to enjoy the wedding on his own terms. He did not want the garment provided by the King. He preferred to insult the King by wearing his own clothes. Beloved, this is what we do when we seek to enter the Kingdom of God on our own terms, when after Baptism we throw away our God-given faith in Jesus Christ alone for a faith of our own manufacturing. This is what we do when we seek to wear robes of our own righteousness, rather than being clothed with the righteousness of Christ alone. We cast off faith in Him for a sham religion. Take heed, and repent. The King says to that man, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” (v. 12). And the man has no answer. He is speechless. For all we have to plead before God is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the righteousness that is ours by faith. What happens to the man who has no faith, and thus has no righteousness? The King says to His servants, “‘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” (vv. 13-14). The man without a wedding garment, the man who has cast off faith in Jesus Christ, who has cast off the very righteousness of Christ, that man is cast into hell with the devil and his evil angels. So you see, beloved, that it is possible to believe at first, and then lose your faith. Watch and pray, therefore. And even more, look to Jesus. For He alone can preserve you. He preserves you with His good Spirit, by means of His Word and His Sacraments.

The joy of this parable is that the Lord calls you, “Come to the wedding feast!” All is ready, and all is for you. And you receive a foretaste of this great wedding feast each time you hear the Word, each time you remember your baptism, each time your sins are forgiven, and of course (who could miss this connection?), you receive a foretaste of this great wedding feast each time you feast on the Lord’s true body and blood in His Supper. The Lord sustains you through these means, so that you persevere, so that you do not cast off faith and the righteousness of Christ, so that you are able to do in all circumstances as Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).

You can rejoice because God loves you. He loves you enough to betroth you to His Son. He loves you enough to give His only Son into death for your forgiveness. But He has not left you a widow. He has also raised His Son from the dead, the seal of your justification. And so it is the wedding of the risen Lord Jesus Christ to His holy Bride, the Christian Church, that we celebrate this morning and each time we come together for the Divine Service, and that we will celebrate in full on that great resurrection Dawn of the Last Day. The Lord has prepared a Table before us. He has clothed us in the garments of salvation. He has covered us with the robe of righteousness. He has adorned us with jewels (cf. Is. 61:10). Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life, and we will dwell as the holy Bride of Christ in the house of the Lord forever. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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