PENTECOST 18, A – October 12, 2014

 SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 25:6-9; Phil. 4:4-13; Matt. 22:1-14

 

      “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast… [His] servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.” Matt. 22

 

Weddings. I had one last week, and will have another next month. Weddings are times of great celebration and joy!… and also of great tension and suspicion. This is especially so when it comes to the guests. So many concerns arise when considering the guests.

  • How many do you invite? The joy of the love you share as you are joined together in marriage is certainly something you want to celebrate with others; but, hey, each person adds to the cost, after all.

  • Who do you invite? There are certain relatives, or friends of the family, who really aren’t very nice. There are people with whom you are no longer very close, or maybe are not even getting along with anymore. If you invite – or don’t invite – such people, will you be seen as greedy? As rude and unkind? As foolish?

  • And then, what about the seating arrangements at the reception? Your uncle, who becomes obnoxious and annoying when he drinks: who do you saddle with him?

    How sad that we sinners can even turn times of great joy and happiness into stressful times filled with tension and suspicion.

     

    God is so different! His goodness and kindness and mercy are utterly amazing. Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven as a wedding feast given by a king, and here the feast that is vividly described in Isaiah 25 comes to mind, the “feast of rich food, of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” God’s wedding feast changes His guests forever, for He swallows up their death so that they will never die, wipes away their tears and fills them with a joy that will never end, and takes away their sins so completely that there is nothing bad about them that will ever call for reproach or punishment. God has prepared such an incredibly wonderful feast! And, who does He want to be there? Jesus says that the king sends His servants to invite to the feast everyone they find, both the bad and the good. Take this to heart. It’s not because of who you are or because of some good within you or that you have done that God invites you to His feast. He invites everyone! It’s because of who He is, because of the greatness of His mercy and love, and not because of you that God invites you. The cost of the feast is tremendous – the holy life of the eternal Son of God – but He gladly paid it for you. Our God wants everyone to celebrate with Him and enjoy His feast: Jew and Gentile; the well-regarded and hard-working members of society and the worst of criminals in our prisons; the newborn infant and the oldest among us; the rich and the poor; those whose skin is black, or brown, or white, or yellow, or red. God invites everyone to His feast because He is merciful. Does not the fact that God sent His Son among us as a man, born in and living in poverty and lowliness, and sent Him ultimately to bear our sins and guilt and punishment for us, testify to the seriousness of His desire that we be with Him and enjoy the wedding feast of His Son?

    Great, amazingly great, is God’s love for us sinners: every one of us, no matter who we are! Great also is His anger – with every one of us, no matter who we are – when His invitation is spurned and His Son is rejected. Jesus warned Israel’s religious leaders of what would happen if they rejected Him. Whether the rejection was because of a lack of interest – “But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business” – or violent opposition – “while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them” – the end result of rejecting God’s Son was the same: “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” In 70 A.D. this happened to the nation of Israel – God’s chosen people whom He loved so dearly! The Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem and its temple. It has never been rebuilt. And so, even though Israel has been resurrected as a nation, it cannot worship as God requires. The people He now gathers to Himself as His own, His bride, are those who rejoice in Jesus as their God and Savior and gladly receive the feast of salvation He spreads before them in His Gospel and Sacraments.

     

    How great is the love and mercy of God our King, to come to us, spread before us His feast of salvation in His Son, and invite us to partake of His feast! Keep ever in your mind and heart the greatness of God’s mercy to you in Christ and the greatness of the feast He spreads before you here. Then, what another pastor said in a sermon which I read recently will not be true of you. He said:

    “There is a great deal about us that is contrary to our Lord God and justly displeases Himthings like anger, impatience, greed, sexual voyeurism, evil lusts, fornication, hatred, and other vices which are nothing other than abominable mortal sins—rampant everywhere in the world. But such sins are nothing compared to the terrible disdain that is so deep and so pervasive, that in truth, greed, stealing, adultery, whoremongering, and so forth, cannot even compare; yes, indeed, these sins would be as nothing if people would only love and esteem God’s Word. However, sad to say, the opposite is the case and, as a result, the whole world is inundated by such sins. [People] could care less about the Gospel; they snarl against it and don’t regard that to be sinful. Truly, I am shocked to see how people in the Church, on the right and on the left, yawn away, so that out of a great throng there are hardly ten or twelve who are actually present in order to learn something from the preaching.” (The House Postils, Vol. 3, p. 93f)

    It was Martin Luther who said this. He feared for his German people because of their lack of love for Jesus and His Gospel. “It breaks my heart to see this happening,” he said. “God will surely punish them horribly because of this, letting false doctrine and factious spirits engulf them, causing dissension and defection of countless people from God’s Word.” What he feared has happened. Today in Germany churches are mostly empty. Few love God, and most know little about Him. Like Israel, it is a nation bereft of faith.

     

    May God have mercy on us and open our hearts by His Holy Spirit!, that we gladly say: “I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. 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.” As God clothed Liam with the wedding garment of salvation in Jesus in His Baptism this day, so God clothes you in Christ. Receive Him and return to Him your glad praise, and His mercy will always rest upon you! In the holy name of Jesus. Amen.