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Robed in Christ’s Righteousness, Come to the Feast! (Matthew 22.1-14; Ephesians 5.15-21)

The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

“Robed in Christ’s Righteousness, Come to the Feast!”
Pastor Philip G. Meyer, Emeritus

Matthew 22.1-14; Ephesians 5.15-21

03 November 2019 

SOLI DEO GLORIA!

There is a great celebration in heaven that has already begun. This celebration is the marriage of Christ and his Bride, the Church. On All Saints’ Day, which we celebrated this past Friday, we remembered the saints who have entered the eternal wedding hall, especially those saints who lived among us here at Immanuel, our friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and particularly, our beloved family members who enjoy the nearer presence of Christ. They are robed with Christ’s righteousness, not their own works. This celebration is the best ever, complete with the best of foods and the finest of wines. It is everything of which the prophet Isaiah spoke centuries before, words. which are often read at our Lutheran funeral rite:

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” (Isaiah 25:6, ESV)

We, too, celebrate that feast, but it cannot compare to the real thing. Our celebration is, as we used to sing in the Offertory in Lutheran Worship, “a foretaste of the feast to come.” For the saints in Christ it has already come to pass, while we wait eagerly for the great consummation of all things.

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” God fervently desires a people to enjoy eternal life with him. He calls all people to this marriage feast. Yet, at the end we hear the sad conclusion:

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” [Mt 22:14].

He has excluded no one from the invitation, but those called may exclude themselves.

Jesus begins with distressing news: those invited refused to come. The king kept sending servants to tell the invited guests to come because everything was now ready. The kingdom of heaven had arrived in the Person of Christ. But a litany of excuses followed the invitation. The king’s invitation was malignantly ignored. The king sent servants to invite those who had not been previously invited, the good and the bad. The king wanted his wedding hall to be filled with guests. Heaven is no solitary place!

It’s tempting to skip over what happened in between invitations. None of those invited thought much of the urgency of the king’s invitation, earning the king’s consuming anger because they had treated his messengers shamefully and murdered them. Buried in this parable is a verse we tend to overlook.

The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. (Mt 22:7).

At the conclusion of Chronicles, which details the history of Israel under her kings and which exposes her sins of unfaithfulness to God, stands this sobering conclusion:

15 The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy. Therefore he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or aged. He gave them all into his hand.[2 Chronicles 36.15-16]

“Until there was no remedy!” The Apostle Paul admonishes us to take a close look at our lives.

Look carefully then how you walk. . . (Eph 5:15).

Don’t be “unwise, but wise, making the best use of the time.” Why does Paul admonish us so? Very simply he says, “because the days are evil.” Perhaps it is only because some of us have lived many decades that we see the deep incursions of evil into our society. Wisdom sometimes comes with age, yet evil creeps in gradually so that we might not notice until too late. One does not put a frog in a pot of boiling water because he will hop out immediately. One puts him into tepid water and then raises the temperature gradually so that he doesn’t notice that he is literally being cooked!

We recognize the sins of the unbelieving world. What was once unthinkable has become the accepted “tolerant position.” Perversion and murder are applauded. The unbelieving world is hopelessly corrupt. Society is not going to be redeemed! When the King sends his holy angels, they will carry out the destruction of all his enemies. They will execute God’s justice on them. Those rejecting the king’s invitation will suffer a “miserable death.” [Matt. 21.41]

“But,” you say, “I’m not supporting any of that.” That’s true but you’re not off the hook! The sins against which you must guard and repent are laziness and sluggishness with regard to the things of God and thinking that your righteousness will get you into the wedding feast. The devil has been in the world from the Fall and will continue to be so until the Parousia, Christ’s coming in glory on the Last Day. There will be more about that on the Last Sunday of the Church Year when I again occupy the pulpit. And again, the Gospel reading will be a wedding parable.

Paul’s warns us not to postpone what is necessary to sustain our Christian faith: repentance and the feeding of our faith. Much like those who postpone seeing the physician for checkups and tests which might save their lives later on, they reply: “I’ll postpone that colonoscopy, or that cardiac checkup, or that mammogram until later.” Nothing happens until there is no cure. Christians are tempted to postpone taking care of their spiritual health for a more convenient time. I’ll get to Divine Service next month when I have more time. Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Co 6:2), advises Paul. Not tomorrow, but today!

Likewise, we are not always diligent in caring for our spiritual welfare by neglecting time in the Word, in praying, and in family devotions. I suspect, no, I am well aware that we often sit down to eat without a prayer of thanksgiving for what God has provided for our bodies. It’s a small thing but it’s symptomatic of a deeper condition: We’re just too busy for the things of God.

We live at a fevered pace. Lately, I’ve been watching people as they wait. At the barbershop I noticed that every single patron waiting to have his haircut—and there were four ahead of me—and two more walked in, had their faces buried in their electronic devices! My neighbor is texting from the time she gets out of her car until the time she enters her front door. Same thing coming out. It’s no wonder that we never have a conversation. I doubt that she even notices that we could speak a greeting. Perhaps this is a picture we do understand! If we’re so busy with our devices, when do have time to listen to God? We Christians are as wrapped up in ourselves as the pagan world.

Synod President Matt Harrison posted a German word on FaceBook about a month back that describes it in a way I can’t forget. He heard it while traveling in Germany. I love the word because it is so descriptive. It’s “Ichhaftigkeit.” Germans love to glue words together and this one puts together the extreme self-centeredness and egotism that sticks to us. It’s preoccupation with self. “It’s all about me!” might be another way to put it.

Isn’t that what the invited guests said to the king? Who treats a king’s invitation like that? Only those who are completely self-consumed. Ichhaftigkeit! It’s a picture of our age, of every age, because it is the result of our sinful nature to be concerned only with self. Seldom can we be pried out of our self-contained shells. As helpful and necessary as technology has become, it has also infected our souls with an overwhelming sense of “Ichhaftigkeit,” self-importance. No obituary [yet!] proudly proclaims: “And she spent nearly every waking hour on her mobile device!”

“Make[ing] the best use of the time” Paul implores. Don’t be a fool by wasting the time God has allotted you. I don’t know how many days God has allotted for me nor do you know either. Each day brings us closer to our end, no matter how old we are. You aren’t saving up days in the bank of time! If this is an evil time, and it is[!], then you should be prudent that you make the best use of it by living wisely as God intends his people to live. It involves more than simply showing up for Divine Service and receiving his Word and Sacrament, it also involves living out your Christian vocation as husband or wife, father or mother, child, employer or employee, and so on. It involves “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ,” not lording it over others. We “address[ing] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is what it means to wear your baptismal garment to the wedding feast. You don’t put on your old dirty, sinful, clothing, but the robe God has provided you in Holy Baptism. You don’t earn your way in. You receive grace upon grace by God’s gracious call and by him clothing you with the righteousness of Christ which covers all your sinful nakedness. Is there anything more telling that these words introducing the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector?

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt . . .[Luke 18.9]

No one gets in wearing his self-chosen clothes. Isaiah calls all our self-righteous acts rags soiled with menstrual flow [Is. 64.6], that is, that which cannot come into the presence of God without cleansing [cf. Lev. 15.19-33]. You have been clothed with Christ’s righteousness! His righteousness is your wedding garment.

“The feast to come” is a joyful celebration to which we want to go. It is God’s feast prepared for those he loves and with whom he wants to spend eternity. On Friday we celebrated All Saints Day. We commemorated God’s faithfulness and the faithfulness of those who have gone before us with Christ’s righteousness as their only garment. Should you not also have as your greatest desire spending eternity with all the company of heaven around the throne of the King’s Son?

I lament that Martin Franzmann’s magnificent hymn “O Kingly Love,” which was included in Lutheran Worship [346], our past hymnal, did not make it into our current hymnal. Perhaps it was deleted due to its length. Perhaps also because many congregations had difficulty singing the tune, which has a meter called “Peculiar,” and the editors concluded that very few sang it. Yet, here at Immanuel we sang it, and very well, I might add. I miss singing it!  Franzmann captures so well our three readings.

O kingly Love, that faithfully

Didst keep thine ancient promises,

Didst bid the bidden come to thee,

The people thou didst choose to bless,

This day we raise Our song of praise, Adoring thee,

That in the days When alien sound Had all but drowned

Thine ancient, true, and constant melody,

Thy mighty hand did make A trumpet none could silence or mistake;

Thy living breath did blow for all the world to hear, Living and clear:

The feast is ready.

Come to the feast,

The good and the bad.

Come and be glad!

Greatest and least,

Come to the feast!

O lavish Love, that didst prepare

A table bounteous as thy heart,

That men might leave their puny care

And taste and see how good thou art,

This day we raise Our song of praise, Adoring thee,

That in the days When alien sound Had all but drowned

Thine ancient, true, and constant melody,

Thy mighty hand did make A trumpet none could silence or mistake;

Thy living breath did blow for all the world to hear, Living and clear:

The feast is ready.

Come to the feast,

The good and the bad.

Come and be glad!

Greatest and least,

Come to the feast!

O seeking Love, thy hurrying feet

Go searching still to urge and call

The bad and good on ev’ry street

To fill thy boundless banquet hall.

This day we raise Our song of praise, Adoring thee,

That in the days When alien sound Had all but drowned

Thine ancient, true, and constant melody,

Thy mighty hand did make A trumpet none could silence or mistake;

Thy living breath did blow for all the world to hear, Living and clear:

The feast is ready.

Come to the feast,

The good and the bad.

Come and be glad!

Greatest and least,

Come to the feast!

O holy Love, thou canst not brook

Man’s cool and careless enmity,

O ruthless Love, thou wilt not look

On man robed in contempt of thee,

Thine echoes die; our deeds deny Thy summoning:

Our darkling cry,

Our meddling sound Have all but drowned

That song that once made ev’ry echo ring.

Take up again, oh, take The trumpet none can silence or mistake,

And blow once more for us and all the world to hear, Living and clear:

The feast is ready.

Come to the feast,

The good and the bad.

Come and be glad!

Greatest and least,

Come to the feast!

Indeed, the foretaste of the feast to come is ready here and now! Christ is here with his body and blood to forgive and refresh you! Come to the feast!

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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