Second Last Sunday of the Church Year
“Seeing Both Ends at the Same Time”
Rev. Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus
2 Peter 3.3-14; St. Matthew 25.31-46
14 November 2021
Soli Deo Gloria!
It has often happened to me that while browsing a website looking for a particular item that I decided to come back to that site a bit later. When I returned, sometimes only an hour to two later, that item was no longer available. Sold out! During the beginning of the pandemic if one saw certain items at the grocery store one bought them immediately for fear that a day later that product would no longer be on the shelves. We still experience rolling shortages. Are you going to do work on your house using lumber or even painting? If you see either of those two items you had better buy immediately because no one seems to know when you’ll see them again. The Germans had an expression, “Keuffen, weil der Markt für der thür ist,” that is, “Buy now while the market is at the door.”
Today’s readings underscore a sense of urgency with regard to the Kingdom of God. “Seek the Lord while he may be found,” exhorts God through Isaiah [Is. 55. 6a]. Paul exhorts us to make good use of the time [Eph. 5.16!] In our Lord’s Parable of the Wedding Feast the invitation was urgent; everything is ready. The King’s call went out, “Come to the wedding feast!” [Matt. 22.5] Yet, Christians often lose the sense of urgency about kingdom matters. They miss the priority of Christ’s invitation.
The “call” is an “invitation.” Jesus often compared heaven to a wedding feast. A guest list is prepared and an invitation goes out to all. The ancients didn’t send clever printed invitations; a messenger was sent to announce it orally. The invitation was put into their ears, just like the preaching of the Gospel is put into your ears.
Perhaps you receive an invitation to a wedding where you may not be close to the couple at all. Maybe you were invited because you are a co-worker with the parents, or just someone acquainted with one of the families. However, you may not want to attend. It means bringing a gift. You find yourself obligated.
The kingly love of God’s invitation brings no obligation to bring a gift. In fact, just the opposite happens. The host even supplies you with the proper wedding guest attire! Well does Isaiah say it that one comes and receives as “he who has no money.” The call to God’s kingdom doesn’t require works because you and I couldn’t supply any of it. It is a call of grace. Forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are provided by the gift of God in Christ. God provides everything, yet the people in the parable all made excuses. Your piety doesn’t matter, nor your virtue. Only the merit of Christ matters. This wedding is the wedding of the King’s Son to his Bride, the Church. No higher honor could be given, no more important matter in life can be found than for you to to accept the King’s invitation. He wants you to be there!
The invitation goes out to all. The “many” refers to all people. God desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. [1 Tim. 2.3-4]. God’s chosen people, the Jews, received this invitation first, but sadly most of them refused. When that happened the king sent his servants out to the streets to find as many as they could so that his wedding hall would be filled with guests. God wants his heaven filled with all people.
But incredibly, the king’s invitation was despised and treated treated with contempt. The invited paid no attention to it. They went to their farms and to their businesses. Worst of all, some seized the king’s messengers and treated them shamefully, even resorting to murder!
All of this points out man’s pitiful self-importance. It is a delusion sent by Satan to ignore God’s invitation. Many refuse to love the truth and so be saved. [2 Thess. 2.10]. There can be no doubt that many postpone the call of the Gospel thinking that they will always have time to respond, even at the last minute. It happens that God causes his Gospel call to be proclaimed in places for many years, but when it is rejected and treated contemptuously God takes his invitation elsewhere. Luther called it a “thunderstorm” which rains here and then suddenly disappears. Could it be that God would take away his invitation from our nation? It may be so. Yet, the invitation is greeted with open arms in other places in our world which have never heard it, and even in places where the invitation must be delivered quietly. Places like Muslim nations, Asian nations, and others.
NOW is the time to respond to the call of God! Paul advises us to be wise, making the best use of our time because the days are evil. [Eph. 5.15-21]. The drowsiness of our culture is evident. You, however, are to be awake waiting for the marriage feast to begin [Matthew 25.1-13]. The time is Today, not tomorrow, not next week or next year. There may be no tomorrow should our Lord’s return come suddenly and without warning as he has promised. [Matthew 24.24, 44].
God’s invitation is delivered by means, that is, the Word and Sacraments. These are the ordinary means by which God issues his invitation. He sends it through his servants, the called and ordained servants of Christ, pastors. Here in this place is where the invitation is spoken. Of course, it can be delivered one to one through conversation but this is the wedding hall, so to speak. This is where the celebration takes place.
Few are chosen. It’s a hard concept to grasp. The choosing is entirely God’s matter. Man doesn’t cooperate in this. God extends the call. Man answers or doesn’t. Even that remains in the mystery of God. Attempts to make it fit with our reason ends up in heresy, denying what God has revealed.
The only cause of man’s damnation is not God. These words from our Lutheran Confessions say it as plainly as can be:
Everything which prepares and fits man for damnation emanates from the devil and man through sin, and in no way from God. Since God does not want any man to be damned, how could he prepare man for damnation? God is not the cause of sin, nor is he the cause of the punishment, the damnation. The only cause of man’s damnation is sin, for the “wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). And as God does not will sin and has no pleasure in sin, so he also does not will the death of a sinner and has no pleasure in his damnation. He does not will that “any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 629). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
The choosing is God’s matter. You should find great comfort in this doctrine. Your salvation doesn’t rest in your own hands. If that were the case I doubt that anyone would ever be saved. As the Formula of Concord so aptly says, we “would lose it more readily that Adam and Eve did in paradise.” [FC SD XI.90.]. Your salvation rests on God’s gracious call. Anything that contradicts this pure teaching of God is not from God.
The fault why some are lost is due to exactly what the first invited guests did. The despised it, blasphemed it, and ridiculed it. They resisted the Holy Spirit who brought the call to them. God will judge those who make light of his invitation, his grace, and forgiveness. For them the time of grace ran out. They missed the opportunity to buy while the market was at the door.
This call is urgent even if the times are not. Think of it this way: You’re looking at something on Amazon and you see that box on the right hand side which says, “Buy Now.” The market is not merely at your door, it’s at your fingertips. The feast is ready.
Come to the feast! “Buy Now!”
In the Name of the Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit.