Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sermon for Trinity 20 October 20-21, 2012

Trinity 20        Matthew 22:1-14                    October 20-21, 2012

In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The servants are sent out into the streets to invite as many as they find, the good and the bad. No respect is paid to rank, class, or privilege. Everyone, apart from works or genealogy, gets the same invitation. In a world with no free lunches the offer of an endless banquet in paradise seems too good to be true. But it is true. All things have been paid for, all things necessary have been sacrificed. The lamb, the wine, the best parts are on the table. It is prepared for you: no cost, no price. It is pure gift.

But many reject the invitation. Some are actually hardcore rebels. They know the invitation is from the King, but they don’t care. They hate the King. They want to rule themselves. They embrace Hell with affection. But most simply don’t believe the invitation is valid, that it actually is from the King, or even that there is a King. They have lived in delusion for so long that it has become comfortable. They are afraid of change, afraid to risk anything, afraid to come out of the darkness and be exposed. They don’t want to be noticed. They want to hide, keep their blemishes secret and pretend they are better than they are. Despite their blabbering they don’t have enough intellectual honesty to face the Word of God.

That is because the Word of God is a threat - to us all. For the Word of God wields the Law of God. It changes things. It kills and it makes alive. It threatens to break their hearts and change their minds. What they have always thought is wrong. What is comfortable, what makes sense, what they know from experience and reason, is wrong. What they think about God, what they think about man, what they expect from life - is all wrong. And that is pretty scary. God beckons them to a position of weakness and vulnerability, of faith in things that they cannot see. But what they can see, a man hanging on a cross, his followers persecuted and martyred, poverty and hunger, they do not like. So they scurry back to the darkness, back to the cold embrace of the devil in ignorance. They think they made the wise choice and in a sense they did. But the wisdom of men is folly and the foolishness of the cross is the only true Wisdom.

Thanks be to God, that a few are so desperate, so lonely, so tired, so hurt that they come despite the foolishness. They are the meek. But they inherit a kingdom. They are brought into the wedding hall, clothed with righteousness, and embraced as long-lost children. They are home at last. The loneliness and heartbreak, the weariness and fear, the frustration and pain of their time in the kingdoms of men is removed. They have been found and restored, forgiven and cleansed, filled with joy.

My friends, repent. Repent before it is too late. Seek the Lord while He may be found. Hear His Word and your soul shall live. Be meek. Let His Word have its way with you. Stop trying to match the Word with your ideas and doctrines, apologizing for the stern, jealous God of Abraham and rest in the sure mercies of David. Let God speak for Himself. For His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. But His Word is Truth. It does not lie. It is not evil. It is good. It will accomplish that for which it was sent. Let it break your heart and change your mind. Let it expose you, make you weak and vulnerable. Be desperate for this joy. Be lonely outside of this fellowship. Be tired enough, weary enough, hurt enough to give up. For then you will be strong. In defeat you will find victory, in hunger satisfaction.

That is the way of the cross, the way Our God endured to make us His. It is a way, not an end. We have not yet arrived. We still have things to learn and things to suffer. The Word is still working on us, still breaking and changing us. We learn humility and faith in the exposure of our errors, our sin, and in His immeasurable Grace. The Word made Flesh covers us. Even as it breaks, it binds. It restores and refreshes us. The Father Himself loves you. He loves you individually, specifically, personally. He has sent His only Begotten Son to suffer, die, and rise again in your place. His Spirit has been planted in you through water and Word. You are His Temple. He feeds you with His Body and Blood, which you did not earn and could not buy. You are the Tabernacle, the place where He abides. He speaks to you in the Holy Absolution and you are forgiven, holy, righteous. Even now, He is guiding you home to the place where you belong through His Word.

You are a citizen of His Kingdom by virtue of the invitation. It doesn’t matter if you were good or bad. You are His. He has bought you. That is what matters. What you are supplants what you were. But you are still in a foreign land, traveling, eager to return home for your Prince’s wedding banquet. There is temptation along the way. The many beckon to you from their dark doorways like the sirens of Ulysses to destruction. Some have been seduced into depravation. They have shed the garment of righteousness and gone back into the darkness. Be warned. Be vigilant in prayer. Forsake the ways of men. Hold fast to the ways of God. For God has placed way stations like this along the way for you, places of His presence, of His Word and Sacrament, of His regenerating love; places for you to be re-broken and rebound, to be recast and recovered, to be reconnected with the saints who have gone before you, and forgiven again. God is here for you. You are in the right place.

And still, there is one more surprise of Grace. For when at last you arrive at the wedding hall you will find that you are not merely a guest, an honored niece or nephew, even a brother of the Bridegroom. You are the very Bride, the one for whom He did it all, the one He loves.

In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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