Archive for October 12th, 2020

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Sermon Text: St. Matthew 22: 1-14

Once again, a parable in Holy Week and a pointed one, and this time the setting is not a vineyard but a wedding banquet. 

Now we do not use the phrase “wedding banquet” but the more ordinary, “wedding reception”, nevertheless, a wedding reception is probably the most elaborate, joyful, and traditional of any dinner to which we are ever invited.  It is probably the only time any of us are invited to a feast by an engraved invitation. If a United States President has marriageable children, the greater wedding feast would be the President’s invite to his son or daughter’s marriage in the White House.  Wow! What an invite! I give it to the Brits and their monarchy:  the broadcast of a wedding around the globe! And given the disdain and disgrace the old Adam has brought to marriage still, it is still a joyful feast. Invited to a royal wedding: What an invite that would have been! 

Once again, one of our Lord’s parable, The Parable of the Wedding Feast, may have been misnamed. It is the parable of the King Who Invites.  In the Lord’s parable, he does not invite to just a usual banquet, but the highest, more celebrative and magnificent feast imaginable:  a wedding feast and of the King’s own Son! What an invite that would have been!

From Luther’s Sermon on this Gospel reading:

Isn’t that a sweet proclamation? a magnificent, royal wedding feast? a more lavish and delectable meal than the choicest banquet on earth? What could possibly be a more gracious, sweet, and comforting message than the gospel’s proclamation to me, that God wants to be my gracious God and take me into heaven and that in His kingdom I am to sing and leap for joy forever? Shouldn’t a person hurry to get there? and be happy about the fellowship of the gospel and say, Praise and thanks be to God who has invited me to his royal, heavenly wedding!

Then those invited to give their excuses to the King why they can’t attend, no less! You would rearrange your life to attend, That would be just crazy and then criminal: some of the King’s servants are beaten and killed because of an invitation to a wedding banquet…and that’s part of the point of the parable of the King’s invitation to His Son’s wedding. Such behavior is plain nuts!

“…while the rest seized his servants, treated them SHAMEFULLY and killed them.” I think “shamefully” is a good translation of the Greek The Greek root word of shamefully  is “hubris” and from it we have the word Hubris, meaning pride. Now in ancient Greek hubris meant  the intentional use of violence to humiliate or degrade…Aristotle in his Rhetoric:

“Hubris consists in doing and saying things that cause shame to the victim…simply for the pleasure of it. Retaliation is not hubris, but revenge…Young men and the rich are hubristic because they think they are better than other people.”

Hubris fit into the shame culture of archaic and Classical Greece, in which people’s actions were guided by avoiding shame and seeking honor.  Sinful pride is active in thinking I am better than others to shame them. Those invited brought humiliation, degradation and even violence and murder to the King’s servants.  The shame!  No honor of the King, no honor to whom honor is due, no respect to those whom respect is due. In the Lord’s Parable of the King Who Invites, it is obvious that the King is no human King of his vineyard: the King is the Lord God.  He invites us and so many of his servants who bring the invitation are set upon.  In Shakespeare Macbeth messengers are killed because they bring a bad message but here in this parable, and in the life of our Lord:  a good message is brought, of utter joy in wedding and the messenger is killed! Insane.

Yet the King will have His banquet hall for the wedding feast of His Son filled. But first the King orders those who killed and shamed his servants who bore the joyous message of the wedding feast, that those who refused His invitation destroyed along with their city. Harsh?  On a human level, you’re all excited about some joyous news, great news, happy news and you tell someone who should share in the joy and are met with a shrug of the shoulders, and your friend or family member excuses himself, that’s nice, I got to baste the roast. He doesn’t even feign joy.  But to refuse so great a salvation by His grace filled invitation and calling alone to the King’s son wedding, then, “… how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Hebrews 2. Truly many are called but few are chosen. Refusing the Lord’s so great a salvation already means destruction. Acceptance means the joy of faith and love because He has invited us and clothed us in His Son by His grace alone in Holy Baptism and faith.

What does it mean NOT to have a wedding garment?

 “You have invited me, O King, to the wedding feast of your son. But I’m not going into your son’s wedding feast the way you want me with a wedding garment.  I go through life just the way I am and You want me to be myself, don’t you? The real me?  What’s wrong with what I am wearing? I don’t need your Son to be saved, though He was very fine spiritual teacher. I’m pretty good.”  “You are wearing the clothes of your own works, wrong, wrath and hubris.  Look at the shame you bring not only upon, but on yourself.  You are all puffed up.  Clothe your self in My Son.  He is true and faithful Bridegroom.  But you refuse, you’ll be cast off into, “… the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (St. Matthew 22)

The Bridegroom Himself, the Son of the King will be cast out as we heard the Lord say again and again leading up to Holy Week and the Cross.  Here we are entering the mystery of so great a salvation. St. John Chrysostom preached from a wedding sermon:  (In marriage) you  are sacrificing yourself for  someone  to whom you are already joined, but He offered Himself  up for the one who turned her back on Him and  hated  Him.  He bore the shame of our wrong and wickedness.  We think the Lord’s sheer physical suffering was the worst, no, it was coupled with the shame and contempt of our hubris, bearing our weight of wrong to be our Redeemer.

Those, good and bad, those who don’t need a physician and those who do, are invited, waiting for the invitation, knowing they are not worthy. The proud think they are worthy and so are not. Now, as C. S. Lewis wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Mr. Lewis was right on target but to be thinking of yourself less means our thoughts and feelings need to be thinking about something else. The Lord has told us so in so many ways and shows us what we can think of, from today’s Epistle Reading, Philippians 4

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Walter Hooper, literary advisor of the estate of C.S. Lewis, lived with Lewis advising him and Mr. Hooper wrote this anecdote about him:

‘Who is Elizabeth Taylor?’ asked C. S. Lewis. He and I were talking about the difference between ‘prettiness’ and ‘beauty’, and I suggested that Miss Taylor was a great beauty. ‘If you read the newspapers,’ I said to Lewis, ‘you would know who she is.’ ‘Ah-h-h-h!’ said Lewis playfully, ‘but that is how I keep myself “unspotted from the world”. ‘ He recommended that if I absolutely ‘must’ read newspapers I have a frequent ‘mouthwash’ with The Lord of the Rings or some other great book.

Amen.  We need the wash of whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable , excellent, anything worthy of praise, please think about these things especially after watching the news, reading the angry, the trite and the trivial on twitter or facebook and especially participating in fits of rage.  There is still so much that is good in this world and it’s worth thinking about, praying about it, and learning it, fighting for. Even more so in God’s Holy Word, the Scriptures by which the Lord speaks to us deep in the soul alive in faith in the Bridegroom who paid the dowry completely of our salvation by His blood of love, shed for us, but not the love of blood. And we need to be as His Christians in fighting trim by steadfastness in His Word.

This woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder shows us the contrast between the true church and the false church and between the Feast of the Lord’s Supper and the feasts of the world and it’s pantheon of idols:

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Note that portrayed is Martin Luther preaching and note his hands: his right hand points to the Cross of Christ, the Bridegroom who dies for His wayward bride. His right is toward the false church but notice it’s position: downward, as if to say, take hold of my hand and hear the Word of God at the wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). You are invited by the King’s Son. See the contrast between the cleanliness and order of the Lord’s House compared to the chaos threatening to devour the church (s) of this world. There are people under the Pulpit going from the false church to the true church. The Lord invites us week after week and after week. We can invite others to His House again and again and again. There will come the Day of Judgment when the door is closed, but today it is open to all believers and seekers to be clothed in Baptism, our wedding garment.

Yet, in the Holy Communion on the left side, we can not stay but follow the Way and go into the world…the world the Lord created and redeemed. There to think and act on those things which are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise in our vocations.

And note the Bible on the Pulpit: oddly, it is not pointed to the Preacher but to the world. God’s Word is pointed not only to us, but to the world and that Word can be prayed, spoken, read, and lived in the world and the world needs it so. The King Son invites us weekly to His Feast. Brought from the busy-ness of the world to the business of the King’s Son’s feast and that is to invite and invite and invite again.  

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 7)

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