Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sermon for 10/21/12--Trinity 20

The Wedding Banquet

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.  

The imagery of marriage is one of Scripture’s richest and most beautiful pictures of the relationship between God and His people.  It is expressed frequently in the New Testament as an image of the “marriage”, if you will, between Christ and His Church.  We see this as early as Jesus’ miracle at the Wedding at Cana.  But this was also a picture not unknown to the Old Testament.  Now and again, the prophets would speak of God as the “husband” of His people, which meant, of course, that they were like a “bride” to Him.  He would love them and care for them and provide for them, and they were to honor and love Him in return.  And when they would not, it was as if they were committing adultery; evil, treacherous, destructive, and even self-destructive.  And that is how this text finds Israel.  She has had the invitation for years, but has made one excuse after the other to justify her spiritual adultery.  The succession of servants sent by the king with his invitation have been met with anger and spite; they were treated shamefully, and some were even killed.  Finally, the patience of the king ran its course.  Angrily, he sent his troops to kill those who had murdered his servants, and then burned their cities to the ground.

Keep in mind that this feast was not just any feast.  It was a marriage feast, and a royal one, at that.  It was a feast given by the king for his son, the prince.  It was a feast to end all feasts.  To be invited to it was a mark of profound privilege; to reject such an invitation was an offense like no other. The meaning was plain for those who would see it.  Jesus Himself was their last invitation.  If they rejected Him, they would suffer the consequences of that rejection.  To spurn the personal invitation of the king, delivered by his son, would be the height of arrogance.  There would be no more invitations.  

It’s easy for us to look at this parable in a detached sort of way.  After all, we are those who were out on the thoroughfares, as the parable describes it, those in the streets to whom the king sent his servants with the invitation.  The feast was all prepared, but there was no one to enjoy it; no one to share the king’s joy in the marriage of his son.  That is where we come in.  The invitation has gone out to others.  They are called the Church, literally, the “called-out ones,” those whom the king has called to fill up His banquet hall.  But, are we not faced with the same danger that overcame those who were first given the invitation?  Don’t we find excuses to turn a deaf ear to the king when he calls out to us?   Don’t we find it too easy to neglect that invitation that is always new and always fresh with its promise of the king’s blessing?

Consider the man who tried to crash the party without the appropriate wedding garment.  Today, entrance to a great feast would be gained by means of an engraved invitation, most likely. In this instance, the king gave to each one invited a garment that would be instantly identifiable as his; there would be found his name or his mark, something which would set his garments off from all others.  

And that is just what we have been given.  We have been “clothed with Christ”, St. Paul said.  His reference was to Holy Baptism.  In Holy Baptism we have been named with His name.  We are unmistakably identified with our Lord Jesus Christ, set apart by Him for a life that is eternal.  But, what happens all too often is that Baptismal faith is not fed and nourished.  It is not sustained with the Word of God and prayer, and thus withers up and dies like a branch that is severed from the vine.  And only because of neglect, only from taking for granted the king’s invitation, not taking seriously his wish to bring us and to keep us at his eternal feast.

Does this, in any way, describe where you are at this moment?  Is it possible that, though you may be here frequently, still you have, in truth, neglected the invitation of the Lord to enjoy His eternal feast?  There is one above all, and that is the feast our Lord spreads at His table for us, the blessed meal of His holy body and blood, a “foretaste of the feast divine,” as it sometimes called.  And that it surely is!  As we confess in the liturgy, it is that point at which we join with angels and arch-angels and the whole company of heaven.  It is a preview of the marriage feast of the Lamb, whose Kingdom will have no end.

If you have neglected this invitation, here is where to make amends.  The wedding garment you were given in Holy Baptism still bears His name.  It is still the guarantee of your entrance to the eternal feast.  As you confess your sins and have received the Lord’s word of absolution, come to this table and partake of the very body and blood of the Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world.  Even now He prepares that eternal feast of His love and joy for you, and you are an invited and welcome guest at His table.  In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.           

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.           

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