Sermon: Matthew 22:1-14
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Old Testament Is.55,1-3c
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live…
And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Gospel St.Luke 14,15-22
When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'”
Dear friends of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Well – another royal wedding. This time in Monaco. Prince Albert II married SA swimming champion Charlene Wittstock on Friday. Protocol was not quite as pompous as a few weeks ago, when Prince William married Kate Middleton in London, but it was spectacular indeed. The rich and famous, the high and mighty, the crème de la crème of society, the pretty and witty celebrities made sure they were there – to see and be seen, to party and enjoy and to bring their respects and special gifts and presents to the royal couple. On TV I saw King Mswati III mix and mingle with pop stars like Elton John. Well, they have their own ideas about marriage, but I won’t go that route today. However you understand, what kind of people get to go to these kind of weddings. Special people – strictly by invitation only – very exclusive, very exclusive indeed! At yesterday’s wedding of Dean Thwala and his bride in Ntshongweni things were comparatively low-key, but still – a wedding is a wedding. To this one I was invited together with others from the LCSA, the Thwala family and friends and friends of friends. I made sure I was there. Long distance, early hours, party pack and fancy dress – no problem. An invitation to a wedding is serious family and friendship business. You don’t just let a party like that go by. No – you make space in your calendar, buy a nice present, dress accordingly in your best suit and tie, flowery hat, fancy shoes, make-up and all the rest of it and make sure you are there on time to party at the party. You know all about that, don’t you?
Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that the kingdom of heaven is very much like this: A king giving a wedding feast for his son. We read all about it in the gospel of St. Matthew in the 22 chapt: 1-14. As always things are quite a bit different in the kingdom of God to our experience. We are invited to a cross-cultural experience of a different sort. Allow me to highlight three aspects of God’s culture and his ways of doing weddings and things that might come as a surprise:
- The king [God] invites guests, but they don’t come!
- Eventually everybody is invited, but those improperly clad are expelled!
- Not just fun and games, but also revenge and rejection.
The king invites guests, but They don’t come!
The great invitation. That’s what this Sunday is about – just like every day, when God voices his good news: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest! He calls from the altar: Come and taste the goodness and friendliness of your Lord! The prophetic invitation is addressed to those far off and to those nearby, to Jews and gentiles, to strangers and fellow citizens: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live… becomes reality in the work and life of Jesus Christ. He quenches thirst of the thirsty with living waters. He feeds multitudes so that they have their fill right there in the desert and out in the harshest wilderness. He provides heavenly food and drink in his holy sacrament for the forgiveness of sins and for the nurturing of saving faith. He does that even today and he does it worldwide. It’s God’s invitation to his people – good, bad and ugly – around the world. It’s his standing invitation to be part at the wedding feast for his son. A great party has been prepared. Invitations have been sent out and everything is ready. He leaves no doubt about this: All is done, prepared, finished and complete. However there is still too much open space in the wedding hall, too many guests have declined the invitation, they have better things to do than to be part of the kings party. That is unbelievable! Completely unheard of! What a cheek! No wonder the king is offended. And the invitees don’t only ignore the invitation – that’s downright ungracious and very, very rude – no, they also abuse the servants, shame them and even kill them. Now that is just too much insolence, too much impudence, far too much audacity! Remember it’s the kings invitation – not just some insignificant side-kick or ignorable nincompoop! The king can’t go along with this atrocious disrespect and horrible disloyalty. He has to draw the line somewhere – and this frightful rudeness needs to be punished. He is angry, no infuriated – he sends out his troops [angels] and they carry out his revenge fast and furious. The murderers of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, missionaries and Christian witnesses are finally destroyed and their dwelling places wiped out – finish en klaar. [On Thursday, the 30th June the Church remembered the martyrs under Nero in 64 AD]. There’s no way that trespassers of God’s law will get away with murder or any other kind of evil, vice or malice. The Church calls this kind of transgression against the divine will “sin”: “faithlessness”, “idolatry” and “disbelief”.
Eventually everybody is invited, but The improperly clad are expelled!
In the olden times people did not come dressed according to their own whim or fancy, but rather clad with the finery their host had gifted them with. The king gave special festive clothing to his invited guests and they obviously were overjoyed to dress up in these new, flashy and oh so royal garments. It’s like you getting an outfit from Carl Lagerfeld, Calvin Klein or Christian Dior or even a presidential shirt ala Mandela made by Desré Buirski. You’ll wear it at the next best occasion, now wouldn’t you? I would. I remember having a silk shirt by Christian Dior in my varsity days. Man – I really liked that shirt and I wore it at every special event. Well, that’s what the king expects of his guests at the wedding feast of his son. He provides the technicolor dream coat for his guests and he anticipates that that’s what they are going to wear for this royal occasion – that’s the formal dress code or royal uniform. Just like Prince William wore that parade uniform in red, blue and black. Very snazzy, very glamorous and very proper too! You can’t beat the real and proper thing. It’s just right! Well, and now comes the surprise: There are guests who just don’t do it. They fail to give the king credit for his choice of wedding protocol. They don’t dress up. They come in their own garb and thus add insult to injury. Not only did too many people ignore the king’s invitation, disregarded it point blank, but then some of those who do eventually come, still don’t follow the rules of the ruler. And again the king acts predictably. He expels the impudent intruder. Has him bound and thrown out of the royal palace. No longer part of the party, but rather weeping and gnashing teeth in utter darkness outside.
In holy Baptism we are dressed with the magnanimous clothes of Christ’s righteousness. With them our Lord covers our dirty unworthiness and ugly sinfulness and thus graciously makes us acceptable in God’s sight. No longer shameful outsiders, aliens and strangers, but rather respectable family members of God’s household and fellow citizens of his saints. It’s according to this divine dress code that we get past God’s final judgment and to fill our seats at the heavenly banquet. Without this baptismal dress we are just not worthy to enter God’s kingdom, just not good enough to pass his divine judgment and doomed to rejection and expulsion from his divine presence. But who on earth would not want to be dressed up in divine luxury and affluence if given half a chance? So don’t be silly, rather be grateful that you are baptized in the name of the triune God and flaunt the baptismal garment’s procured by Jesus Christ your savior. You’ll never be underdressed at any party – not even in the heavenly realms of the highest king of Kings. So walk tall as a baptized Christian and don’t even play with the idea, that you make a better figure dressed your own, original and independent way. Christ’s baptismal dress is the absolute non-plus-ultra – even by divine standards. So get your children baptized! Make sure that you together with them appreciate the heavenly baptismal dress as your most fitting outfit here and there in eternity – and don’t be afraid to show it off to others too: Look – I am baptized and that is why I am a Christian and I live like one too! You should try this new baptismal look – it’s truly divine and works wonders even in our everyday lives, because it first makes us God’s children and fellow citizens of the saints, but then also makes us identifiable as such. Thank God for this wonderful wardrobe!
not just fun and Games, but also revenge + rejection.
Remember this story [parable] told by Jesus Christ is about the kingdom of God and that’s a lot different to our human experience even if it has numerous connections. The kingdom of God brings about divine judgment on human kind. Finally it will again be obvious that it is not human judgment that sets reality, but rather God only. He is the one, who defines truth and reality – not us. That is why at the final judgment lot’s of human commonplaces are going to go down the drain – flushed away together with the rest of human excrement – worthless even if at this stage of the race these ideas, philosophies and theories keep many, many people enthralled and enraptured. The final judgment is going to distinguish between truth and deception, tell apart what’s lasting and what’s passing, differentiate between heaven and hell, saved and lost, chosen and rejected, joy and despair. Blessed are those, who put their trust in the Lord – they will see, taste and enjoy what he has promised eternally. Woe to those, who don’t.
This should come as no surprise, because God had long ago made his criteria clear. Even in the days of Noah, he showed clearly that he would not turn a blind eye to the evil of mankind. In the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah he underlined his intentions to discriminate between what’s pleasing to him and what’s deplorable in his sight. Nobody should say that he didn’t know. There is a too late, too bad and just not acceptable in God’s sight – and Jesus Christ sets the standard. His father said: This is my beloved son – listen to him! That’s why we should give close attention to his directions, intentions and institutions, abide in them and live through them: Sit at his table, give ear and thought to his voice and teaching, have eyes for his goodness, eat his divine food, wear his clothes and talk his talk, walk his walk and sing his songs. He is the one, who does, what he says and therefore we can trust his friendly invitation: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest! You too are invited. Therefore hurry up, come, see and taste, how good your Lord Jesus Christ is + Amen.
And the peace of our Lord that passes all understanding bless and keep you in Christ Jesus + Amen.