Sermon for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost based on Matthew 22:1-14
Dear beautiful bride of Christ: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Apart from Christ, the Church is one ugly bride. Ezekiel sixteen describes her as a baby wallowing in her own blood on the day of birth, cast out into the open field with no eye to pity or show compassion, abhorred by all. No one loved her to wash her or clothe her. No one even bothered to cut her umbilical cord.
Then her bridegroom came and gave her life. He bathed her and washed her and anointed her with oil. He made her to flourish like a plant in the field and grow up. He clothed her with embroidered cloth and shod her with fine leather. He wrapped her in fine linen and covered her with silk. He adorned her with bracelets on her wrists, a chain on her neck, with jewellery, and a crown on her head. She thus had gold and silver and fine clothing, eating the highest quality of foods.
In Christ, the Church is a beautiful bride. Christ washes away the ugliness of her sins and clothes her with His own righteousness. He offers up His life for her on the cross, obtaining for her the white robe of beauty and innocence with which He clothes her in Holy Baptism. A wedding feast is prepared to celebrate this union.
Come to the wedding feast. Everything is prepared. Come eat the feast which is better than any earthly banquet; food and drink which give you eternal life. Come receive what God the Son has earned for you. Come and feed your soul which hungers and thirsts for righteousness. Come, for all is ready.
How do those invited respond? Some pay no attention to the invitation from the King. They go off, one to his farm, another to his business. These are the polite ones. They don’t hate the King, but they really don’t care. They don’t hate the Church, but they are indifferent to the King’s invitation. They don’t hate Christ, the bridegroom, but they have better things to do. They just don’t care.
Then there are those who are invited to the wedding feast who hate Christ, the bridegroom, and His bride, the Church. The King’s servants who went out to invite them are treated shamefully and disrespectfully. The King’s servants are even murdered for bringing the invitation just because these people hate the King. Such people get angry if a Christian dare speak the truth of God’s Word, because they don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to hear about how God expects us to behave and they don’t want to hear about how God gives us free forgiveness in His Son. They’d rather kill the messenger than hear the message. They are so vicious and hostile because they are poor, miserable sinners, who don’t want to admit that they are poor, miserable sinners.
There are those who politely ignore God’s gracious invitation, and there are those who respond in anger and hostility. There are also those who respond with hypocrisy. They join the church. They are baptized. They go through confirmation. They attend Divine Service. They outwardly confess that they believe what God’s Word says. But they believe none of it. This is the man without the wedding garment. He does not believe that he needs Jesus’ righteousness to cover his sins. He thinks Baptism is a nice ceremony but that it does nothing. He receives the body and blood of Christ but believes it to be nothing more than bread and wine.
All three of these groups of people invited have the same end. The King sends His angels to destroy them and their cities. They are bound hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness, that place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Whether they reject God’s gracious invitation through polite ignorance, open hostility, or faithless hypocrisy, their place is in the eternal fires of hell.
This is a warning to us. The goal of this is not to say, “Hey I know someone who hates God. I know someone who doesn’t really care. I know someone who is a hypocrite.” No. This is us. We must confess our own sin.
We have politely ignored God’s gracious invitation. We are the ones who do not always care. We have failed to prioritize the hearing and reading of God’s Word. We have failed to treat God’s gracious invitation as the most important thing. We have failed to raise our children in the faith. We have had better things to do. Repent.
We have shown hostility toward God’s gracious invitation. We, according to our sinful nature hate God. We hate when His Law commands us to do something that we don’t want to do. We hate when His Law forbids us from doing something we want to do. We hate the fact that God’s Word says we are poor, miserable sinners. Our greed and lust, our desire for fame, money, and recognition, our anger and pride are all hostile to God. Repent.
We have acted like hypocrites. We go through the motions. We say things we don’t mean. We confess to believe what the Bible says but we’re not actually even that interested in what it says. We say we value God’s Word, but it sits somewhere in the house collecting dust. We speak the words of the Lord’s Prayer without so much as a thought as to what the words mean. Repent.
In your repentance, realize the gracious invitation of God to you. The wedding feast of the Lamb is for you. Not because of what you’ve done or left undone. Not because of who you are. Rather, because God’s gracious invitation is for everyone. The King sends his servants out to invite to the banquet everyone they can find. Thus, Jesus says that the servants brought in the evil and the good into the wedding hall – those who were thought of as evil because their sins were known to everyone, as well as those who were thought of as good because their sins were not known to everyone.
The evil and good alike will be at the wedding feast because we are covered with the righteousness of Christ. We lament our indifference, hostility, and hypocrisy and we cherish the wedding garment that covers all our sin. We love our bridegroom who came and gave us life; who bathed us and washed us in Baptism; who made us to flourish like a plant in the field and grow up. We love Him who clothed us with His white and pure robe of righteousness and feeds us with the highest quality of foods – His own body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.
We love Christ, who has made us, His Church, a beautiful bride. Christ has washed away the ugliness of our sins and clothed us with His own righteousness. He has offered up His life for us on the cross, obtaining for us the white robe of beauty and innocence with which He has clothed us in Holy Baptism.
God wants you at the wedding feast, both here at the altar where we receive a foretaste of the feast to come, and eternally when we will see its fulfilment. He graciously gives you forgiveness. He forgives you your indifference, hostility, and hypocrisy, because Christ has paid the price of your sins. He gives you forgiveness so that you will care, so that you won’t be hostile, and so that you will believe that His death was for you and that He gives His forgiveness to you freely, graciously, lovingly, and abundantly.
Come to the wedding feast. Everything is prepared. Come eat the feast which is better than any earthly banquet; food and drink which give you eternal life. Come receive what God the Son has earned for you. Come and feed your soul which hungers and thirsts for righteousness. Come, for all is ready. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.