Thursday, October 19, 2017

Where do you think you are going dressed like that?

Sermon for Pentecost 19, Proper23A, preached on Sunday, October 15, 2017.

    Is there a child alive who has not heard from mom or dad, “Where do you think you are going dressed like that?”  Not a few husbands have heard that as well.  Sometimes we forget that the job of clothing is supposed to make us look better – not worse – better than we are.  Beauty is NOT in the eye of the beholder.  Some things just need to be covered up.
    So in the Gospel for today, Jesus told a story of a King who had a wedding for his son and of the many invited, who were called, but did not come.  What do you have on your calendar?  The truth is we often consider going to things hoping we will get a better offer later.  They had better stuff on the calendars.  Some times anything is better than the things we don’t like.  Like church on Sunday.  It is a calendar appointment that always seems to give way to anything better that comes along.
    Usually there are no consequences other than the awkward meeting of people whose invites you have blown off.  But not here.  There were consequences.  And the consequences were grave.  The King’s anger sent off the servants of his wrath to kill and destroy the murderers who had killed the prophets and refused the call of God’s Word.  Surely there are not such dire consequences for skipping church.  Or are there? 
    If the invited refuse and are killed, who takes their place?  The unworthy.  The sinners without pedigree and without place are given a place at the table and a part in the wedding feast without end.  By the way, in case you did not get it.  The unworthy refers to you and me; we who were no people until God’s people rejected the promise and God extended the great invitation of grace to those who had not heard the Law and the Prophets.  We are those sinners who came dirty  and were washed, who came without proper clothing who had to be given a wedding garment.  The good and the bad,  called and gathered by God, to sit in the place of honor.
    One fellow, however, was without that wedding garment.  Where do you think you are going dressed like that?  It seems cruel at first but it is not.  The man had refused the gift of a garment.  He wore his own clothes.  He was dressed up in what made him comfortable.  He wore his own good works.  He was not simply casual.  He was prideful.  If it is good enough for me, it ought to be good enough for God.  How many still think that?
    All those who think God cares only about your sincerity take note here.  The sincere are not saved.  The repentant are saved. Those who give up their rags to wear the glorious clothing God alone provides, the righteous robes of Christ given in baptism to the good and the bad, all unworthy, to wear by faith.
    There are consequences.  It isn’t really “just as I am I come” to God but in Christ, clothed with His righteousness, wearing the clothing He has provided, I come.  The consequences of rejecting God’s righteousness is the place of darkness, of gnashing of teeth, the outer darkness of hell.  His clothing may have been comfortable but it cost him the comfort of grace.
    The good and the bad are covered only by the righteousness of Christ.  It matters what you wear.  This parable is shockingly without comfort.  Those who belonged were killed and the sinners unworthy of the King took their place.  They were declared righteous and wore Christ’s own righteousness.  In other words many are called but few are chosen.  God does not call the righteous but declares righteous the called. Sinners can enter because they wear the right clothing of righteousness.
    What do we say to this?  Paul teaches us.  “Rejoice! Do not be anxious!  God’s peace will guard you.”  Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder.  God decides what is beauty.  God has declared YOU, a sinner, beautiful because He has so clothed you, your sin is covered by Christ’s righteousness.  Without this clothing there is only darkness and gnashing of teeth but with this clothing there is peace and joy.
    Some complain about this.  Some are not so sure that beauty ought to be an end.  Remember the response to the woman who wasted expensive ointment anointing Jesus?  How many look at church buildings or pipe organs and think this money could have gone to do something useful?  Is beauty too expensive?  First think what your beauty cost the Lord -- His suffering and death; not with silver and gold but with His holy and precious blood were you bought and washed and clothed.  It cost God everything to clothe you in  forgiveness and righteousness.  Wear this clothing by faith.  Do not exchange it for your own works, no matter how comfortable those works may be.  They offer no hope and no joy.  Live then to the praise of Him who has redeemed you.
    Where do you think you are going dressed like that?  Some will surely remind me at the door, “Pastor, clothing does not make you holy.”  That is wrong.  The clothing the Lord puts on you does make you holy.  That is also why we act as we do – we see how we are dressed in righteousness and we seek to live up to that clothing and be God’s righteous people.  You will not be saved by the clothing you put on your selves but you will surely be saved by the clothing the Lord puts on you.
    So what does it mean? Is there a dress code for worship? Yes there is.  We come wearing Christ’s righteousness or not at all.  How does this translate into what you put on when you look into your closet on Sunday morning?  I will leave that to you except to say there is something not quite right about being too comfortable in our own skin.  After all, the practice of dressing up for church began not with the desire to impress other people or God but to reflect the faith of the heart, remembering what God had clothed YOU so that you may be righteous, holy, and beautiful.  Amen.

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