Monday, October 16, 2023

He is still King. . .

Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 23A, preached on Sunday, October 15, 2023.

There are nice parables and there are parables that are not so nice.  This one begins nice enough with the invitation to come and eat and celebrate.  But it goes down hill fast.  The tables are empty and the people invited gave some lame excuse why they could not come.  We live in a casual world of people who are always saying someday we ought to get together but when that day comes, they have other things to do.  We shrug His shoulders and get on with it.  God does not. He does not suffer well the rejection of those whom He has bidden.  He is still King.

The invitation is pulled.  Those invited will not be allowed to come.  The places will be taken by others.  Like the charge laid against Jesus, this crowd is not the righteous but the sinners called from the midst of their sin to come and rejoice in the mercy of the King.  Here it seems like the parable gets nice again.  We all love a story of the downtrodden rejected by the world who find success.  But that is not what is happening.  You see that all too quickly when one is called out for not wearing the robes of righteousness the king provided his guests.  You do not come to God on your terms.  Nobody does.  We meet God on the ground of God’s will and purpose.  The Lord sticks to His Word even when we do not.  The man without the right clothing is sent away to the place of darkness and the gnashing of teeth.  He is still King, mind you.

Many are called but few are chosen.  Sadly, we will not all get to heaven by our own path.  We come to God only on the path that is Christ and we come to Christ only through the means of grace.  Your decision about God is not all that important but God’s decision about you is.  Why do we struggle so to learn this?  Why do we come to the Lord’s House and treat it like it is ours?  Why do play like we are the King and God is our servant?  Why do insist upon coming on our own timetable and on our own terms?  Why do we presume that our comfort level is what makes it right and God will just have to live with it all?  The Lord is still King and you are not.

The parable is not all that nice but that does not mean we should be dismayed.  To be warned by God is not a bad thing.  We would give thanks to the person who warned us about a scam we were interested in or a pot hole in our path or an enemy who was working against us.  We would welcome this warning as a gift and a blessing.  Today the Lord blesses us and gifts us with such a warning.
Repent.  Believe.  Obey.  To us they are almost fighting words.  Even now our hearts bristle.  Who does that pastor think he is calling us to repentance?  He is not perfect.  I will not listen to him.  Why is preaching always about faith?  When we will go to church and hear some practical words to help us get what we want out of this world and this life?  Unless the pastor tells me something I want to hear, I will not listen to him.  Why is the church always talking about obedience?  Don’t we determine our own rules and decide on our own paths?  Are we not free?  Let the pastor obey me.  I will not listen to him.

Your pastor speaks to you not on his own authority but under the yoke of Christ and by the authority of His Word.  He calls you to repentance because this is God’s call and desire.  It is the only means by which we may be saved.  He calls you to faith because you cannot work your way into God’s good side.  Salvation is always by grace and through faith and not of yourself.  Otherwise the cross is a cruel joke and Jesus is the fool.  Obedience is not about rules you have to keep but hearts learning to delight in the goodness of the Lord, in the things of God and His house, and in the lives of righteousness that reflect God’s goodness back to Him and to our neighbors in need.

The Lord is still King.  He is powerful.  But He uses His power chiefly in showing mercy.  He warns us out of love and calls us to repentance out of love.  Rejoice that God loves you enough to hear your grumbling, to call you apart from any worth or merit on your part, and to rescue you from all your sin by suffering in your place all that you deserved.  The Lord is still King but He is King of mercy.  At least for now.  The day will come when mercy will give way to judgment but now is not yet that day.  So hear and come and sit and feast at the King’s banquet.

To enter into the Church you must come out from the world.  That is the price of our redemption.  We do not suffer for our sins.  Christ did that.  We do not pay the price of our atonement.  Christ paid that with His blood.  We do not earn our salvation or merit His favor.  Christ won us for the Father and the Father for us as mediator on the cross.  But the salvation that is free to us does not come without some cost.  That cost is to step out of the world, out of the shadows, and fully into the light of Christ.

We cannot enter the feast with regret, with hearts that wish to be somewhere else.  Neither can we come in our casual clothing of indifference into God’s presence.  God provides us with the attire of salvation.  It is the holiness of Christ placed on us in our baptism and which we wear every day by faith.  We cannot live with one leg in the world, holding to its values and living in its truth and have the other leg in God’s kingdom – when it is convenient or appealing to us.  We are called to be fully the Lord’s.  His jealousy will not share us with anything or anyone else.  He is still King.

This is not a nice parable.  It is a hard word calling us to repentance and faith.  Yet  the hard word is borne not of malice toward us but love for us – the saving and redeeming love of the Father who has given us His only begotten Son and the Spirit so that we might repent, believe, and obey.  He is still King.  But He is King of mercy.  The day of salvation will one day close and the day of judgment will begin.  You cannot prevent it and neither can I.  But faith recognizes that this day, today, is still the day of mercy.  It is not hard to see the signs of unbelief and rejection all around us but we are the bidden, who have been given place at His table, who are called to repentance, and who are called to faith.  For us, this is the day the Lord has made and we rejoice in it.  To know with joy this day of the Lord, let us not regret the call to come out and depart from the world to which we do not belong in order to sit at the Table of the Lord wearing the white robes of Christ’s righteousness because this IS where we belong.

In the holy name of Jesus.   Amen.

1 comment:

gamarquart said...

“This is not a nice parable. It is a hard word calling us to repentance and faith.”
Maybe it is not as hard a word as we sometimes think. First, “repentance” in this parable is not mentioned directly, but is implied. Who are the wedding guests? We are the wedding guests, because we repented in baptism, died in its waters, and rose again as wedding guests.
I often read where pastors and theologians urge repentance as if we have to be converted over and over again. C.F.W. Walther taught, Thesis XII, of “Law and Gospel”, “One of the principal reasons why many at this point mingle Law and Gospel is that they fail to distinguish the daily repentance of Christians from the repentance which precedes faith.” The Confessions confirm this teaching.
The fact is that every child of God is perfect, because God forgives our sins as we commit them. When we pray, “and forgive us our trespasses,” we pray that God would continue to forgive our trespasses, just as we ask for our daily bread for the coming day. Yes, it is right and proper to repent of our sins daily, but we should do so with the sure knowledge that our dear Lord gladly forgives our sins. Otherwise, what hope is there for the person who dies on his way to church, before confessing his sins?
I hear people constantly calling us to faith. Those same people, when people are baptize, insist that faith is gift from God. If we had no faith, we would be unable to say, “Jesus is Lord.” Therefore, for the child of God, it is proper to ask for a stronger faith (not more faith, because faith, like the Holy Spirit cannot be quantified), and even, as we do in the Offertory together with David, “and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.”
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart