PENTECOST 19, A – October 15, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 25:6-9; Phil. 4:4-13; Matt. 22:1-14

     On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples, a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

     It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:6-9

      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.” Matt. 22

 

In His Word God has such a wonderful message for us today. He has prepared a wonderful feast – a wedding feast! – with an abundance of rich food and excellent wine, and He wants everyone to come and enjoy it! “All people,” He says five times in the four verses of Isaiah 25, and Jesus speaks of the King sending out servants to invite everyone, the good and the bad, to come. What a wonderful picture He gives of His salvation, His heaven! Think of the best wedding reception, the most enjoyable party you’ve ever attended… and multiply it a 1,000-fold. God’s feast in heaven will be infinitely better! “Come and enjoy it!” He invites us, and encourages us to invite others.

 What a great message we followers of Jesus have to hear and enjoy, and also to share! Ahh… but it’s not the whole message. There are details; specifics:

Ø  “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make a feast,” Isaiah says. We’re invited to a specific place.

Ø  “A king gave a wedding feast for his son,” Jesus says. We’re invited to a specific feast.

Ø  “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” the king asks. Specific dress is required.

Specifics. Requirements. They seem to change the picture, don’t they?

 Now, you know what people like to do: cut corners. The caterer provides a slightly cheaper cut of beef and a slightly cheaper wine. The florist adds a little more spray and a few less flowers. And, a decent suit or dress is good enough, isn’t it? Who will care? Who will notice?

 Even so, when it comes to God’s invitation, His message, and our hearing and sharing of it; well, it’s tempting to cut corners, isn’t it?

Ø  Not change God’s message – we wouldn’t do that! – but just not include everything. Leave out the things that will only upset or confuse people. After all, won’t that bring more people to church?

But, it’s the King’s invitation to His feast, not ours. We must share His invitation.

 So, what is God’s message, His invitation? What do we need to hear and take to heart about God’s salvation? What do we need to share, to tell people? – anyone and everyone, for God does indeed want everyone to come to His feast in heaven! Here’s God’s message, His invitation:

 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make a feast…” When Isaiah said this, he was referring to Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, and to God’s temple that stood there and offered up sacrifices and prayers for the people. It was the place where God met His people and gave them His salvation, the forgiveness of their sins. Now, that temple is not there anymore – it was destroyed in 70 AD – and so we are not to direct people to that place. But, before it was destroyed it was replaced. Jesus came to the temple and told the people, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” He was speaking of His body. Jesus is now the place where God meets with us. He told His disciples (John 14), “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father, for I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Jesus is God, come to us as our Savior. We are directed to Him alone, for God is found, and received and worshiped, in Him alone.

 And His body is the place where God gives us His salvation, His forgiveness. In His body He bore the sins of all people, and by His death on the cross He put our sins and their condemnation to death. It all happened long ago. You weren’t there, and had nothing to do with it; and that’s the point. “See, I have prepared my dinner, and everything is ready,” says the King. It’s not anything you do that saves you from your sins and makes you worthy of heaven. It’s what you receive in Jesus. God has prepared everything. He gave Him to us, and Jesus gave His life for your sins. “Everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast!” He lays it before you in this worship; it is a participation in and foretaste of the coming feast in heaven. The writer of the book of Hebrews says that in this worship of Jesus “you come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks [forgiveness].” (Heb. 12:22-24) Don’t ignore your King’s invitation and not come. Don’t get wrapped up in your work and not come. How angry your King will be at this! Come to the feast; this feast of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead to deliver you from your sins and take you as His own!

 Of course, you need to be properly clothed to attend this feast. You don’t go to the wedding of important people in your worn, everyday clothing. How much less to the wedding feast of the King’s Son!

 Here is perhaps the part of God’s invitation that is the most difficult for us to listen to and share. There is not a dress code for those who come and worship here, but this doesn’t mean that you can wear anything you want.

Ø  You can’t believe whatever you want, look to any “higher power,” and join in in the King’s feast.

Ø  You can’t behave however you want, as long as you’re considered a decent and caring person.

“Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” the King asks. It’s a shocking question, for in Jesus’ day a king would provide beautiful clothing for each of his guests. To not wear it would be to say, “Look, I don’t want you or what you’re giving.” How insulting!

 The point is, God has expectations of those He welcomes to His feast: the final one in heaven, and the foretaste of it here in this worship. He provides wonderful clothing for every guest: His own Son. And you don’t have to wait until you get to the feast in heaven to receive Him, for God gave Him to you in your baptism. “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” Holy Scripture says (Gal. 3:27). As the clothing you wear covers your nakedness, Jesus covers your sin. As your clothing can express your personality, let your life express Jesus. Gladly “wear” Christ in your life. His love of His Father and rejection of other gods – let that be seen in your love of His Father. His keeping of His Father’s commands – let that be seen in your life. To help you see how, our church provides tracts in the hallway that summarize the Bible’s teachings on various practical issues. They will help you to understand how God expects you to think and live – how to “wear” the clothing of Jesus He gives you in your baptism. It is beautiful clothing, the garment of Christ! “[God] has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness as a bride adorns herself with her jewels,” Isaiah exults (Is. 61). May we all so exult!

 For we have such a wonderful message – a wonderful Savior and a wonderful salvation! – to hear and learn and to share. Don’t cut corners. Boldly rejoice in God’s message of salvation in Jesus. Live it and share it! Until that day, that blessed day when the King’s feast for His Son arrives, and you stand and cry out with all of God’s people: “Behold, this is our God! We have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation!” (Isaiah 25) In the blessed name of Jesus! Amen.