SERMON TEXT BELOW
Vicar Matthew Kinne
Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost: Matthew 22:1-14; Isaiah 25:6-9; Philippians 4:4-13
Word Count: 1,794
Anyone who has witnessed a wedding knows that the day is meant to be filled with joy and laughter. It is meant to be a celebration of Christ uniting a man and woman together in a life-long marriage. It is an incredible institution that God Himself established in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, and He continues to work through this institution to this day. Everything that God established in the garden was intended for good. But again, because of the disruption of our pride, sin caused things in our lives not to be filled with the joy and laughter as God intended us to have. Instead, we experience something not as inviting… wedding crashers.
I’m not as familiar with the wedding stories you all have, though I have heard a few in my short time at Immanuel. But in every wedding celebration, there is always a hiccup of some kind: rainstorms, snowstorms, tornadoes, the flowers were not delivered until after the ceremony, someone forgot the cake, the pastor got sick, the bride or groom were injured, someone’s friend partied too hard and had to be sent to the hospital, a bridesmaid forgot her dress, the mother-in-law decided to where white for some reason, the marriage certificate wasn’t ordered in time… the list is never ending.
But even after the wedding is done, there are many other marriage crashers that Satan loves to send in order to break what God intended for His good. Lying, cheating, laziness, financial struggle or even financial greed, heart ache, depression, pride, death of a child, and ultimately if your marriage survives all of that… Satan still wins by the death of a spouse. He is the ultimate wedding crasher.
In our Gospel reading today, we learn about a Bridegroom that would not allow His marriage to fail. He protected His wedding day so that there would be no disruption and no wedding crashers.
First, the Bridegroom, who in this parable is Jesus, invites guests to His wedding, His everlasting feast in His kingdom. These guests, Jesus implies in the parable, are the Jews. He sent His disciples out to preach the Gospel of Repentance while He worked miracles in all of Israel, and taught with the authority to forgive sins, showing that He is God the promised Messiah. And even though He did all of these signs and invited the Pharisees, Chief Priests, and Elders to follow along with Him and join his wedding march, they choose to be party poopers. They were envious that Jesus, who they thought was a mere man born in Bethlehem and raised by His earthly carpenter father, Joseph, was gaining all the attraction to Himself. They thought that Jesus was the one crashing their party, rather than the other way around. But even though they were always ignoring the invitation to follow Him, Jesus still taught, still worked miracles, and sent out His disciples to others with the invitation to follow Him.
The second thing that the bridegroom did, which may seem a little over the top at first, is that in His anger He sent troops to go out and destroy those who denied His invitation and those who murdered His messengers. That sounds like a rather scary bridegroom. It seems odd at first that Jesus, who teaches earlier in Matthew “Blessed are the peace makers” is teaching here that the Bridegroom is storming through the town in rampage destroying those who ignored His invitation. It seems as though killing would be counterintuitive because that would scare away guests or cause there to be less people able to come to the wedding. But who are the people that the Bridegroom sends the troops after? They are the people who are crashing His wedding by ignoring His invitation and being soaked into their own life. They are the ones who think they are too busy to come, maybe even for a “realistically good” reason. One bought knew livestock and the other started a new business. They were busy! They had no time to go to church… I mean the wedding.
So, why did God destroy these ignorant guests? It is not because he took pleasure in killing. It is because as the Bridegroom, He was protecting the people, His bride, His church, who are the people in His third act of this parable. He sent out His messengers among the rest of the world to invite the good and the bad people, aka Gentiles; you and me. We are the people Jesus intended to invite through His disciples at the end of Matthew, where we hear, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you [my disciples] and low, I will be with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) It is through that Baptism and teaching from Christ’s authority that we are no longer just a guest invited from the street, but are now the bride, His church included in the feast.
Yes, we are the bride He chooses to protect. Even though we are ignorant all the time, and though we sin constantly, Jesus loves His bride. He would do literally anything to make sure His bride meets at His altar, including laying His life down for her’s, which He did do on the cross.
He is jealous for her. He cannot allow room for any other “god” into His marriage, because He is the one and only that provides all needs for her. He not only gives her clothes, her shoes, her food, but he also gives her a family, a home, a place of peace, refuge from others who want to destroy their marriage. He gives His wedding garment of righteousness away to His bride so that she can be seen as clean and righteous as He is.
And if you are not part of the bride, if you ignore His promises and maybe go as far as divorcing yourself from the church, striping away the wedding garment He put on you, it would be as if you were saying your life is as valuable as the wedding crashers. These are people who sneak other guests out of the party to have their own frivolity; one full of bitter food, muddy water, sour wine, and death. Your life would be as good as dead, because the Bridegroom will always protect His bride. And if you do not sit within His church, there is no way for Him to show you mercy as He would not even recognize you.
We do await the day for when our Lord will come back to take us into the heavenly wedding feast. But until then, we as the church need to remain faithful to our marriage vows.
But as we prayed earlier in the service these words, “Almighty God, You invite us to trust in You for our salvation. Deal with us not in the severity of Your judgement but by the greatness of Your mercy,” whenever we find ourselves outside of the wedding feast, soaked in the teachings of false teachers and find ourselves as the poor miserable sinner, Jesus wants us to ask for His forgiveness, and He promises that He will always give it. He never divorces us away from him, only we can do that on our own. Thanks be to God that He does this incredible thing, because I do not want to be on the side of seeing God’s righteous anger, and I would hope and pray none of you do either. It would be terrible! Rather, the church hopes in the promises and surety of Christ’s words saying He has gone to prepare a room for us. And we gladly await His second coming! Judgement day, for the bride will not be a day of sorrow and tears. He takes those all away. It will be a joyful day for us, though I can’t say the same thing for those who do not wear the wedding garments, as Jesus points out in the end of our parable today. He says that these wedding crashers will be sent out into the utter darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. It does not sound pleasing.
We do await the day for when our Lord will come back to take us into the heavenly wedding feast. But until then, we as the church need to remain faithful to our marriage vows. We can only do that, however, not by our own strength. Christ sent us His Holy Spirit so that we can engage in creedal faith together. We are to be united as the church through the Word and Sacrament. If the Christian religion were a man-made thing, it would have faded years ago. But God keeps sending His Holy Spirit to revive the church, to strengthen marriages with children and more hands to tend to the needy, the lonely, and the oppressed. He calls men into the ministry so that others in the streets can hear the Gospel that they no longer need to live under the anger of the Bridegroom but live in His good graces of mercy.
In our liturgical practices you can see places where we preach that we wear the permanent righteousness of Christ. For example: Many baptisms include the participant to wear white or receive a white garment to show that they have been clothed in the garments of Christ the Crucified. The catechumens, on confirmation day, wear a white robe showing that they are still living in their baptismal garment confessing before all people that they are in unity with the church. A Pastor wears a white robe showing that his words are not from his own authority, but from the authority received from Bridegroom Himself. And it is only in that Word can the church find unity and salvation. At a funeral, the body is covered with a white cloth, a pall, that shows that this person, now deceased, is a baptized member of the church and is now waiting for the resurrection. And some of you may have thought I forgotten one, and that is the bride who wears white to her wedding. Many traditions revolve around this example. But for the sake of today, it is important to understand one thing—The bride does not dress herself in her own white dress. It is Christ who suffered and died for His wife who gives her the unstained perfect life He possess, and clothes her in it.
We are the recipients of God’s great mercy. We are the bride that needs forgiveness every day, that is, everyday until we are with Him face-to-face in the wedding feast that has no end. Amen.