Monday, November 7, 2011
All Saints Day 2011
Matthew 22:1-14 (ESV) And 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." “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.” “many are called but few are chosen.” It’s All Saints Sunday, All saints day actually being Nov. 1, but this is the Sunday we celebrate it. I Think it is fitting that it also happens to be the day Lutherans Commemorate Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, The Midnight Lion, who saved Lutheranism during the thirty years war. I recommend reading up on him on Wikipedia if nothing else, fascinating man. A great saint. But that brings up a couple questions as to what it means to be a saint. This day is normally set aside to remember the saints that have passed on in the last year from any one particular congregation. We remember Paul Roberts, and Vi Diehl, this year. Blessed souls that did so much over the years to keep this congregation going, but people, in the end no different from you and I. Baptized sinners who loved their Lord, the Lord that made them righteous, made them holy, made them saints, who gave them himself as a wedding garment, because many are called but few are chosen. The parable is a challenging one. It just might put the fear of God into a person. He seems rather capricious to us today, throwing a man out of the party, into the outer darkness, because he didn’t have the right clothes on? It hardly registers for us, not in our west of the Rockies’ laid back, casual dress atmosphere, where wearing a pair of jeans we paid $200 for because they butt is bejeweled counts as dressing up. Perhaps, at a wedding we will dress up, if we’re in the wedding party. But even then, culture has changed. I get a kick out of old hunting and fishing pictures where you see these guys dressed to the nines holding a stringer full of fish or standing next to a buck. But I suspect that even in a more formal society and culture, this treatment would seem a little harsh. After all most people realize that not everyone owns a suit, or can afford to dress up. But that isn’t quite the case of which this parable speaks, because the wedding garment of which Christ here speaks is himself, is freely given to all who are called. This parable isn’t about heaven, but about the church on earth, the church militant, rather than the church triumphant. (Those terms are used to describe two different aspects of the church, the church on earth is still at war, it must fight, it’s weapons are the word of God the scripture likens to a double edged sword, His Law, His Gospel, prayer, absolution, baptism, the Lord’s supper. Here on earth it is an ongoing battle against sin, death and the devil. The Church triumphant are the saints at rest, triumphant in the victory of Christ who has vanquished sin, death and the devil, who has overcome this world that gives us tribulation.) But this parable is the church on earth, where God gives to all a foretaste of the feast to come. Where he invites all to his wedding feast to partake of his gifts, his gospel, to be sanctified by the washing of the water with the word, Clothed in Christ through Holy Baptism, “for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. (Gal. 3:27) To hear his word, his absolution, to feast on the forgiveness of sins. Our wedding garment is Christ, put on through baptism, in which he clothes us with his righteousness. So what makes a saint? The world’s answer is wholly different from God’s answer, from the churches answer. The world would like you to believe that saints are only those who have led exemplary lives, perhaps of self-sacrifice, overflowing with good deeds before the world. Perhaps men who have not only aspired, but attained greatness, men like Gustavus Adolphus. Today, our list of heroes is so short they make a saint of Steve Jobs. I don’t know, perhaps he was. He was baptized Lutheran, but by all accounts he had rejected that baptism long ago, found Buddhism on a trek through India, no longer believed in God, though there are rumors of repentance in the last days. Every day is a last day. Every day a day for repentance. Every day a day to clothe yourself in your baptism, to put on Christ, to live in his righteousness, do destain the wedding garment with the forgiveness of sins. See, we never know when our number is up as they say. We just never do. Steve Jobs, dying of cancer, had time to contemplate. Others get hit by a bus. On the eve of battle, perhaps you have time to sing fear not the foe, with Gustavus Adolphus, to remember victory is yours, in Jesus Christ, who clothed you with his righteousness in baptism, makes you a saint. Baptism isn’t something that happened to you once so long ago. We don’t say, “I was baptized, “any more than a husband who values his life says,” I was married in front of his wife.” We say “I am baptized”. That baptism is now, that baptism is today. That baptism is life itself, the forgiveness of sins, the sanctification of you the sinner. It is not something to discard, to forget, to throw in a dumpster. It is the word of God applied to you, electing you, choosing you who are called. But people discard it all the time. Some perhaps with rioutus living, for a time like the prodigal son. Perhaps like Steve Jobs, they try to find answers in other religions that leave them empty in the end. I can think of nothing more empty than Buddhism. Turn their back on God for the sake of earthly family as we see so often in these parts. Others, completely forget their baptism in another more insidious manner, they find Christ’s righteousness to be stifling, and begin to try clothe themselves in their own righteousness. Repentance gone wrong, repentance done wrong. They try to make up for their sins. Opr perhaps they think Christ’s righteousness just isn’t good enough, it is only a start that they have to perfect. Perhaps they even go to church every Sunday, but in silence for confession of sins, they repent of nothing, they thank God they have managed to live a good life. God will not have this. There is but one righteousness that withstands the wrath of God, the righteousness that rose from the dead on the third day, after having suffered the wrath of God on the cross. Your righteousness may impress the world, it reaks of death before God. He will not stand for the stench of your sin, that which you call good works, that which you think is your righteousness, your best, he will not stand for that in his wedding feast. So he gives you his son, his righteousness, his death for the forgiveness of sins, his resurrection for your justification, Clothes you with him, that you might enjoy the feast. Clothes you with him. Just as he clothed Paul, and he clothed Vi, that on the last day, when we are visited by the king, we are found to be wearing the wedding garment he gave us to wear, that we might enjoy the eternal reception. Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.