Sunday, October 15, 2017

Keep Your Clothes On!

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 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.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 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.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 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.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
“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 as many of you who have been baptized have put on Christ.” Gal. 3:27 Or maybe we can go with the great Zinzendorf hymn, “Jesus they blood and righteousness, my beauty are my glorious dress, midst flaming worlds with these arrayed with joy shall I lift up my head. The righteousness of Christ is our wedding garment. So don’t take it off.
Of course, this parable is delivered again in the temple before Jesus is arrested. And it is spoken to those who will murder him. The king had sent his invitations, little save the date memos. The wedding would be a joyous occasion.
But when the time came, everyone thought they had better things to do. I mean, we know these people. God offers them the greatest gift imaginable, the forgiveness of sins. He offers it in baptism, he distributes it in the Lord’s Supper, the great wedding feast, the foretaste of the feast to come. He gives it in the absolution and through the sermon. And they are indifferent to it. They have way too many other things to keep themselves occupied. They don’t think they have anything to worry about. They reject the invitation. Of course, rejecting a king’s invitation is to insult the king. It isn’t the right thing to do.
Some, are downright hostile to the invitation. Of course, here we have the Chief Priests and Elders, the leaders of Israel for generation after generation, the kings and politicians who would beat the prophets and stone those who were sent to them. It’s a tradition that continues in this world wherever the church is persecuted with violence and oppression. God will not let that go unanswered. On the last day, legion upon legion of angels will descend upon the earth and mop up that situation rather quickly. Right now he holds them in check out of mercy, to show grace, to bring about the repentance he seeks. But the time comes. Their cities will be burned.
But it is then, when the guests reject the invitation that God sends his messengers out to invite whoever they might find to the wedding feast. Those he had invited have shown themselves to be unworthy, so he decides to invite everyone anyway.
But then comes the tricky part. He gave everyone festive clothes to wear. The clothes he wants them to wear. He’s rich. He doesn’t want people coming into his party wearing street clothes, work clothes, ratty rags worn and tattered. He gives them the clothes he wants them to wear. And most of the guests are quite happy to shed the oil stained clothes they have. Not only do they get invited to a wedding but they get the nicest robe they have ever seen handed to them. I mean, it’s fun isn’t it? Who doesn’t like to dress up from time to time. Put on a nice evening gown like the one you wore to prom. Or a tuxedo, even a fine suit. Not the kind a guy wears to go sell insurance, but a nice one that makes you stand out and look good. I keep thinking I need to buy a couple of those again. Somehow, I outgrew all the ones I used to have.
But now one of the guests is a little too proud of his own suit. It wasn’t what he was asked to wear, but he paid good money for it so it has to be acceptable, right? Of course, it doesn’t quite work out that way. He sticks out like a sore thumb. Everyone wearing white, and he is in black. He ruins the aesthetics of the whole event.
So it is with this picture of the church. Jesus is our wedding garment. His blood, his righteousness they are our glorious dress. He is given to us in baptism. There are some out there who don’t think they need Christ. They can do just fine with their own righteousness. Some of these are people who actually refuse to ever be baptized. They come to church. But just don’t see the need to repent. They think they are righteous enough on their own. Others, well they put on Christ. They were baptized. They had put on Christ, but then they didn’t think that righteousness was good enough. Maybe they were duped into believing that that just got them to the starting point, but they couldn’t rely on it. Instead of receiving forgiveness where forgiveness is given and when forgiveness is given, that by which the faith in Christ, lives, that by which the robe of Christ is ever kept free of the stain of sin, they begin to think they are righteous in and of themselves because of their work rather than Christ’s work. And so they shed the righteousness of Christ and put on their own righteousness which is no righteousness at all.
Don’t take your clothes off. Don’t change your clothes. Wear the righteousness Christ gave you. Wear your wedding garment. It’s kept clean by the forgiveness of sins received in absolution, received in the body and the blood shed for you in Christ Jesus.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

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