Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Trinity 20 (October 5, 2008)
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “Come to the Feast”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is the Gospel lesson just read, with focus on Jesus’ words from the parable: For many are called, but few are chosen.
St. Paul reminds us right out of the gate: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV). Paul’s words could have been pulled out of the morning paper. There is no question about it. Money is in the air. Seven hundred billion dollars makes for a lot of talk. The elderly are worried about their monthly income going down. The middle aged are looking with fear and trepidation at their 401(k) plans disappearing before their eyes. And the young? The young wonder why bother to save a thing if it can all disappear virtually overnight.
Our Lord this day, though, invites us to consider not simply our money but our very lives. Do we have the wisdom to navigate these evil times? In the book of Isaiah our Lord asks the question,
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? (Is. 55:1-2)
When it comes to investments, how we spend our time and how we spend our money, there is always a pull between instant gratification and long term benefits. You know you should save for retirement, for college, for the rainy day coming down the road. But today beckons. The vacation, the car, the computer, eating out, stuff. It takes discipline to restrain your natural impulses to make yourself happy now.
But there is a problem. The problem is that saving for a rainy day here on earth still doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is that having a nice retirement doesn’t mean anything if you die and go to hell. I know, that sounds harsh. And you’re here, which means you have given some thought to eternal life. But the danger of setting aside your spiritual life in Christ for other things is ever present, ever tempting.
The danger comes in a little word we find in our Gospel today. The word is neglect. So let’s recap our parable for this morning and see where neglect fits in. Our Lord tells a parable about the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is like a king who throws a wedding party for his son. That much we can easily follow. The king sends out his servants, the prophets, to tell the invited guests when the feast is going to be. But they don’t come! So then we come to our text,
“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” (Matthew 22:4-6 ESV)
They paid no attention, our text says. Literally, they neglected him and his invitation. Eventually the king invites others to the feast, and one of them refuses the gifts the king gave and neglected the feast even though he showed up. He came to the feast unprepared. While he showed up, the ratty clothes that he wore demonstrated to one and all how important, or unimportant, the wedding really was to him.
So what does this have to do with you? First of all it is a warning, that we can neglect God’s great gift of salvation (Hebrews 2:3) even though we show up. Certainly refusing to come to God’s house and receive His forgiveness, mercy and salvation is a great and terrible sin. But coming to God’s house and despising these same gifts is no better. Martin Luther put it this way in his explanation to the Third Commandment:
We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and his Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
Despise in this case is very similar to neglect in our text. If you come to God’s house and refuse to hear what God is saying to you, you are despising His Word. If you come to God’s house because someone made you come, or simply out of guilt, you are despising His Word. If you come to God’s house but don’t want what He has to give to you, then you are despising His Word. Repent.
But there is hope, dearly baptized. You don’t seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness first. But Jesus did and does. His whole life is one of keeping God’s Word, trusting in Him above all things, and calling upon God’s name in every trouble. That is who our Lord is. And this Son wants you to be a Lord and kings and queens with Him in His kingdom. He longs for it more than anything else in the world. He pays the price for your redemption. He not only invites you to the wedding, but gives you the garments of salvation for you to wear.
Remember, dearly beloved, the words of our Lord,
“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6-9 ESV)
We could easily look at this parable and only hear the Law, the condemnation that hits us between the eyes. But that is not how God works. Our Lord, in his divine wisdom, would first show you your own weaknesses, so that you may see how gracious He is. Wisdom, dearly beloved, comes not simply in experience. Wisdom comes from knowing where your bread is buttered. Wisdom comes from seeing in God, our heavenly king who reigns from the cross, in seeing in God that all that you need is tied up in Him, in the life of His Son who reigns without end.
Remember this is not just any feast in our parable. This is the wedding feast of the son of the king. And who is the bride? You are the bride. You, His beloved Church. You, who He bought with His own blood. God’s ways are not your ways. They are better, far better.
So in a time of uncertainty and fear, rejoice and be glad! God has bought your salvation. Your future is secure. You life has been paid for with a price. You are free. The heavenly meal is set before you. Come, delight in the rich food that is offered here. Eat of His Body and Drink of His Blood. Come and live forever. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen