Trinity 20
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
October 9, 2016
Central Passage
Matthew 22:1-14

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit 

The Banquet Hall is the Church, the people of God. Those who were first invited were the faithless Jews. They were called by God through Abraham down through Moses and the Prophets, but generation after generation rejected the call, the invitation, and even killed the prophets and messengers of God. The King, who is the Lord who brought them out of Egypt, became angry and swore in His wrath that they would not taste His rest. So others were called. These are the Gentiles. Now the Apostle teaches us that there are Jews in the Church because God is not faithless to His promises. There is saved from among them a remnant. But the Church is not a people of this earth. It is not a Jewish Church or a Gentile Church. It is the Church where there is not Jew or Gentile but one people, the people of God made up from every tribe and nation among men. 

The oxen have been sacrificed. This is the Old Testament sacrifices. It is finished. And the fattened calf has also be sacrificed. A literal translation of “fattened calf” is “formed from wheat”. What is formed from wheat? Bread. So the Old Testament under Moses is complete. And the New Testament in Christ’s blood, where we feast on the Bread of Heaven is also here. Right here. In Hoisington, Kansas. At this gathering. This is the Banquet Hall. Here is the Church. 

But there is also an eschatological aspect to this parable. It is found in the words of our Lord, “When the King came in to look at the guests, He saw a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And the man 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.” 

This speaks of the final day when the Lord returns. It is meant to instill fear in you, for the the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 

The wedding garment is baptism and the robes of righteousness that we receive in the holy waters of God. But if we then think that since we have been baptized and are so clothed by the robes of righteousness and therefore need not worry or fret about our lives, then there is a good chance we will be among the called but not among the chosen. Now you are worried. Or maybe now you are defensive. Or maybe now you are tuning out the words because you hear them going down the path of living a chaste life and you’re pretty sure that you’re good enough, that you and God have a good thing going. Add baptism to your goodness and you can’t possibly be found undressed in the wedding banquet. 

But the truth is, it doesn’t matter how good or faithful you’ve been or you think you are. What matters is today. For today the Lord will remember you in His kingdom. Unless, of course, you don’t ask Him to. 

Those words, “remember you in His kingdom” are reminiscent of the thief on the cross. A much loved example by pretty much everyone. He’s a thief dying for his sins and he says to the Lord, “Remember me,” and the Lord grants him paradise. No good  behavior. No time well spent in the hallowed walls of a church. In fact, the man lived a pretty bad life but got heaven. Encouragement to all the faithless that they can live how they want and cry out to the Lord on their death bed. They would do well to remember the rich man whom the Lord called “fool” and demanded of him his soul that very night. No paradise for him. 

But what about the thief on the cross? Why bring him up here? Well, he was invited to the banquet hall. His invitation was the crucifixion of our Lord, as is yours. He did not know of the resurrection, at least not like we do. He died three days before Jesus was raised from the dead. He did not die having a priest sacrifice for him. He might not even have been a Jew. Yet he was found with the proper wedding garment. He was found calling out to the Lord for life and salvation. Here before Him was the perfect Man who would be given the kingdom of God. Remember me in your kingdom! No better promise than that. No better salvation. 

To be remembered is to be called into being. We do this weakly when we remember past events. We call them into the present. Not just in our minds, either. But we remember smells and sounds, tastes and the way things felt, physically and emotionally. We’d say it’s not real but it is. Just because we’re not there now doesn’t meant it’s not real any more than since we’re not in Moscow that doesn’t mean Moscow isn’t real. What we mean, of course, is that we can’t be there again. But with God all things are possible. 

When we “do this in remembrance of Him” we are not simply calling Jesus to mind. We are participating in Him. Our remembering isn’t a simple recall of past events, it is a sharing of events, past, present, and future since time and eternity belong to Christ. But so also is the Lord remembering us. He is calling us into His kingdom, into His reality, which is the only reality. He is opening our eyes and our ears. He is quickening our souls, our lives. The Lord is promising us what He promised the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” We don’t have to be dead to be in Paradise, though it’s easier there without this body of sin. To be in Paradise means to rest in Christ. To believe on Him who is sent by the Father. 

And that is what the thief is doing. He is asking the Christ to participate in Him. Here the perfect man who knew no sin is suffering for the sins of all men. And when faith came alive in that condemned thief hanging on the cross, he professed the Christ and, short as it was, lived the life of the redeemed. Only, it wasn’t short. He’s still living the life of the redeemed because he is still redeemed in Christ. He is still remembered by our Lord. 

He is still fasting and praying. He is fasting even from breathing as his body lays somewhere in some unmarked tomb. But our Lord knows where and will raise him up on the Last Day. He is praying because when his life left his mortal body it went to be with the Lord where the saints of God are praying day and night, How long O Lord? They are remembering His promises even while they rest from their labors. So even in death, perhaps especially in death, the thief on the cross is living the life of a saint: living in God while fasting in this body and praying in the Spirit of the Lord. 

That is what it means to be wearing the wedding garment. To live in Christ. 

We are a dying people. This church is a hospital, hospice, really. We are here preparing to die well. That’s not morbid, it’s fantastic. For death has no hold on our Lord and so neither does it have a hold on us. We are not afraid of death: ours or the death of others. We mourn, to be sure, but we never mourn without hope, the sure and certain hope in Christ the Son of God. And perhaps not all of us will die, but we will be changed. We will put off this mortal body and put on immortality. We can laugh and play and enjoy this life as much as it can be enjoyed by us. But these things must be tempered by fasting and prayer. Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. 

 But we don’t like fasting and prayer. We think they’re too Catholic. Never mind that our Lord instructs us to fast and pray with equal attention given to both of them. Same with almsgiving. But we’d much rather hang out in the banquet hall and snack and mingle, really just pretending to belong there. Many simply hope to blend into the crowd and not be singled out. But the King comes to inspect His guests. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Let the fear of the Lord guide you in your living. Keep the commandments of Christ: Do not repay evil with evil. Pray for those who persecute you. Do good to those who hurt you. Care for the widows and orphans, and so forth. You are not gaining heaven by these things but you are proving yourself well dressed for the Kings Banquet. 

The Lord has promised: He will remember you in His kingdom. Live as though you believe this. Die as though you believe it.

+ In Nomine Iesu +