Trinity 20 (2013)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
October 6, 2013
Central Passage
Matthew 22:1-14

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

One of the mysteries of the Church of Jesus Christ is that it is given not only to the Jews, the bloodline descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but it is given also to us who are called Gentiles. This is what St. Paul says in Galatians, that the mystery he was to reveal is that salvation is for the Gentiles as much as for the Jews.

This is also the point of Isaiah the prophet when he says to us today, “Behold, you shall call a nation that you did not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for He has glorified you.” (Isaiah 55:4) It is also what Jesus says in the Gospel according to St. John when He says that He has sheep of another fold that He must bring into the one fold. And it is what the Lord is speaking of today in His parable when He says that those invited did not come, and others were brought into the banquet hall. The Gentiles will be in the same Church as the Jews. There are not two churches – one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles – but one church just as there is one Lord, one Baptism, one faith, and one God and Father of us all.  But that’s not all He says to us in this parable. He also says that there are some at the banquet who are not wearing the wedding garment.

The wedding garment is Christ. For in holy baptism we are clothed with Christ, as St. Paul says in Galatians, chapter 3. We have put on Christ and walk in Him, our life being hidden in Christ. Those who are found at the wedding banquet of the Great King without this proper garment, without Christ, will be bound hand and foot and thrown out into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But what does it mean to be clothed with Christ and to walk in Him? Surely there are many who are baptized who do not wear Christ or walk in Him, even as this ill-clad man was at the banquet, among the blessed, and yet was not wearing the proper garments. So what does this mean, to be clothed with Christ and to walk in Him?

It means simply to trust that Christ is your righteousness before God. This is the great comfort and peace the Christian has with God that the pagans – by the by, the pagans in our days are those that worship false gods such as the god of the Mormons, Allah of the Muslims, Jehovah of the Jehovah Witnesses, which is not the God of the Scriptures. In short, today’s pagans are those that do not look to Christ for all good and for their righteousness. This is what our faith is: trust that for Christ’s sake we have peace with God.

When you have peace with someone it means that there’s nothing but friendship between you. There’s no enmity, fear, anxiety, or any such thing. There is only contentment and friendship. And the closer a person is to you, the more that peace between you draws you to one another. So it is with God. In Christ there is nothing but peace between you and God. For Christ’s sake there is no enmity, fear, anxiety, or any such thing between you and God. And the more you meditate and ponder and consider this great peace you have with God in Christ, the more God will draw you to Himself so that you seek the things above and not earthly things.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-4).  There is no enmity, fear, or anxiety between you and God because there is none of this in Christ, in whom He is well-please. And you have put on Christ and have been clothed with Him in Holy Baptism.

Where there is not Christ, there is enmity, fear, and anxiety between you and God. Where Christ has been laid aside there, too, has our comfort and confidence before God been laid aside. For Christ is our righteousness before God. Without Him we are nothing but damned sinner bound for eternal darkness. This is what it means to cling to Christ alone and look to Him only as our peace with God.

Notice, though, that I did not say that where there is sin there is enmity, fear, and anxiety between you and God. Because Jesus receives and eats with sinners. He raises sinners up from death and shines on them. He does not condemn us in our sins, but came precisely to free us from the condemnation of sin. We sin daily, even hourly, yet in Christ we need not be afraid of our sins for we are clothed with Christ.

Now someone will say, “But that sounds like it’s okay to sin.” No, of course not. It’s not okay to sin. But there is a difference between sins, as St. John says in his first epistle. There is a sin that leads to death. This is the rejection of Christ, which is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit who bears witness to Christ. Such sin is to remove the garment called Christ and to be clothed in our own righteousness. This is the sin that leads to death as it blasphemes the blood of Jesus that is poured out for us sinners to be washed in. When we stand before God by our own righteousness, by our own efforts, by our own litany of what we’ve done right, tried to do right, and feel really passionate about, then we stand before Him naked, as did the man without the wedding garments.

So don’t comfort yourself that your sins won’t damn you because you’ve tried to make up for them or because you’ve done the best you can or any such thing. That path is wide and easy and leads to hell. But the narrow path is Christ, and He leads to eternal life.

To be clothed with Christ does not mean to be without sin, for no one is without sin in this mortal life, as the Bible teaches everywhere. There’s no state of sinlessness for us who have not yet been risen from the dead. Rather, the apostles teach us that sin is always with us and that we must strive against it precisely because it is there, crouching at our door, ready to devour us. No, to be clothed with Christ does not mean to be without sin. To be clothed with Christ means simply to trust that for Christ’s sake your sins no longer accuse you and damn you to hell.

Standing firm in Christ isn’t about doing the right thing or being a good person – though these are not lost – standing firm in Christ means we stand firmly in the forgiveness of sins won by His perfect obedience, His death and resurrection, and that in Him we are ascended to the right hand of God and dwell in Him in the heavenly places.

You are clothed with Christ in holy Baptism, by which He has invited you into His Church and banquet hall. And you remain clothed in Him by always remembering and calling to mind that you are baptized; that you have been crucified with Christ and buried with Him, dead to sin and to it’s threats of hell and damnation, and that you have been raised with Him in the newness of life, walking in the ways of God, following Jesus into eternal life, eating the bread of heaven given in this wilderness to strengthen you, sustain you, and continually mark you as one redeemed, a member of the Body of Christ, wearing the proper garments of righteousness.

+ In Nomine Iesu +