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Pentecost 19: October 15, 2017 Matthew 22.1-14 “Be Ready for the Right Things”
There is a critical word in the O.T. Lesson, “Wait.” For all of the incredible things that Isaiah foretells, the people must trust the Words of the Prophet as if coming from The Lord’s very lips, and wait for the time of the Lord to complete them. The NT uses “wait,” also, but it prefers the term, “ready.” You still have to wait, and that requires a full measure of trust, hope and patience, all gifts promised to you by the Spirit of God. But to just wait, and do nothing is not how these final parables in Matthew teach us to prepare for the end of days. “Be ready.” For those of you who are named, “Gregory,” this is your name in Greek, “Be ready!” Set your life in tune with the King’s agenda now, and with His urgency.
But these invited guests were not ready for their King’s invitation. Already in the opening words of the parable Jesus shapes this parable as a Kingdomof God teaching. For the invited were not waiting to go to just any wedding. This was was the wedding of the King’s Son, perhaps the Heir. No one ignores the King and says offensive things like, “I have a farm to run,” or “I have a store to take care of,” nor would anyone dare touch the servants of the King. Not in the ancient near east. They knew that the King’s honor would never allow such behavior to stand.
But these did. So severe was their rebellion, that it was unto death. They turned their back on their King who had shown love by inviting them. They rebelled so violently that in the ancient world it was necessary for the King to order the death sentence imposed on all of them.
That is also true for all of us – that is the sin wage – death. So this is the first place we find ourselves in the parable……perhaps not killed, but sentenced. We are the ones whose sinned by turning our back on the King, who chose our own way in place of His loving way. In this parable there is a war and we are dead. Because there was judgment. In these latter days none of us ought dare live with Adam’s ancient sin and assume there is unlimited to prepared for the end of days. The Gregory’s of the Church cry out, “Get ready, with lives that please the King now, with hearts that honor Him by living in patient waiting.”
I would be less than honest with this text if I did not also tell you that when Matthew wrote to His Church, a King had already come and burned their great city. Caesar’s patience had run out, and Jerusalem lay in ruins. It was, not only for Jews but also for Jewish Christians, a time that tore at their understanding of Jesus’ words. They had never truly understood His warning that not one stone would remain standing. But within this very parable Matthew puts together His remembering of Jesus’ words. And Judgment is not the last word. For all of them who walked by faith in the Kingdom, Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, included the promise of His return. So Matthew goes on. Those that the King invited first proved unworthy, so He sends His servants to go everywhere in the streets and invite everyone to the wedding so that the wedding would be filled with guests – who Matthew specifically describes as both bad and good.
Of course they are both bad and good, because the people of the streets are both bad and good, but, praise God, they have come to the wedding, and accepting the King’s invitation is a huge part of Matthew’s point. The Church is always filled with both bad and good. That they answered the King’s invitation and now walk with us, is the reason why they are now disciples of the Kingdom. We – that is the Church – do not go through the assembly and sort through the people of God, sorting out the bad. Once again, as it was at the first inviting, that is the King’s business, and once again, the King does that business here.
It is by grace that we have come this far, that is the word on which the Reformation turned. Luther was never known for sorting the wheat from the chaff, nor the sheep from the goats. Emphatically Matthew declares to His Church, as He had in earlier parables, that this is not the Church’s business. We are the bearers of the King’s invitation in the main streets and dark streets…….in any streets where no one has ever yet invited people to come, because our King – did you hear - wants His Son’s Wedding hall filled. And in that hall are many rooms, more than enough for all the world, such that whoever believes in the sacrifice of Jesus, is welcome in this house.
But the time to tell is now 500 years later than when Luther first liberated the whole Church with news that God is so gracious that we can never use up His grace. 1st by printing press and then by all sorts of newly invented means the Church has sought to take that news into that one more street so that our Father’s wedding hall would be filled. Every single one of us has a part, because every Christian shares the mission of telling. It is the primary mission of our baptized life – to tell another. Yes, primary. We could measure it from other dates. It is more than 1500 years since Pope Leo the Great was instrumental in teaching the Church that our Lord Jesus Christ had two natures, God and man, but both together in one Christ. Jesus is still the center of everything, but those 1500 years that God has given are gone, and His clock ticks nearer to that moment when with all His angels, this very Christ will come again.
So the words are still “wait,” and “be ready,” both of which we do, by saying our prayers, keeping close to God in His words, and to each other in prayers and God’s words, and finally together we love our neighbor and make sure he knows how much Jesus loves Him. Yet our Father’s wedding hall is not filled with guests, and until it is, our “wait” will always be filled with inviting all that we can find, in any and every road, both bad and good. That they might come to know the Son, Who laid down His life that all might have a place in Our Father’s House.
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