Second Sunday in Advent (Populus Zion)—9 December 2018

5212053Our text is from Luke 21:25–36:   25 [Jesus said:]  “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.  35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  (ESV)  

Continue reading “Second Sunday in Advent (Populus Zion)—9 December 2018”

First Sunday in Advent (Ad Te Levavi)—2 December 2018

5212053Jeremiah 23:5–8

5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ 

7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’  8 but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”  (ESV) 

Matthew 21:1–9

1 When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,  2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”  4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” 

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.  7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.  8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”  (ESV)  

 

The following sermon was preached by our field worker, Seminarian Matthew Fenn.

The Righteous Reign of God

Text: Jeremiah 23:5-8

Old Testament Lesson for the First Sunday of Advent, 1yr.

 

 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Introduction

 

Can you think of a government that isn’t plagued with problems? Even in Canada, we don’t have leaders who are always just and wise. Even well-intentioned politicians fail. More often than not, most of our leaders are corrupt and self-serving. We’re used to politicians who make promises to us while campaigning, but only keep a fraction of them. No sooner do they get into office, then they begin to dismantle everything the previous administration did, good and bad. We are cursed with leaders who are more concerned about winning the next election and pushing their own agendas than caring for the people.

 

I. The Need for God’s Righteous Reign

 

The Kingdom of Judah realized their need for good leaders a little too late. These kings had failed so spectacularly that God himself intervened and Babylonian armies carried their entire nation into exile.  God’s judgment fell upon the kings of Judah because they failed to fulfill the duties of their office. They failed to demonstrate the true qualities of kingship. A king should “do what is just and right in the land.” (v. 5) This is what God still expects from kings and political leaders even today. Instead the kings of Judah oppressed the weak and vulnerable. They sought the counsel of false prophets and led the people into idolatry. Their greed, injustice, and unfaithfulness led to disaster.

 

In exile, Judah was finally able to see their need for a just and wise king. Do we not also see the need to have a just and wise prime minister and parliament? I’m certain that no one would think our Canadian government today should be called just, wise, and faithful. It is easy to become fed-up and cynical about politics when all you see are lots of problems and very few solutions. And with our cynicism we stop praying for our leaders and no longer confess government as the gift it is. We know too well that no government can rid Canada of poverty, crime, injustice, sickness and death. There are limitations to government, yet we still need it. Listen to stories from Syria and Iraq about how government fell and chaos arose, and you see why. We may complain about government, but it still provides an indispensable service to society. 

At the end of the day, government is not the problem. The reason why governments are inherently unjust and corrupt is because WE are unjust and corrupt! Governments are made up of people just like you and me who are sinners.  Paul said in Romans, “There is no one who is righteous, no, not even one.”  We desperately need a ruler who is just and yet among those born of Adam, there will never be found one. We may see our physical needs, and still not see our spiritual need. 

 

Hoping for a better government which will improve our lives is not the solution either, although that’s something to pray for. What we really need is the tangible and real reign of God. While we are focusing on the little problems, only God has the solutions the big ones we all share like injustice, sickness, and death. That’s why we Christians pray for God’s kingdom to come, on earth as in heaven. 

 

But if God’s kingdom – his reign – were to come and set everything right, then we have a problem.  Since God is going to bring all wrong doers to justice for their crimes against him, wouldn’t that also include you?  After all, we are all citizens of earth, are we not? All of the unfairness and injustice in Judah moved God to act. If you think that God will not do anything to correct all the unfairness and injustice of this world, you’re wrong. As sinners, we are part of the problem, not the solution because it is our sin which has bent and distorted this world. Our good and just God promises that the crookedness will be set straight. That means we all deserve to be brought to justice. We need God’s reign because in this rebellious world filled to the brim with injustice, justice has to be served.

 

II. The Benefits of God’s Righteous Reign

 

Jeremiah prophesied that one day there’ll be a new king. God gave David his word that one of his sons would reign forever, and unlike our politicians who fail to keep their promises, God always keeps his promises, and he even blesses us with descent government in Canada.  There will be a new king from the lineage of David who will be wise and “do what is just and just and right.” His reign will bring salvation and the ultimate deliverance from slavery and bondage. God’s people mourn in lonely exile, awaiting the coming of Emmanuel, the king.

 

Then, one spring afternoon outside of Jerusalem, nearly 600 years later, that long awaited, long expected King – that MESSIAH – finally made his appearance.  The prophets had foretold it: “Behold, O daughter of Zion, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey.” Yes, Jesus of Nazareth, rides on a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The crowds confess who he is, “Hosanna to the son of David.”  “Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates! Behold, the King of glory waits. The king of kings is drawing near; The Savior of the world is here.” (LSB 340.1)

 

Jesus Christ is David’s long expected heir – the promised messiah. And unlike any of our politicians, he is perfectly qualified to be king. He is the king that shall reign wisely. He is always just, fair and good. That’s what we call righteousness – being fair, good, and always keeping your word.  Jesus is the kind of king we need – a king who shows faithfulness toward his people. This is a faithfulness that moves him to intervene; to act on our behalf and to rescue his distressed, exiled people. God enters the world in the person of Jesus Christ. This righteous branch of David is raised up and nailed the cursed branch of Calvary. All the unfairness and injustice of this world is dealt with in the death of Jesus. The righteousness of God’s reign is seen through his acting on your behalf, to save you through the death of his own Son.

 

In Christ God demonstrates his righteousness. God promises us salvation through his Son, the Messiah. And as David wrote in our Psalm, “No one who waits for the Lord shall be put to shame” We can trust what God has done for us in Christ because he keeps his word and lives up to his obligations. God’s righteousness means you can trust his promises because he is totally reliable. As St. Peter said, ““All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Pet. 1:24-25.)  God made a promise to David, a promise which was renewed through Jeremiah. And God kept his Word.

Jeremiah says the name by which the Messiah will be called is, “The Lord is our righteousness.”  Yes, although we are not righteous, we are not just, fair, good, and always keep our word. But Christ our Lord is righteous. Our righteousness is not found in ourselves, nor is it found in voting for the next politician who promises change. It is found in Jesus Christ and all his righteousness is now yours through trusting his promise to you. As you hear God’s Word read and proclaimed to you, that is the reign and rule of God coming near. When you were baptized you were made a citizen of the God’s kingdom. In the Holy Communion you get a foretaste of the feast we will have at marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom.  As you strive to lead a godly life and to turn from sin, that is not your power, but the power of the Kingdom of God at work in you. God promises that on the last day, when King Jesus sets the whole universe right again, you will be declared to be in the right, not because of what you have done, but because of the righteousness of Jesus given to you.

 

Jesus is king. We praise and bless him because he is a just and fair. His righteousness means that he keeps his promises. He has intervened on your behalf to save you. He saves you from your own corruption, sin, and injustice. He pardons your offenses and gives you His own righteousness. He now promises you that under his reign there will be righteousness and blessedness forever. His reign is not for one or two terms, but it lasts forever and ever. There is no transition team to move from one heavenly administration to another. We’ve heard of Queen Elizabeth I and now Elizabeth II. Not in the heavenly kingdom. There is no Jesus I and Jesus II, because Jesus Christ is first and last and there is no other. None preceded him, and none shall succeed him. His reign is a reign without end, it’s a reign that saves you, and that’s a reign we need. To him be the glory! Amen.

 

And may the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 

 

 

 

The Last Sunday of the Church Year—25 November 2018

5212053Our text is from Matthew 25:1–13:   1 [Jesus said:] “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  (ESV)

Continue reading “The Last Sunday of the Church Year—25 November 2018”

The 25th Sunday after Trinity—18 November 2018

5212053Our text is from Matthew 24:1-13:   1   Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

3   As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

9   “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (ESV)

 

Continue reading “The 25th Sunday after Trinity—18 November 2018”

The 24th Sunday after Trinity—11 November 2018

5212053Colossians 1:9-14
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.  11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,  14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  (ESV)
———————–
Today’s sermon was written and preached by our field worker, Seminarian Matthew Fenn.

The Benefits of Self-Sacrifice
Text: Colossians 1:9-14 & 1 John 3.16-24
Remembrance Day, 2018

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Introduction

During the Second World War, Rev. George Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Father John Washington, and Rev. Clark Poling were chaplains stationed aboard troop transport ship The Dorchester.  The ship was struck by an enemy torpedo off the coast of Newfoundland. Panic set in among the men on board, as many of them were trapped below deck. The four chaplains quickly rallied together and began to calm the men and organize an orderly evacuation of the ship. The supply of life jackets ran out. So, the chaplains took off their own life jackets and gave them to others. They helped as many men as they could into lifeboats, and then linked arms and, saying prayers and singing hymns, went down with the ship. The chaplains were last seen praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could but they did not have a chance without their life jackets. These four chaplains sacrificed themselves, so that others could live.

I. We should lay down our lives for one another

Today is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. All across Canada people will be taking time to think about the self-sacrifice of those who fought for this country. Self-Sacrifice involves giving something up with no thought of yourself. Many brave men and women have sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we enjoy in Canada. The idea of self-sacrifice can be hard for us to put into action in our daily lives because we much prefer self-indulgence, self-promotion, self-interest, or self-gratification. However, a big part Christianity is the self-sacrificial commitment to the good of the other. 

Life in Christian community is not just a social club of people who share friendly words and similar interests. Paul in our Epistle says that we are “to lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work.” (v. 10)  What kind of lives are worthy? The Apostle John in his First letter tells us just what kind of lives we are to lead, “We know love by this, that [Christ] laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” Our life together as Christians is built on a self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice should be ordinary for us, not extraordinary. Sometimes self-sacrifice can mean physical death. That’s the penetrating question you must ask yourself. Are you willing to die for another member of this congregation? Even those you dislike?  Normally, we do not have to die for one another. But the principle is the same. Self-sacrifice can mean any number of ways in which you lay aside your claim to own your life. 

We are called to share our lives with each other in concrete and particular ways. Do you put others first? Are you actively seeking for the good of others? Have you got time for other? We need to look for ways we can help with the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters! Make time to visit or call our shut-ins. Make a dish for a family you know is struggling. When there is a visible need to be met that would require some sacrifice from you, do you consider the needs of your brothers above your own? Christianity is not a religion for the lazy. Love is far more about doing than about talking. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave up his very life for you, and so you should be ready and willing to give of yourself for our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Doing good works in self-sacrificial love for your neighbour does not earn you brownie points from God. If you go to the grocery store, and get some grapes, and then bring that bag of grapes out to your back yard and staple the grapes on the dead-vine, you don’t have a living, fruit-producing vine. The fruit will rot because there is no source of life. Good works done in self-sacrificial love for your neighbour are done because of the self-sacrificial love of Jesus. Just like branches receive life from the vine and as a result bear fruit, so too we receive spiritual life this union with Christ, and the result is that we love our brothers and sisters. God dwells in you in a mysterious way, and also dwells in your fellow Christian. That means when you are loving and serving your brothers and sisters in this congregation, you are loving and serving Christ in them.

II. Redeemed by Christ’s Self-Sacrifice

As we think this day about the victory allied forces won in the Great War 100 years ago, and all the brave men who sacrificed their lives for King and country, we should remember a far greater war. There are two kingdoms engaged in bitter warfare.  One the one hand, you have the kingdom of the Devil. On the other hand, you have the Kingdom of God. There are no other kingdoms, nor any neutral territories. All who are outside the Kingdom of God are under the dominion of Satan. When we were created by God, we received all kinds of good things from him. The Devil came, and led us into rebellion, disobedience, sin, death, and all evil. (LC II,28). So, this war isn’t over land or power, it’s over souls!

Paul wrote in our Epistle, “God has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (v. 13) God put his money where his mouth is. Without any thought about himself, Jesus Christ laid down his life for you. He was committed to your good instead of preserving his own life. Upon the Cross of Calvary Christ defeated the powers of darkness which had enslaved you.  Our Lord’s self-sacrifice liberates you. It frees you from realm of Satan, Sin, and Death. In this war, the Devil was defeated by the blood of the slain lamb. Through Holy Baptism you have been brought into Christ’s kingdom. When you eat the true Body and Blood in the Supper your sins are forgiven. Through these means the victory achieved by Christ’s self-sacrifice is given to you.

In our interactions with one another we realize that most of the time we are more concerned about ourselves than about others. Jiminy Cricket told Pinocchio, “Always let your conscience be your guide.” Many times our conscience isn’t our guide, and can accuses us. Have you ever felt that things are not going to go well for you on judgment day?  Ever hear someone say—or perhaps you’ve thought it yourself—I’m too much of a sinner, I’m too far gone. If you focus on how much you mess up, you could end up viewing God as an angry judge, ready to throw you to the worms.

Don’t be fooled. Your status with God is not based on what you do. It is entirely based upon Jesus Christ who sacrificed his life. If you are a failure in your own eyes, take courage! Despite your failures, God is not angry with you because your guilt has been dealt with. Jesus Christ has redeemed you, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that you may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom. You can go to judgment day with a clean conscience. You have access to God himself. You can go to God in prayer trusting and knowing that God loves you and wants good things for you. 

Conclusion

 Because Christ sacrificed his life for us, we should sacrifice for each other. Because Christ has given himself to us, we should give ourselves to each other—particularly by caring for those in need. Because of Christ’s bloody death, Christ has won the ultimate victory over Satan, Sin, and Death. Through that same self-sacrifice of Christ, God himself comes to dwell in us and all Christians through faith. Just like the branches receive life and nourishment from the vine, we now receive the life and nourishment in the Lord’s Supper, which Christ, our Good Shepherd offers to us, His beloved sheep.

The Festival of All Saints—4 November 2018

5212053Our text is from Revelation 12:10-12a:   10 And I heard a great voice in heaven saying, “Now has come about the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown out, the one who was accusing them in the presence of our God day and night.  11And they conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their witness, and they did not hold their life dear even in the face of death*.  12 On account of this break out in celebration, O heavens, and those who dwell in them!  But woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great fury, knowing that he has but a short time!” (translated by Louis Brighton. Revelation: Concordia Popular Commentary. Concordia Publishing House)    (* ESV- for they loved not their lives even unto death.)

Continue reading “The Festival of All Saints—4 November 2018”

The 21st Sunday after Trinity—21 October 2018

5212053Today’s sermon is a hymn study, based on the Hymn of the Day—“Baptized into Your Name Most Holy”  (#590) on the occasion of the baptism of Amelia Grace Werner.

 

A few years ago in Europe, a man in his nineties took the Church to court. When he was born, he had been baptized, but now he was an atheist and he was demanding that the Church un-baptize him. The Church had offered to strike his name from the church records, but that did not satisfy the man. He wanted his baptism to be undone, as if it had never happened. And so, he asked the court to force the Church to un-baptized him. But this was impossible. You see, the Church has no power to un-baptize anyone, for baptism is a gift from God and God never takes back that gift.

Continue reading “The 21st Sunday after Trinity—21 October 2018”

The 20th Sunday after Trinity—14 October 2018

Matthew 22:1–14

1 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.” (ESV)

 

The following sermon was preached by our field worker, Seminarian Matthew Fenn:

 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Introduction

When was the last time you were invited somewhere for dinner? Perhaps it was last weekend when you gather with relatives for Thanksgiving. Perhaps you went to a simple dinner at a friend’s house. Maybe you did the inviting! It seems like every special occasion or any important event involves a good meal. It’s very much part of how we socialize. We invite people over for dinner, and we get invited over for dinner. How might you feel if you invited someone close to you to attend a special dinner like thanksgiving, and they rudely reject your invitation and instead, they insult and demean you? Well today’s Gospel lesson involves an invitation to a great feast! The greatest feast you’ll ever be invited to!

Generosity Rejected

Jesus tells the chief priests and the Pharisees the parable of the Wedding Feast and the story goes like this: Once upon a time, a king threw a wedding party for his son. All the most important people in kingdom received their invitations. As the RSVPs came in, it became painfully clear that they had other plans. The king even sent his messengers out to them personally and say, “The steaks are on, the prime rib is smoking, the wine is poured, the party is ready, come to the feast.”

And you would think that the combination of an invitation and a personal reminder, not to mention lots of free food and drink would cause people to drop whatever they were doing and come running to the feast. But you would be wrong. They paid no attention. They just didn’t care about the invitation. They had other things to do. One guy went off to his farm to work, another guy to his business. Some actually grabbed the messengers and beat them up and murdered them. And these were invited guests! This feast was prepared especially for them and they wouldn’t go. They didn’t care.  The king’s generosity toward them was met with violence.

The king was furious. Can you blame him? Turns out you don’t want to get on the bad side of the king. He’s nice and generous when it comes to wedding feasts, but not so kind when you reject his invitation by lynch his messengers. So, the king sends out his troops and destroys them and their city.

Let’s pause the story for a moment and look at the cast. God the Father is the King. His Son, the one who the party is being thrown for, of course is Jesus.  Israel’s leaders and the many people who followed them, were like guests invited to a wedding—God’s wedding party, the party he was throwing for his son. But they refused. God was planning the great party for which they had waited so long. The Messiah was here, and they didn’t care. They abused and killed the prophets who had tried to tell them about it, and were actively rejecting Jesus. And by rejecting Jesus, they were forfeiting their seat at the feast. “He came to His own, but His own people did not receive Him.” Jesus was the rejected Messiah of Israel. You see, this parable is all about Jesus. He’s the Son of the King. God is not just generous for generosity’s sake. He’s generous for the sake of his Son, the King of Kings. God’s gracious and lavish generosity is tied up with Jesus. God has been gracious to us in Jesus.

Saying “no” when the Lord offers to shower his grace and gifts upon you is never a good idea.  If we reject Christ, we reject God’s generosity to us. And we reject God’s generosity in Christ to our great peril. This is what the religious leaders failed to understand. God is the great and generous king. He wants to bestow his mercy and grace richly upon them. Yet they rejected God’s generosity. They rejected his only Son and the result was that their city would be destroyed by Roman armies.

We have the same invitation before us. We get a foretaste of the future marriage feast of the Lamb in the Holy Supper each week. The divine service is a feast, prepared by the King.  Each Sunday the feast is ready. The richest fare is provided. The lamb is slain. The wine is poured.  Forgiveness of sins, life and salvation is offered freely to you. You have the invitation, “Come to the feast.”

But  how can people today continue to reject the invitation to this great feast,? It’s our own stubborn will. Sometimes there is just something on our agenda which is more important than sharing in God’s generous feast of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Sometimes us invited guests have more important things to do: we need to go to brunch; we need to watch the football game, change the light bulbs, mow the lawn, wash the car. We reject the invitation to the feast because it would inconvenience us. But, what could be more important than feasting at the Messiah’s Banquet? Remember how generous the king was? The king sends his messengers out to track down the invited guests who already indicated that they were too busy and distracted to come. God still sends his messengers to invite you, to remind you. “Everything is ready. Come to the feast.”

The Wedding Garment

Back in our Story, the feast is still ready. But there are no guests. The King’s generosity compels him to send out new messengers, to the wrong parts of town, to tell everyone and anyone to come to the party. And they come in droves. There were two-bit hookers, tax collectors, riff-raff,  nobodies, the blind and lame, the disreputable, the least, the lost, the lowly, the people who thought they’d been forgotten.  And the wedding hall is full of guests pulled off the streets.

The king looks out over the crowd, and what a crowd it is! They’re eating. They’re drinking. They’re having a great time. And then he sees a man off in the corner who’s not wearing a wedding suit. Remember that these people were just rounded up off the streets. They had no time to change. Some likely didn’t even have anything to change into. We have to assume that this generous king is handing out Armani suits at the door. But for some reason, this man isn’t wearing the wedding suit he was given. He must have taken it off. Just like those who rejected the first invitation, he rejected the king’s generosity. The king confronted him. “Hey, buddy. How’d you get in here without a suit?” The guy didn’t know what to say for himself. He thought his own, old, stinky, ragged street clothing is acceptable enough. He’s speechless that the king doesn’t agree. He winds up bound and unceremoniously tossed into outer darkness where he can spend an eternity weeping and gnashing his teeth.

In Holy Baptism we receive the wedding garment. We’re taken off the streets and out of all the wrong parts of town. We are the riff-raff, nobodies, the blind and lame, the disreputable, the least, the lost, the lowly, the people who thought they’d been forgotten. We have no right to be invited to this feast, except by the King’s lavish generosity. And in Holy Baptism we have put on Christ like a robe.

God’s invitation is lavishly generous, but it is not an invitation to a come as you are party. It does not pretend that “you are just fine the way you are.” People often say ‘You’re all right as you are’. when they want to justify particular types of behaviour. You are not fine the way you are! You are a poor, miserable, sinner. The Gospel doesn’t say ‘You’re all right as you are’.  God loves so much that he will not leave us unchanged. He clothes us with Christ’s own righteousness. Like the man without a wedding garment, we can’t stand before God with our own works. Our righteousness is given to us!  It’s grace, gift, Gospel. Unearned, unmerited. The worthy are found unworthy, the unworthy are declared worthy.

He feeds us with his precious Body and Blood.  He has given you his Spirit and until the day you die he will continue to work in you, to change you, to conform you to the image of his Son. To produce good works and good fruit. This is not the case of: “Oh. I have my ticket punched and I’m going to heaven when I die so now I can live like the devil.” No. God produces faith through his Holy Word, he clothes you with Christ in Holy Baptism, not so that you can live in Sin, but so that you may produce fruit.

To be invited to this feast is by God’s grace, His gift to you. To be excluded from the feast is entirely your doing, your refusal, your turning away. He will compel you, lavish His gifts upon you, put the wedding suit on you, seat you at His table and feed you. But he won’t force you to stay. The guests at this table are free, they are not imprisoned. Luther once quipped that the doors of the church swing in both directions so that those who wish to come to feast may come, and those who wish to leave can leave. But be careful. The alternative to the wedding feast is outer darkness, and weeping, and gnashing of teeth. And it’s so entirely unnecessary.

Jesus adds the punch line: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” The many that are called are all who have heard this great good news: Christ has died, Christ has risen. The few who are chosen are those who are clothed with the wedding garment of His righteousness in Holy Baptism, and have come to the feast. It’s grace, gift, Gospel. Unearned, unmerited. The worthy are found unworthy, the unworthy are declared worthy. God has richly lavished his Grace upon you through the death and resurrection of his Son. Now you have the invitation, “Come to the feast.”

The Day of Thanksgiving—7 October 2018

5212053Our text is the Second Commandment (Exodus 20:7):  Let us confess the Second Commandment and its meaning: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. 

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

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The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels—30 September 2018

5212053Our text is today’s Epistle (Revelation 12:7-12): 7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,  8 but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.  10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.  12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (ESV)

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