Trinity 20 2018
The Epistle – Ephesians 5:15-21
The Gospel – St. Matthew 22:1-14
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
The Epistle this morning is a clear teaching by Paul to us about the use of time. How are we using our time in this life?
He begins this morning by saying, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,  making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
The days are evil. We live in evil times. We see it all around us in many different spheres of life. It would seem that evil times are part of every age.
We have to be wise.
We have to be sober minded.
We have to understand what the will of the Lord is.
And to do this, we not only have what Paul would want us to know as we read there, but we have this image that Jesus paints for us in the Gospel lesson as well.
Today we hear the Parable of the Wedding Feast.
In this, we have a teaching by Jesus to us on just how God creates, grows and sustains His Church…and ultimately saves it from all evil.
To know this Parable is to know how to live in these times.
Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for His Son. ..and for His Son here is key.
We are not just at any old wedding. We are at the King’s Son’s wedding.
In fact, we are more than just guests as we will see.
This is a Parable of how God brings us into a relationship with Himself.
It is a close union. One that is closer than we realize most of the time and one that is precious to Him….and should be to us…because we fare well in this Parable and we should find great comfort in what Jesus teaches.
We are not guests at this wedding. We are the bride!
And this should in turn direct, govern and rule our hearts and minds after Him…in pursuit of Him….because He first pursued us.
Notice in this Parable, many are initially invited but they ridicule the invite or they ignore it.
Some who are initially invited even beat up and then kill the servants (messengers) who are sent to invite the people.
The report of this comes to the King’s ear, and instead of rather having or settling for a smaller than expected crowd, He sends other servants out to seek out people to invite.
In the meantime, the king sends His soldiers to destroy the murderers and their cities they live in.
More people are found and invited in and the banquet hall is filled with guests.
But what is happening in this Parable?
What is The King - who is God - doing?
Who are these different players in this Parable and what do they each signify?
The King is God
The Son is Jesus Christ.
The wedding feast is the reward of eternal life.
The servants are God’s Prophets of the Old and even the New Testament if you categorized John that way.
Those invited are the Jews, God’s people.
Those who reject the invitation are the same Jews, God’s people.
Those invited later on, are “Others.” “Outsiders.” “Gentiles.” People like us.
Luther – “The Lord Christ represents this here in a most delightful and cheerful way by equating it with a royal wedding, where a bride is given to the king’s son, everything is full of the greatest joy and glory…and many were invited to the wedding and its joy.”
Among all of the Parables we hear from Jesus, which explain the Kingdom of Heaven and what it’s like, this one pictures for us an amazing scene or scenario in which we see ourselves as part of the Parable in a unique way.
Others do this as well, but this one is special because of how it describes our relation to God and Christ in a way that cheers us, comforts us and gives us assurance and hope.
We hear or read many times that God is building His Kingdom. He is building His Church.
This Parable tells us how and what the nature of the relationship is between us and Christ.
This is a wedding…a marriage.
Christ is the groom.
We are the bride.
This is partly why the modern-day evil that abounds where marriage is reordered, redefined, rather bastardized is so infuriating.
The image of the beauty of man and wife, in this life, or Christ and the Church in the imagery of the Kingdom of God… beginning in this life and yet eternal in the life to come is a purposeful design by God.
Marriage in this life signifies the bond between Christ and His Church in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The joining of man and woman together is a mysterious union. The two shall become one flesh.
This is important to remember as we proceed with the analogy of Christ and the Church.
This too is a mysterious union. We are also, as Christians, joined mysteriously with Christ and become one.
We are made one body with Him….that we may dwell in Him and He in us. This is another reason why Holy Communion is such an integral part of the Christian life.
Holy Communion builds and cements that bond between us and Christ.
When marriage functions properly, the husband and wife live together, rely on one another and trust in one another.
Recall Solomon’s last chapter of the Proverbs, where the text describes the precious wife that is trustworthy with much of the estate.
And on the other hand, there is the husband who is the strength and head of the wife. She looks to him not only for honor and love, but protection and headship as well.
We do not find this in any other created relationship. Brother and sister, employer and employee, slave and master. All have imbalance in the relationship. Devotion, one to the other, is different.
And in this divine institution and relationship, there exists mutual trust and love…despite good or bad situations that come and go.
And Jesus wants us to see this marriage relationship as one that shows us the marriage relationship we have as the Church with the Groom who is Christ.
As the groom or the husband, Christ takes us, makes us His own, and lavishes upon us all that He has.
So close is this relationship, that he gives to us, “…all of His divine benefits, wisdom, righteousness, life, strength, and power to be our own, so that in Him we are even to partake of the diving nature.
St. Peter writes of this in his second letter.
2 Peter 1:3–4
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them [we] may become partakers of the divine nature…”(ESV)
Partakers of the divine nature.
He wants us to see that we have this relationship with Him. Confidence in His love for us should grow more and more because of this truth.
This marriage, by the way began at baptism. There at the waters of washing and regeneration, Christ chose us to be His bride.
To live with Him. To love Him. To be a devoted follower of Him and trust in Him.
This relationship is difficult for us to always see or at least see clearly. Our flesh, our being in Adam, though makes realizing this relationship difficult.
What we see with our eyes on a daily basis, is not this wedding bliss relationship at all…or very little of it.
Rather, we see our own relationships, first of all, imperfect, troubled, broken down in some instances…weak.
We can understand the perfect relationship between Christ and His Church, but it does not match our experience in our own lives.
But this is why this sort of Parable exists.
This is why the Church exists.
This is why the Sacraments exist.
These are all given to us to train our minds to not see the earthly frail, faulty picture…as the standard…but to see Christ as the perfect groom. The perfect husband. The perfect companion who is faithful and true.
No matter what we sense ourselves or see in ourselves, it is the Word of Christ that is unfailingly true and reliable.
Luther – “Therefore, if you sense your need and misery, and from your heart desire to partake of this consolation and love of Christ, then stretch your your ears and heart to Christ, and lay hold of the comforting picture He presents to you to show you that He wants you to know and believe that He has a more sincere love and faithfulness for you in His heart than any bridegroom has for his dear bride.”
Ephesians 5:27 Paul tells us that Christ wants to, “…present the church …in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (ESV)
To combat these feelings and inclinations, He has even given us tokens and pledges (assurances) to help us.
As His bride, He has washed us in the waters of baptism. This washing is more important than we might realize.
Without it, we are nothing. We remain filthy and separate from Christ.
Faith can be exercised, but without baptism confirming and sealing it, we remain separated from Christ.
We have been at that point made clean and pure and beautiful to Him.
It is He that washes us.
So unworthy feelings should be banished from our minds.
Unclean feelings should be also pushed from our minds.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (ESV)
Unworthiness and uncleanness has to be countered with the Word of Christ…and the sacraments of Christ.
The sacraments of His Body and Blood also function to fortify us and to build in us the belief and the trust that He has made us His own.
He has so attached Himself to us, that He gives us His flesh and blood to feed on…to nourish us and to build that relationship.
There are those, as the Parable teaches, that are not the bride of Christ. Some might play the part and look the part.
Some might show great potential and work hard, but if they are not truly grounded by a trusting faith in Christ, they are not His bride.
The king came in, if you recall, to look at the guests. One man is found in there, without the garments of Christ about him. He is sent out.
So, making the best use of the time is to remain faithful to Christ who has called us into this marriage relationship.
To make the best use of the time is to continually turn to the promises that Christ has made…. in that He will keep us, be faithful to us…and nourish us in this relationship.
Paul says, 2 Timothy 2:10–13
 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.  The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. (ESV)
To make the best use of the time is to turn away from doubts and feelings of unworthiness because we “…have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (ESV)
The times are evil, says Paul.
Our minds can conjure evil, and doubt and fear. But the Parable of the Wedding Banquet is given for us today to counter the evil.
It is given to show us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like…it is likened to a marriage between Christ and His Church…
…and that whatever we do, we should always look to the faithfulness of Christ. The faithful groom who loves His Church, died for His Church.
He brought the Kingdom of God with Him when He came. He established it. He called people into it.
He has made us to be his bride for all eternity.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.