Response to Grace

Matthew 22:1-14

Boy, Pastor Mike picked a good time to go away. He swears he doesn’t look at the texts before he puts our preaching schedule together… I’m not convinced…

As with our texts from last week, our readings for today, speak to violence, murder, and division, and of expectations, of who is in and who is out… who is chosen and who is not… and of what it means to live as people of God in a world that is so drastically different from what God intended…

Similar to our parable from last week, “The parable of the Wicked Tenants”, or that of “The Vineyard”, depending on which title you prefer, Jesus’ parable for today speaks of God’s expectations of God’s people and of what will happen to those who do not live up to these expectations… expectations that are to be met, not in part, but in full… to the best of our abilities.
So again, Jesus offers a message of harsh words, that at first glance, leave us to wonder, where exactly the good news of today’s gospel is at all…

On the surface, Jesus tells of a king who sets up a wedding banquet for his son, and who, regardless of what he does, is unable to get those who had been invited to the banquet, to come when the time has arrived.
His slaves, acting as messengers, are at first denied and ignored, and then, in being sent out for a second time, are disregarded, then seized, beaten and killed. Outraged by his people’s disloyal response, the king sends out his troops under orders to destroy those who had failed to respond, and set fire to their city.
As he reaches the midway point of his parable, Jesus gives us what appears to be a glimpse of good news.
With those originally invited to the banquet now dead, the king sends out a third group of slaves under the orders to gather everyone they can find… those on the street corners… the good and the bad… those who ignored and neglected by society.  Out of the ashes, new hope comes.  Suddenly, regardless of wealth or status, sin, or anything else that has set people apart, all are invited.
For those of you here last week, Sola Fide, saved by grace through faith alone, not by works.  Jesus sounds like a good Lutheran. At least for a moment.  And then come our final three verses.
“But when the king went to inspect the guests, he saw a man who was not wearing wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘My friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him out into the darkness outside.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
For many are invited, but few are chosen…
The term chosen, is used again in Matthew 24 to designate God’s true people… those threatened, but protected through the time of trial, as we pray here each week. They are those tenants who produce fruit in our gospel from last week… those invited by the king, who respond with readiness to give to God what is due in our text for today… the best they have to offer…
Truth be told, today’s text reaches far into the depths of what it means to be a good steward.  Way beyond the acts of giving of our time, talent, and resource simply because that is what we are supposed to do, because that’s what the bible calls us to do… and into a lifestyle that literally brings about the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Stewardship… Oikonomia, in the Greek, literally means, house-management.  With this, the “steward”, us, you and me, is not the owner of anything, but rather has the responsibility to serve and care for that which is the owners.
Through today’s parable, it is clear, that the king, God, has high expectations. We are expected to respond to God’s invitation to come to the banquet, and too, we are expected to respond appropriately.  Even when the world around us, like that of the city in Jesus’ story, is set on fire…
In looking to our final verses of Jesus’ parable, (to the man not properly dressed) it isn’t that he failed to wear a specific garment required by the culture of the time as it was for those at a time of mourning… but rather, that he simply failed to wear his best…
Jesus makes it clear that the invitation to come to the banquet, to be part of the kingdom of heaven, is one given freely. Yet too, it is one that comes with conditions. That we are to give our best to God, whatever our best is at the moment.
As with our text from last week, today’s appears, at first glance, to be one of judgment and retribution, of unattainable expectations where grace is missing all together.
Yet, as with our text from last week, as we dig deeper… grace it is.

The world around us can often feel like the one described by Jesus in today’s gospel.
Like a city on fire, made up of division, entitlement, selfishness, and death…

For me, it’s through our reading for Philippians, that the good news of God’s grace shines through. Through the names of two women Euodia and Syntche, we are given, not names, but two metaphors used throughout the New Testament in order to express the tradition of church members in a family feud (something that of course never happens here at St. James).  And while the apostle Paul doesn’t fill us in on the details of their feud, he does tell us, that regardless of what it was or how bad things got, they were people who labored for the gospel alongside of Paul himself…
We are called to be and do the same.  That regardless of the violence and division around in our world, or in our church, we are called to labor for the gospel… to live as faithful stewards of the household, serving and caring for all that is Gods because of it.

With this, today’s texts are good news… For regardless of our failures to respond, through the waters of our baptism we are always dressed in our best and invited to come to the feast that has been spread.  Where the body and blood of Christ our Lord, broken, heals the brokenness of our lives, and gives us the courage to be laborers for His Good News, and brings us the peace that transcends all understanding.
For now, here and there and everywhere, our brokenness is apparent, but the steady stream of God’s grace does shine thru. We can see it. We can feel it. We can hear it. We can taste it. For as the Apostle Paul received it, giving him the confidence to remind the Philippians of their reason to Rejoice, so too should we.
So beloved, seek out whatever is true or honorable or just or pure or pleasing or commendable and Rejoice…. Rejoice… For joy is what happens when the grace breaks thru… when, confident in the Lord, we bridge the gap between the Land of the here and now and the Land We Long For, that of the kingdom of heaven, for which we give thanks and praise.

AMEN.

~Pastor Andrew Geib

 

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