09 October 2011

The Wedding Banquet of the Royal Son

On this Mountain — in the midst of this city, His new Jerusalem — the Lord of hosts, Yahweh Sabaoth, has prepared a Wedding Banquet: a great Feast to the glory of His Son and for His Bride. Not by the flesh and blood of bulls and goats, nor sheep and oxen, but by the sacrifice of the same beloved and only-begotten Son, who loved His Bride and gave Himself for her, even unto death.

By His death, He has swallowed up death forever; and in His Resurrection, He has been glorified, so that His beloved Bride might also be saved and glorified in Him.

This is the glory of the Bridegroom, indeed, that He lays down His life for His Wife, and that He also feeds and nurtures her, and glorifies her with His whole body and life.

Whereas earthly husbands often hesitate and fail to give themselves so completely to and for their wives, for fear they will lose themselves and be lost, the Son of God has spent Himself entirely for His Church, and He gives Himself to her without fail, in the confidence of His Father — who raises Him from the dead, and glorifies Him, and gives life to both Him and His holy Bride.

This is the Holy Gospel, and, by this Gospel, the Lord calls and invites people from all nations to be His disciples: to be united with Him and joined to His Bride, the Church — to join the wedding party — and so to eat His Feast. For it is to His disciples that our Lord Jesus Christ gives His Body to eat and pours out His Blood to drink.

So has He called you to be His disciple, and so to feast both with Him and upon Him in this Supper. He calls you by the ongoing catechesis of His Word, the Law and the Gospel, by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of your sins. Just as He has called you to Himself, and wed you to Himself, by the way and the means of your Baptism into His Cross and Resurrection. For your Holy Baptism is the fount and source, the heart and center of your daily and lifelong repentance and the forgiveness of sins, whereby you are crucified with Him and raised up with Him to newness of life, and you are clothed in Him and His righteousness.

These are your wedding clothes, by which alone you are worthily attired to enter the wedding hall and to eat the wedding feast: Not by any “goodness” of your own, but entirely by the grace of God.

You are a guest of the King: do not despise or reject His hospitality. Rather, just as the Father of the Bride adorns His daughter to be given to her Groom, and as the Husband adorns His Wife with His own honor and glory, so are you attired and adorned by the Father and the Son. You do not adorn yourself, but as you are dressed by and with Christ in your Holy Baptism, so are you truly worthy and well-prepared to eat and drink His Supper, His Body and His Blood.

To wear these wedding clothes — which you have received in Holy Baptism — is to live by this grace of God, through faith in His Gospel, instead of relying on yourself and your own resources.

It is to pray in faith and confidence, to trust your God and Father in Christ, and to receive from His hand whatever He provides, whether much or little — living under the Cross, in the hope of the Resurrection — and thus to be content and satisfied in any and all circumstances.

To wear the wedding clothes provided for the Feast is likewise to do good works of love within your vocation — to glorify the Bridegroom and the King through your behavior — and to serve His other guests, your neighbors, with your words and actions — as a kind of outward vesture.

As a woman honors her husband and glorifies his name — which he has given to her and shares with her — by receiving and using whatever he provides to care for their own home and family, and to share hospitality with others. For a woman who knows herself to be loved by her husband, is able to love her family, friends and neighbors generously and well. And a woman who is fed and clothed and sheltered by her husband, is likewise able to feed and clothe and shelter her dear children and many others, too. A woman who is thus adorned by her husband, need not adorn herself, but she is eager and well able to adorn others with mercy and kindness and tender care.

So do you also honor and glorify your Royal Bridegroom with reverent humility, and with artistic beauty, with gracious conduct, gentle words, and godly piety. As your God-given abilities permit, according to His all-sufficient providence, you praise and give thanks to Him, you confess His faithfulness and magnify His loving-kindness, and you declare yourself to be His very own.

Not as though to clothe yourself; nor to justify yourself; nor to make a name for yourself; nor to make yourself worthy — but in the strength of Christ, your Savior; in the abundant love of your heavenly Bridegroom; in the peace of His Gospel of forgiveness; in the confidence that death has been defeated by His death, and that heaven has been opened to you in His Resurrection from the dead; in the sure and certain hope that Life is found and freely granted forever in Him.

Those who live by such faith in the Gospel are fully covered by the perfect righteousness of Christ. From head to toe, they are beautiful with His royal beauty, and glorious with His divine glory.

By striking contrast, as you have heard from His parable this morning, those who reject His Wedding Banquet will be condemned: their homes and their cities, their businesses, their fields and cattle will be utterly destroyed, and they will be left with nothing but punishment.

And in a similar fashion, those who attempt to enter and to eat the Feast by their own merits and worthiness — that is to say, those who refuse to wear the wedding clothes provided by the royal Host, but presume to wear their own attire (whether it be a tux or a t-shirt and jeans) — they will be cast out of the Kingdom forever, into the darkness of eternal death and neverending despair.

These are sobering words, and a serious warning against all unbelief, false belief, and self-idolatry.

Fear God, therefore. But do not be afraid.

Where you have despised and rejected His Gospel, Repent. Return to the significance of your Holy Baptism, and to discipleship, and here now receive the Word and Sacrament of Christ Jesus, according to His mercy and His promise. Or, if you are not already baptized into Christ, submit to the catechesis of His Word, become His disciple, and follow Him into the Feast by His Cross.

In either case, wherever you have relied upon your own righteousness, Repent. Humble yourself before the Lord your God, in order to be stripped of your old wardrobe, and to be clothed, instead, with Christ and His Righteousness: by His grace, through faith in His Gospel. Hear and heed His gracious Word of Life, and rest yourself in His free and full forgiveness of all your sins.

For you are not here by mistake, nor by accident, but the Lord your God, the King of heaven and of all creation, has called you by the Gospel of His Son, the Royal Bridegroom. Indeed, He has called you and invited you, not only to join the celebration, but to be a member of the Bride.

He has removed the shadow and the stink of death from you, by the sacrifice of Christ our Lord, by the shedding of His Blood for you, and by His own glorious Resurrection from the dead.

He has cleansed and refreshed your body and soul, your flesh and blood, in the washing of the water with His Word and Holy Spirit in your Baptism.

As you are His own dear child, by virtue of that same Holy Baptism, your dear Father in heaven has poured out His Spirit upon you, and has adorned you with all the Glory of Christ Himself, as a royal Bride made beautiful for her Husband.

And He Himself, who is your Bridegroom, has forgiven you all of your sins, as He daily and richly forgives you — and as often as you fall, He raises you up — so that He beholds no flaw or fault or failing in you, but He rejoices over you in love, and He delights in you with all His heart.

Now in this Feast of His Life and Salvation, which He has prepared and made ready for you here — in this wedding hall, and on this mountain, which is the Church on earth (as it is in heaven) — He gives Himself to you most intimately. He feeds you with Himself; He nourishes and cares for you; He provides for you, as a Husband for His Wife; and He preserves your faith and life, your body and soul, in Himself. All of this He sets before you here, and gives to you in His own Body and Blood, in His own Royal House, unto the Resurrection and the Life everlasting.

Behold, this is your God, your Savior and your Lord, your Husband and your Head — who with the Father and His life-giving Holy Spirit is one God forever — and you are His dearly beloved. Let us rejoice in Him, and rejoice in His Salvation, today, tomorrow, and always.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 comment:

Annalise said...

Great sermon, Pastor.