“FAITH FEASTS ON THE MERCIFUL MESSIAH”
Saint Matthew 22.1-14
19th Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 20 Propers/Michaelmas skip)
6 October Anno Domini 2013
Fr. Jay Watson SSP
In The + Name of Jesus
Heaven is communion and family. Being saved for eternity is a family thing—a being loved and cherished and provided for thing!
Heaven is a marriage, an intimacy and oneness.
God is a loving Father (“our Father Who art in heaven” the Christ tells you) Who desires love for His Son and love for His Son’s spotless bride (Ephesians 5.27). The special relationship between Christ and His Church is on display in this morning’s Gospel parable.
The wedding and union between you and Jesus, between believers and the object of their belief, is so joyous and satisfying that it calls for a feast—a wedding banquet. It is an arranged marriage for true love is not spontaneous or emotional. Love is, as noted by C.S. Lewis, the ancients, and most especially the Word of the Lord, a commitment, a sacrifice, a giving and bestowing choice & doing of the lover upon the beloved. Rather than being a risqué bit of R-rated poetry, the Song of Solomon is a love letter from the Son of God to the Virgin Bride assembled this morning by the best-man, the Holy Spirit!
Yes you are the Bride…but you are also all together, collectively, the guests as well. And the only guests at this lavish ceremony (hence the rubrics and the customs and reverence) are the specially INVITED guests! Only those pre-approved and sent invitations may enter the nuptial hall—NO gate crashers and no sneak-thief interlopers.
And who is invited? “Many” are invited, but “what does this mean?” Many is a lot, a whole-lot, but it’s a number known only to God, for God’s family has been known IN-LOVE, in the heart of the Blessed Trinity, from before the creation of the world or the establishment of time and place. Let us leave the unfathomable gracious goodness and ineffable mysteries of the Doctrine of Election to another time, and simply rejoice in the Word: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” Now “that” is a wedding invitation engraved not on rich paper with expensive ink, but upon Immaculate Kingly Flesh in Innocent and Sacred Blood.
All earthly matrimonial “shin-digs” pale in comparison to this regal sit-down affair. This is no pot-luck, cafeteria, or drive-through lane…no grazing, no eating on the “run.” This is a catered and sumptuous banquet: “my oxen and fatted cattle are killed.”
As God fed Adam, as God fed Abraham, and especially as God fed the Children of Israel for 40 years in the desert—God provides! “The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord, and Thou givest them their meat in due season.” [Ps. 145.15] Oxen are beasts of burden. But it is The Son, Christ Jesus, Who is the true and holy Ox “for you!” Jesus did the work of tilling, cultivating, plowing, and ultimately planting His own body in the ground. He was the Ox killed and laid out on the stone altar of the Law, like Elisha laid out his sacrificial oxen; like Aaron and his sons received every Ox at the entrance of the Tabernacle to be slain. For only in blood is life; only in the Sacrifice is there admittance to the holy of holies. Only by the red marks painted on the doorposts and lintels of + your bodies is their entrance into this safe-house of mirth and mercy and pass-over!
This wedding, this feast, this food—This Host, is all about love and togetherness: family and peace. Man was not meant to be alone, hence Eve. Man and woman were not meant to be alone hence “be fruitful and multiply.” The rugged, individual, and solitary anti-hero might work in an Eastwood movie, but in matters eternal, bespeaks only Satan and hell. Man as God created him seeks company, community, communion and the love feast of Marriage. You are not Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe or Matheson’s I Am Legend you are brother and sister of Christ and all of His Saints; you are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” [Heb. 12.1]
Paganism scoffs at this communal clan of Christ. Unbelief, and yes “Old-Adam” natures, make light of the free invitation & delivery of Grace; of the Scandal of Particularity and monergism: “No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” [Jn.14.6] Sin eschews the norms and structures and life-long covenants of marriage and mercy, and goes its own way: Eve’s way, Your way, My way…all the way to the “farm[s]” of self and mammon; all the way to the “business[es]” of self-righteous disciplines, schemes, programs, and works. And heaven knows (yes It does) that the King’s servants are spitefully treated and killed. Just this week the called & ordained Servant of the Word at Grace Lutheran Church, Larned, Kansas, was wrongly and maliciously thrown out of His call. And other pastors are judged without mercy by self-righteous parishioners who always want the benefit of the doubt and the 8th commandment’s protections for themselves but are unwilling to put the best construction on their own Shepherd’s humanity.
The King demands settlement and accountability.
As Caesar, a mere trifling, passing, temporary “king” burned apostate Jerusalem to the ground (following in Nebuchadnezzar’s stead) so too the real King, the Holy Trinity, will at the Eschaton send all rejecting non-believers who have purposely walked away and absented themselves from the Wedding Hall into the burning perdition of hell’s destruction. Man’s city will be burned—but NOT YOU!
Hear the Good News! Christ the King’s Son, your Groom; Christ the King Enfleshed, was burned in God’s righteous anger and just wrath against sin—your sin—on the Holy Cross of Calvary, in your place and on your behalf. The Ox, nay, The Paschal Lamb was roasted for you and the meal is ready to be consumed through faith and through the mouth! The wedding banquet is served, the Table awaits, the Groom eager to serve now and in eternity!
The Jews were not willing; as many, many others are not willing. But His servants have gathered you; plucked you from the highways of the world; young, old, black, white, smart, dim, patient, anxious, SINNERS one-and-all, but hungry for Christ and trusting in Christ!
You no longer trundle off into the wilderness of Sinai or sin for you are not Cain bearing the mark of death. You are ushered into the hall and to the head-table because you bear the mark of Abel, of Abel the shepherd’s Good Shepherd…not Abel’s blood crying to the heavens for justice, but Christ’s Blood gushing upon you washing you clean; poured into your throats making you Holy and immortal. Your invitation by RIGHT—the Righteous One’s rightness credited to you by faith—is your Baptismal + garment of being washed in Jesus’ Blood and water. Since this is a family meal only those with the robe of Jesus, with the family + crest and the family + seal are admitted.
You are gently covered in His robe by His hands. He was bound hand and foot for you during His interrogation and torture. He was bound nail and spike to the wood of the cross so that you would swim free and breath peace in the wood of His font and the wood of His Church’s Nave; and that this day you would again eat from the wood of His altar the fruit of the wood of the Crucifix.
You are chosen---
In The Name of The Father and of + The Son and of The Holy Ghost