Come To A Royal Wedding (Pentecost 21)


Come To A Royal Wedding

Some invitations you cannot turn down. Months ago there was a royal wedding in England. And part of the challenge for us over here in the USA is to recognize how huge of an event this was for them. To us, getting a seat at that wedding would be like getting season tickets to every Superbowl for the next 50 years. But all of these examples and illustrations are pretty wimpy compared to the invitation we read about here in God’s word. For the people that Jesus speaks about here in this story are people who are invited to a wedding for a king with power. In Matthew 22, we read: 1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.” (Matthew 22:1–5 NIV11-GKE)

What does God working in this world and through his word look like? It looks like a wedding. But not just a normal wedding. No, it’s the wedding a king puts on for his son. When a king sends invitations to that sort of wedding, who in the world could say no? And yet, in these words, that’s exactly what we see. The first group of people are personally invited through these messengers. And what was their response? They didn’t care.1 Again, they had a once in a lifetime opportunity. And they didn’t care. But there was another reaction from another group: 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7” (Matthew 22:6 NIV11-GKE) The second group cared—they cared enough to kill the messengers.

What happens next is not too surprising then, I suppose. We read: “The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (Matthew 22:7 NIV11-GKE) The king is angered and offended. So he brings justice to them and ends them.

The picture then shifts back to the wedding banquet. As the army is marching away to kill the murderers the meal is getting cold. So what does the king do? 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10” (Matthew 22:8–9 NIV11-GKE) Here we find an odd pattern. Would invite “anyone you could find” to your wedding? That would bring up so much room for someone to wreck your wedding. But that’s what the king does. But he does this with a context in mind. He says that the first group of guests were not worthy.2 In that context he sends his servants out inviting anyone they could find. And so we read: 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew 22:10–13 NIV11-GKE)

The servants went out and found both good and bad people. And it showed. For the king went into his banquet hall to look at his quests. And he found one who was not wearing clothes appropriate for a wedding. Now whether the expectation was a fancy and expensive clothing or just that the man would take a shower and put on his best clothing, we don’t know. The context is clear though that what everyone expected, he didn’t wear. The king throws him outside where there is darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth. And what was the reason for this? Jesus concludes with these words: ““For many are invited, but few are chosen.”” (Matthew 22:14 NIV11-GKE) Many, many people were invited to the wedding. But few would end up at the wedding with the right attitude and right understanding.

So, my dear friends in Christ, how do we make sense of this parable and apply it to our every day lives? With these words Jesus exposes our sin. Each of us has a standing invitation to the wedding banquet in heaven and a foretaste of that every Sunday. And Jesus exposes sin in these words. But he does so from the outside in. When Jesus invites people to be at his wedding supper in heaven, he invites everyone. Some will receive that invitation and will not care. Others will receive that invitation and will care enough to try and kill Jesus and those who follow him. But Jesus quickly narrows down to the one who sins in a far more subtle way. He narrows in on the man who should have known about the wedding clothes, but was speechless. And we can see ourselves in his very own example. Like the man without the wedding clothes, our temptation is to conclude that God should be content with our stinky sins like the king should have been content with the unshaved, un-showered man who sat there eating his food. We face the temptation to conclude that our sins really aren’t that bad. And God above and those around us should have to be content with them. In short, our sin is not wrestling against sin and instead being quite at home with sin.

But the other temptation is just as bad. We face this real sin to not rejoice at the wedding we have an invitation to. Each of us has an invitation to the wedding supper there with Jesus and all the saints in Christ who have gone before us. That should fill us with enough joy that we willingly get up, get showered, get to church, stay awake with joyful eyes as we sing our hymns and hear those sermons. But so often the cares of our every day life crowd out our joy of being there at the wedding in heaven.

This parable is a challenging one because it is one that exposes our sin, again and again. This is not the sort of parable where you can read it, close your bible and then say to yourself, “Well isn’t that a nice part of God’s word.” No, these words stab us and shock us. For each of us wants to not wrestle against our sin and have everyone in the world be content with our sins. And each of us should find joy in this picture and promise of a wedding in heaven. But we don’t have that joy.

If you are looking for good news in this parable, it’s there. You just need to look a little farther. In this parable the murderers are the ones who are killed. In reality, Jesus is the one who is killed to pay for sinners. In the parable we see that we, just like the man without wedding clothes, expect those around us to be content and sometimes even approve of our sin. But Jesus wrestled against sin and temptation. And instead of finding room in his heart for that sin, he said “no” to it. And he did this for each and every one of us. In this parable we see so many people who fail to rejoice at the prospect of going to a wedding, and through them we see the same in ourselves too. But what does Jesus do? A little later on in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says: “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”” (Matthew 26:29 NIV) Jesus doesn’t just tell us that there will be a wedding banquet in heaven, what does he do? He gives us a foretaste of that wedding banquet right here and now in the Lord’s Supper. He does this both to forgive our sins and to whet our appetite for the perfect wedding supper in heaven. And finally, in the final verse, what does Jesus do? He chooses us, unworthy as we are, he chooses us and gives us a place there in heaven with him. And all of this is his work, not ours.

With all of this in mind then, Jesus gives to you an invitation: Come to the royal wedding. You are ready for the royal wedding on the last day. But until that day comes, continue to wrestle against your sins and repent of them. And cling to Jesus who hasn’t just invited you. He has also chosen you. Amen.

1 “ⲁⲙⲉⲗⲏⲥⲁⲛⲧⲉⲥ” (Matthew 22:5 GNT-WAS)

2 “ⲟⲩⲕⲏⲥⲁⲛⲁⲝⲓⲟⲓ” (Matthew 22:8 GNT-WAS)

What Will You Wear? (Pentecost 20)


What Will I Wear?

What am I going to wear today? This is the time of the year that we ask that question. On any given day here in Minnesota it can go from 40 degrees to 80. And so, what are you going to wear? Layers: that’s the answer. But my dear friends in Christ, just as you get up in the morning and ask yourself that question when it comes to what you wear on the outside, God’s word also invites us to ask the same question to what we wear on the inside. In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us: “to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires,” (Ephesians 4:22 CSB17)

Before we can put on a new and good piece of clothing, we have to take off the old clothing. Paul uses a number of words that we may not be familiar with. So it’s good for us to have a closer look at them. Paul uses the phrase, “old self.” Way back at the beginning, Adam and Eve sinned. And through that sin, their sin is now handed down to us. There is an old self, and old person that does not know who God is—and what that old self does know about God, it hates. And no amount of pretty words or persuasion will win it over to Christ. And Paul here in these words gives us a reason why: our old self loves lies and is continually being corrupted by those lies. And that too is a powerful picture. Have you ever had rotting food thrown at you? If you had rotting food thrown at you, you’d take your clothes off. But the picture Paul has here is even worse. You don’t just have rotten food on your clothes. Instead, your clothes are rotting continually. And Paul could use many examples of how this is true. But the one he lifts up here to look at is our lies. Each of us lies, and sad to say, loves our lies. And we know this because we keep doing what brings us harm: we keep lying. This is a huge dilemma. What then is the solution? 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:23–24 CSB17)

So you have an old self. That’s bad news. But what’s the good news? Alongside the old self, God has created in you through the power of his word and through the gift of baptism a new self. Well, what is this new self? It’s a new heart, a new attitude. It’s flows from God’s likeness and God’s image. Now here is where we need to set aside time to talk about this very important phrase in the bible, “the image/likeness of God.” The phrase, “the image/likeness of God” is used in two ways in the bile. First, it is speaking about the fact that even after the fall into sin, we are able to use our brains in areas subject to reason. I can choose which shoes or pants to wear each morning. But there is a second way in which this phrase is used. And that’s the way Paul is speaking about it here. The image or likeness of God is being on the same page with God. It’s having and enjoying God’s righteousness and holiness. It’s not earthly reason; it’s heavenly purity. If you like pictures, think of the likeness of God like a car on the side of the road. When I grew up in MT, you could see on the side of the road old rusted out cars. And if you asked the question, “is that a car or not,” you could end up with two different answers. It has the outer shell and frame of a car. If you knew about old cars you could even say what make and model it is. But if you asked a different question, “what use is it,” you would have a different answer. All it can do is sit there and rust. After the fall into sin, humans have the ability to use their brains. But that’s like the frame on a rusting old car. It cannot do anything good in spiritual matters. In the really important ways we have lost the likeness of God. When we come into this world we cannot approach God. In fact, we do not want to approach God. We, on our own, in our old selves, run away from God and his goodness because we love our lies. But what happened to us then? We ran away from God. But God ran after us. And he created faith in our hearts and gave us a new person alongside the old. And since we have this new self, what should we do with it? God’s word tells us: 25 Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the devil an opportunity. 28 Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.” (Ephesians 4:25–28 CSB17)

God has clothed you in his likeness. What should we do then? Wear it. Wear his likeness in your new self. God was the one who chose to give us his likeness in our new selves. But now we are the ones who get up every day and choose to wear it or not. These words are piercing and powerful if you think them through. Every day and many times in a day we have the choice to put on our new self, clothed in God’s likeness, or put on the old self, rotting away in lies—every day. What this shows us is that our repentance isn’t just an idea, it’s also a fact. It’s not just an emotion; it’s also an action. Years ago I remember seeing a little child who took his brother’s piece of candy. The mommy made sure that the child knew that it was wrong to steal. And the mommy made the child say those words to his brother, “I am sorry.” And the boy said the words. But when she then told the boy to give back the candy to his brother, what did he do? He did nothing. Repentance isn’t just an idea. It’s also an action. God gives to us this new self. And this new self clothes us in Christ’s righteousness in two ways. First, when God looks at us he doesn’t see our lies that rot away our souls. Instead, he sees Christ’s perfect truth in our place. He sees our forgiveness. Second, This new self is no longer a slave to sin like the old self loved to be. No, this new self belongs to our Triune God and follows him. And so Paul can say, “if you lie, don’t lie anymore’” and “the one who stole, let him pay it back.” For this new self in us isn’t an idea. It’s a reality. And my brothers and sisters in Christ, this is wondrous, good news. For if you wrestle with temptations of lying, laziness, lusting, stubbornness, and selfishness as I do, then know where this comes from: your old self. But also know that you have a new self. And this new self is powerful. This new self is made in God’s likeness. And that means Christ’s holiness covers our sin. And that means we are no longer slaves to the sins that affect and infect us.

So my dear friends in Christ, every day, especially at this time of the year, choose what you will wear on the outside. But also choose what you will wear on the inside. Don’t put on the old self that’s like wearing rotting flesh full of lies. No, instead, wear what Christ has clothed you in. Wear you new self, created in God’s likeness. Amen.

Pentecost 18a


What Heals Hypocrisy?

Iwould not want to be in his shoes.Right now in our nation history is happening. There is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. And our nation is holding hearings to see if a man by the name of Brett Kavanaugh is going to sit on the Supreme Court. And, out of all the places I would not want to sit, his seat would be the place. Imagine what it would be like to be in a room full of people who do not like you and, instead of listening to you, many of them want to find fault with you. But my dear friends, the same, if not even worse is happening in our gospel for this morning. Jesus is in a room. And everyone in that room is just waiting for him to slip up so that they can find a reason to put him to death. I would not want to be in his shoes. But that is exactly where the Holy Spirit places us this morning. In Luke 14, we read: 1 One Sabbath, when he went in to eat at the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they were watching him closely. 2 There in front of him was a man whose body was swollen with fluid. 3 In response, Jesus asked the law experts and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they kept silent. He took the man, healed him, and sent him away. 5 And to them, he said, “Which of you whose son or ox falls into a well, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” 6 They could find no answer to these things.” (Luke 14:1–6 CSB17)

Jesus is invited to a banquet. And at the banquet is the most powerful people of the land. It’s the rulers of the Pharisees who are there. And there in front of Jesus is a man who has a disease that makes his body swell up with water. And all of the Pharisees are there looking at Jesus so that they can trap him.1 And Jesus does exactly what they wanted him to do. He heals the man who so desperately needed to be healed.

But then what does he do? He tells them a little story. He says that if any of them had their son or ox fall into a well, all of them, each of them would get down into that well and get him out—even if it was on the Sabbath. And when he says this, they cannot give him any sort of response. They cannot respond to him at all—this entire room full of experts in God’s word. Why? They know he is right. He exposed their hypocrisy. And their solution to their own hypocrisy is first to “fake it till you make it.” And then, when that didn’t work, the solution was to kill the one who was exposing their hypocrisy.

But before we move, on, instead of looking at the Pharisees, let us look at ourselves for a moment. All of us, each of us has the same hypocrisy inside of us that needs to be revealed and then healed. Each of us says, “I love Jesus” here at church and in our hearts at home. But what’s the problem? We are hypocrites. We say, “I love Jesus”, but I know more names of the Vikings line up than I do names of Jesus’ disciples. I love Jesus, but not enough to actually pick up a bible and read it. I love Jesus, but I’d rather spend time studying my fantasy football league than in bible study class with my pastor. I love Jesus, but I don’t speak like one who loves Jesus. In every place I’ve served as a pastor I’ve joined a gym. And in each place I’ve lived there’s always that guy who has that T-shirt that says he believes in Jesus. But then, inevitably, he is the guy who uses more four-letter words than men just getting out of the merchant marine. And I too fall into the same trap. When I go home from church with my collar on and stop at qwik trip to get gas. I go in to pay for the gas and there’s this shocking moment where I say to myself, “Oh yeah, you’re wearing a collar. Make sure that you act like a pastor.’” A Christian should never have to remind himself to act like a Christian. That should happen naturally. Jesus says these words so that we all—each of us would know that we are hypocrites. But, my dear friends in Christ, What heals our hypocrisy? Jesus answers that question in the words that follow: 7 He told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. 9 The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. 10 “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”” (Luke 14:7–11 CSB17)

What heals hypocrisy? Notice how Jesus approaches that question and problem. He sets aside the time carefully and compassionately teach them, who as professors and experts should know this already. And he uses what everybody could see right in front of them. There was this weird game that everyone there played. Each of them was trying to wiggle and wrangle themselves into the most important place to sit. So what does Jesus do? Jesus first lets them know that sinful logic always proves itself to be false. If you try to “fake it till you make it,” the truth will come out. When you sit in the place that belongs to someone else, someone will come along and see that and tell you to get to the back of the line. And Jesus says, that when you go to the back of the line, you will stay there.2

Sinful logic always shows itself to be wrong. But godly wisdom always shows itself to be right. He tells them that if, instead, they take the lowest seat, the master of the house who invited them will see them, go over to them, call them, “friend,” and then have them sit at a higher place.

Look at what Jesus is doing: He is letting them know that there is a solution to their hypocrisy. And that solution is humility. But my dear friends in Christ, that’s where these words leave us. But that’s not where we can leave these words. For we have a very important question to ask: If we cannot get rid of our hypocrisy, are we able to, on our own, just instantly and magically become humble? The answer is: no. Jesus is not speaking these words to these experts so that they can easily conclude that all that have to be is humble. No, instead, he’s showing that the humility that they need—the humility that would heal their hypocrisy, is what Jesus has.

And my dear friends in Christ, the same is true for us. It’s easy to say, “Just be humble.” The problem is that we are sinful. And just was we are full of hypocrisy, we have no humility in and of ourselves. Instead, we need to look to Jesus. Yes, it is true that humility heals hypocrisy. But that humility is not our own. Only Jesus’ humility can heal our hypocrisy. And isn’t that exactly what we see here in these words? Who of us would show the kind of humility that Jesus shows here? Jesus goes into a room full of people who want to put him to death. And he humbly puts up with it. And when he sees this man who is in such pain because of this disease, he reaches out, touches him and heals him in such perfect humility. And after he shows the experts their hypocrisy, instead of leaving the room, he reaches out to them to show them that the humility that they need is only found in him. And then he takes that humility with him all the way to the cross and dies like lamb lead to the slaughter.

So then, my brothers and sisters in Christ, take to heart the teaching that Jesus was trying so hard to teach to these experts. What heals your hypocrisy—all the times you tried to fake it will you made it and then tried to bury anyone who exposed your hypocrisy—what heals that hypocrisy is humility. But not your own. It’s Christ’s humility that heals you. For his is the only humility that can pay for your sin. And the Holy Spirit that he sends is the only one that can give to us real, true, genuine humility—the sort of humility that cannot be forced or faked. My dear friends in Christ, you need healing for your hypocrisy. And that healing is humility—But not your own. Christ’s humility heals your hypocrisy. Amen.

1 “ⲡⲁⲣⲁⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩⲙⲉⲛⲟⲓ” (Luke 14:1 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲁⲣⲝⲏ… ⲧⲟⲛⲉⲥⲭⲁⲧⲟⲛⲧⲟⲡⲟⲛⲕⲁⲧⲉⲭⲓⲛ” (Luke 14:9 GNT-ALEX)

Pentecost 17


Can I Just Get By?

I‘m in it to win it. Our family used to watch the TV show, “The biggest loser.” And that was a phrase you’d hear again and again. With that phrase they were telling everyone who would listen that they were not in that competition to just get by. No, instead, they were pouring all of their ability and all of their effort. If you asked them the question, “Is getting by an option,” they would say “no.” This morning God’s word makes us ask the same question, but not about losing weight. Instead, the Holy Spirit asks us that question when it comes to life itself. When it comes to our lives, it it possible for us to just get by? This morning we continue wehre we left off last week with Elijah and the widow. We read: 17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”” (1 Kings 17:17–18 NIV11-GKE)

In these words we see a woman who was desperately just trying to get by. Her life was a tragedy. She had lost her husband. And she had lost the family income. And she thought she and her son would starve. And then, out of nowhere this man of God showed up and her family was fed…every day. But then the Lord brought such immense pain into her life out of nowhere. Here she is, she just manages to keep her family alive by having enough food to live on day by day and then what happens? Her son gets sick and then dies. And there’s the irony: she has food. But all the food in the world couldn’t keep her son from dying.

And when her son dies, amidst all her pain, she asks the same question we would ask: why? Why did the Lord who, up to that point, had gave her son food now give her son death? And the only logical answer she can arrive at is that God is angry with her. God has changed his mind. She concludes that she had sinned in the past. And God never really forgave and never really forgot. Here she is: a woman who just wanted to get by. And the Lord would not let her. But she’s not the only one. We read: 18 have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” 19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”” (1 Kings 17:18–21 NIV11-GKE)

The widow isn’t the only one who is traumatized by the boy’s death. Elijah is too. Remember that this woman and this boy was Elijah’s congregation and his sort of adopted family. He looked at her like did a sister. He looked at this boy as an adopted, closely-held nephew. And in his heart too, he was just wanted their lives to go back to the way they were. So he prayed to God to make it that way.

Now my dear friends in Christ, is what Elijah did good or bad? The simple answer is that what Elijah did was both good and bad. It was bad in that he was a prophet of the Lord. This was a family that he was close to and shared God’s word with for hours every day. If this boy died believing in the Lord and it was clear that the Lord was the one who had put him to death, then Elijah should have been content with the Lord’s actions. But Elijah wanted their lives to go back to the way they were. They were just getting by. And that was ok with him.

But, also, my friends, don’t think too harshly against Elijah. For he took the same action our Savior did. In our gospel for today when Jesus comes face to faith with death—and even worse, the death of a child, he is filled with compassion. Elijah did the same. For, my dear friends in Christ, death is not normal. And death is not natural. Death is an effect of the fall into sin. Both Elijah and the widow, each in their own way, wanted to just get by. But my dear friends, what did their Lord want? 22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” 24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”” (1 Kings 17:22–24 NIV11-GKE)

The Lord did not want them to just get by. And, my dear friends in Christ, he does not want you to just get by. The Lord answered Elijah’s prayer not so that they could just get by and that their lives would go back to the way they were. No, it was for a different reason. The apostle Paul speaks about that in our second reading this morning: 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21 NIV11-GKE)

Your life is not about just getting by. Your life is not about settling for survival. You do not need a God that just ignores your sin. No, instead you need a God that forgives your sin—even if you are not able to forgive yourself.. You do not need a God that just forgives your sin. You need a God that forgets your sin—even if you are not able to forget. You do not need the sort of God that this widow was willing to settle for: a god that would provide for her body. No, you need a God who will provide for your body and your soul. You do not need a God who will just keep your home safe here now. No, you need a God who will keep your home safe here and give you an eternal home hereafter. Your Savior Jesus does not let you settle for survival. If we ask the question, “Can I Just Get By,” the answer is “no.” For our Savior has told us “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV11-GKE)

But my dear friends, the full life is not what you hear from many popular preachers on TV. The full life comes with hardship and tragedy. The same Savior who says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” is the same one who says, “anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27 NIV) So my dear friends, your life is not about “just getting by.” If that is how your are living your life, you are missing what the Lord was teaching the widow through Elijah. Our Lord gives to you the full life now and forever. But he does so amidst hardship even as he overcomes hardship. Amen.