Trinity 2 2009 Forss Wedding Anniversary

Trinity 2–Forss Wedding Anniversary
Luke 14:15-24
2009-06-21

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

Our Lord tells the parable of the great supper in response to the statement: “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God.”

That statement is not false, but it is wrong. Because it misses the point: Jesus is the Kingdom of God. Thus John the Baptist: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Which is to say: “Repent, because Jesus is here. God has come to us in our flesh. He has taken up our cause. He makes Himself a sinner in our place and endures all His Father’s wrath, all Hell can dish out. He is cursed, a worm and no man, weak and dying, easily abused and dismissed. His Baptism is not a washing but an infection. The water He is baptized with is filthy with our sin. Behold the Lamb for the slaughter, the One who goes in your place, the One for whom there is no substitute, no mercy. Be broken upon this Stone that you might be rebuilt by grace or be crushed in your refusal to honor the beggar King before you.”

The first point of the parable then is not that those who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of heaven are blessed, but that those who heed the invitation now, who eat the Bread of Heaven on earth are blessed. There is no other blessing. No one will eat then who does not eat now. Now is the hour of salvation. Cursed are those who reject the invitation of the King, who are too busy with this life to attend to their souls, who have little awareness of their sins or their need. Cursed are those who think there is time, that they can fend for themselves, that God will understand. Blessed are those who recognize the Kingdom in the weakness of Jesus’ suffering and dying and join Him now, here on earth, in the eating of His Body and the drinking of His blood.

Still, this is a hard lesson for our fallen flesh: God does not save us by works, because we have tried hard, done well, proved ourselves, and such. Even though it is unlikely, even if you really are somehow above average, it doesn’t matter. The second point of the parable is that those who are invited are unworthy. Jesus eats only with sinners. Blessed are the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, which is to say, blessed are the needy.

We are not wrong to look upon John and Carol with some awe. They’ve been married and faithful to one another for 60 straight years. They are righteous people. They come to hear God’s Word, to receive His Sacrament. They give alms. They confess the Truth. They place their lives in serve to others. They have never been, and are not now, free of sorrows, sickness, disappointments, or suffering. So what is the reward of all their righteousness, their many good works? The only reward in the Law is freedom from punishment. Being righteous in a civil way in marriage means that they haven’t suffered divorce, their children don’t hate them, their neighbors are kind to them, and such. There is great wisdom in how they have lived their lives. We rightly honor them for it. For they have learned to keep the Law, for the most part, in an outward way, and because of this they have enjoyed long life with each other and know something of the joys of family life.

The outward keeping of the Law is a good thing. It is what we are meant to do. Our fallen flesh needs the restrictions and discipline of the Law and its wisdom. Our fallen flesh knows nothing of the Gospel and is not motivated by it. An outward keeping of the Law is far better than lawlessness. But an outward keeping, which is the best we can do, does not make for much of a marriage. For a marriage to be truly satisfying, there must be sacrifice and forgiveness. Still, even with human sacrifice and forgiveness, all our wisdom is merely how to get along in this life. If that is all we have, an outward keeping and human love, we will never know what God really intends for holy marriage or for our lives.

Again blessed are the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. Blessed are the needy. Blessed are those like the harlots and tax collectors who know and feel their sins and repent of them. Cursed are those who think they are righteous. Because outward righteousness is not enough. And even so, who would dare even to claim that for himself? We can say that John and Carol are outwardly righteous, but they certainly would not say it of themselves. Because they know more than we do. They know their failures, their unkind words, and such. They are blessed in this knowledge. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of true wisdom.

The Kingdom of God is at hand. Come to the Feast, righteous and unrighteous alike. The Lord does not invited you out of desperation, but out of grace. The Lord is not far away in heaven looking down on us. He has taken up our flesh, has become a Man, a Sacrifice worthy of our sins, and has laid down His life for us. He is risen from the dead and has ascended to His Father on our behalf. He pleads our case. He points to the marks on His hands, feet, and side. He declares the unrighteous, the divorced, the regretful, the hurting, righteous, and that is not merely outward, but inward and ontological. God says you are righteous and you are. His Father hears and loves you. He sends the Spirit in the waters of Holy Baptism and makes His home with you. He is ascended but He is not departed. He is here in Word and Sacrament. He is present for you, on earth, in time, that you might be forgiven and taste of His grace. He counts you as righteous – whether you’ve been outwardly righteous or not. He presents you as His immaculate, pure, and holy Bride, His own beloved.

John and Carol have glimpsed this joy. They have had good days. But all their days on earth, even the best days, have been lived in the midst of sorrow. So it is for all of us, righteous and unrighteous, married, divorced, or life-long bachelors. In this you are like your Lord who suffered for the sins of the world. Your sins are forgiven, but sin still abides in your flesh and in this world, and sin causes you to suffer. The Law is good. It shows us the best way to live. It is wisdom. But it also accuses us. It exposes our sins, our failures, our selfishness. But your sins are forgiven. They have been borne away by the Lamb of God. Jesus became sin for us even though He is righteous. You are righteous even though you sin. Soon you will be relieved, lifted out of this body of death, the good work begun in you will be complete, and you will be no longer like Jesus the curse but like Jesus the ascended.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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