Bible Passage: Matthew 22:8-14
Pastor: Pastor Berg
Sermon Date: October 15, 2017
It’s hard to turn down a good party, isn’t it? Our society, our culture loves to have parties. Any excuse to have a party and we’re going to have one. Parties are fun, they’re enjoyable! Parties are a time to enjoy the fellowship of people we like and like to be around. Parties are a time to partake of food and drink in a festive atmosphere. But, there’s different kinds of parties, aren’t there? The frat party across the street from Camp Randall is going to be different than the dinner party at the Edgewater. The birthday party for your niece or nephew is going to be different than the Super Bowl party at Buffalo Wild Wings. And yet, we all love a good party.
In fact, we love parties so much, that when we get married, the party afterwards is typically the most planned out and by far the most expensive part of the whole wedding! You’ve got the hall to rent, the caterer to hire, the bar tab to pick up, the DJ to reserve. The amount of money spent on the party is astonishing when you really think about it. But we don’t even blink, do we. We don’t even blink because we love to party, we love to celebrate especially on such a joyous occasion as a wedding.
For most weddings, you can’t just slap on your favorite pair of blue jeans and your old T-shirt. You’ve got to dress for the occasion. You’ve got to have the right clothes. I can remember the stress that my grandma felt about finding just the right dress for the family wedding. It’s amazing how much people stress over what they’re going to wear, often stressing more about that than the wedding itself. But our society and our culture has made this important.
It just so happens that I have an invitation addressed to all of you. It’s an invitation to a wedding reception. I’m sure that you mind if I read it for you since I know you’re all eager to find out the when and the where. Well, here are the glorious details. You’ve all been invited to the wedding reception of my Son. There’s no cover charge. Please, don’t bring any gifts. We want this to be our treat for you. We’ll be offering the finest of food and drink. Please join us in this wondrous celebration!
Sounds great doesn’t it? Sounds like the party of a lifetime, dare I say an eternity! You can’t wait to go, can you! Oh wait, I missed something down here on the bottom. P.S. We’ll provide your dress for the evening.
Boy! That sounds great, doesn’t it? The food, the fellowship the…whoa! Back up a second there…what does it mean “We’ll provide your dress for the evening?” Does that mean I can’t choose what I want to wear to the party? Does that mean there’s a dress code?
We don’t like to be told what to wear, do we? We never liked it as kids when our moms and dads picked out our clothes for us. We wanted to do it ourselves. It showed our independence. That didn’t change as we got older. We were always pushing the limits of whatever dress code there may have been. Can you imagine any bride agreeing to this arrangement? Don’t worry, we’ll pick out your dress for you? No way!
I can still remember this small town restaurant I visited once in a while. There was a girl I knew who worked there. And in order to work at this restaurant as a waitress, you not only had to know the menu by heart, you not only had to be able to list all of the specials for the day, you not only had to be able to name off every kind of salad dressing you offered; if you wanted to be a waitress at this restaurant, you had to wear the company issued uniform. “No big deal,” you say. It wasn’t until you saw the uniform. It was hideous. It was a pink dress with a flowery pattern that would have better served as cinchy wallpaper than for a dress. I can remember this girl being horrified at the idea of being seen in this dress. But, if she wanted to be a waitress and make the money, she had no choice but to wear the uniform. She had to wear the proper clothes, even if it was that hideous dress.
We don’t like to be told what to wear when it comes to clothes and neither does our nature. What you wear can really say something about who you are. Our nature revolts at putting on anyone else’s clothes but our won. We don’t want to wear someone else’s idea of what we should be doing. Isaiah tells us this is true when he says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” Instead of “putting on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet,” we’d much rather wear our own clothes, thank you very much. I don’t need someone else’s hand-me-downs. I’m perfectly capable of dressing myself. And so we try and dress ourselves with our own good deeds and our own efforts. You don’t think this is true? Then just think back a little bit. Why do you do some of the things you do? Is it always for God’s glory? Is it always done for the benefit of others before yourself? Is it always done in humility before a gracious God?
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. So go to the main crossroads and invite as many as you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those servants went out to the roads and gathered together everyone they found, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
The first set of invitations the King sent out to his banquet were ignored. The invitees didn’t even bother to RSVP. So, the master sent out his servants to personally tell those invited that the banquet was ready, but they still ignored the invitation. So, he sent them yet again and this time instead of just ignoring the servants, they harmed them and killed them. And in response they were rightfully destroyed by the King. After that, the King was determined to fill his wedding banquet and so he brought in anyone they could find, both good and bad. And that’s where we come in. The first group of invitees was the Jews. By and large, they rejected God’s invitation to come to his wedding banquet. And by and large, they were destroyed. God then turned his attention to the Gentiles. But, the requirements for getting into the banquet haven’t changed. We were brought in off of the street corner. We were invited in spite of our squalor! And yet, we still want to bring the filth of our own works into the banquet! And if we insist upon that; if we insist upon entering the heavenly wedding banquet wearing the clothes of our own works and deeds and efforts, then our fate will be the same as the Jews who rejected God’s invitation. Jesus tells us, “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wearing wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the servants, ‘Tie him hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Brothers and sisters, you’ve been invited to the wedding feast of heaven! You’ve been invited to spend the whole of eternity in God’s presence! Isaiah described it so beautifully for us! “On this mountain the Lord of Armies will prepare for all peoples a feast of choice food, a feast of the best wines, with the best cuts of meat, and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that covers all peoples, the burial cloth stretched over all nations. He has swallowed up death forever! The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face. He will take away the shame of his people throughout the earth. For the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said, “Surely, this is our God! We waited for him, and he saved us! This is the Lord! We waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation!” God has invited you! He has sent his servants to tell you that the feast is ready to be enjoyed! But what ever will you wear? Wouldn’t you know it, he’s provided the wedding clothes for you too! When Jesus came, he obeyed his Father’s will! This meant that he both actively lived according to God’s Law and he passively allowed himself to be sacrificed for your sins. That perfect obedience, that righteousness he earned he’s give to you in a very special way. He’s given you that righteousness as clothes to wear for the wedding. Isaiah describes this glorious gift in, wouldn’t you know it, wedding pictures: “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
“Jesus, your blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress!” we already sang this morning. Where do we receive such a wondrous dress? Paul tells us, “Indeed, as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Right here at the font, God took off the clothes of our sins and our imperfections and he covered us with the righteousness of his son! The traditional white robe that the child wears is a symbol of that righteousness. It’s a symbol of how that child has now been wed with Christ. As the Church is the bride of Christ, so now this child is apart of the Church, part of the bride! That’s why we even dress our little boys in those baptismal gowns, those miniature wedding dresses if you will, on the day of their baptism! It’s the dress we all wear. The robe of Christ’s righteousness covers over the filth of all our sins. It allows us access to the Father. And it’s that robe of righteousness that allows us to partake in the foretaste of the heavenly wedding banquet, as we receive our Savior’s body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins!
This morning, I’d like to close with a prayer, a traditional prayer of preparation for the Lord’s Supper. And as I pray, listen to the imagery. Appreciate that God, in his grace, has not only invited you to the fest, but he’s given you the proper clothes to wear. We pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, strip off from us the spotted garments of our flesh, and of our own righteousness, and adorn us with the dress of the righteousness that you have purchased with your blood. Amen.