Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, AD 2021

Matthew 22:1-14; Ephesians 5:15-21

St. Paul tells you in the epistle lesson to “look carefully how you walk,” which is always good advice. It was a fun game when you were a kid to close your eyes and see how far you could get in your house without running into something. It’s not a good way to run your life. You usually run into something rather quickly.

To look carefully how you walk requires faith in the word of God. It is like driving with a GPS. Assuming it is true and programmed rightly it can get you where you need to be efficiently. It makes good use of your time. The Word of God, which is validated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is certainly this true guide. Yet often you may run on autopilot and drift off, like a badly-programmed Tesla that veers into oncoming traffic. For distractions occur.

Have you ever been driving long enough that you forgot where you were going? Or so distracted that you forgot what you were doing? The problem of sin is that although God has given to you many gifts and duties in life, you often forget why you had them in the first place. It’s not exactly like memory, where weakness may be expected over time, but it’s nobody’s fault. With sin your flesh wants to forget what God has put you here for, and the devil is happy to oblige any distraction toward that end.

Ultimately it comes down to this – there are two ways – a way that leads to life and one that leads to death. And you are on a timer. Thus St. Paul also says to look carefully how you walk, “not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Apply yourself to the time and realize what you are doing here, why God has put you here. Do not think you will have the good life here. Do not think that if you focus on yourself and bolstering yourself now you can work on what God wants in those better days. If you do so it will never get better. The devil will be happy to impede your work so things never go well and then you will suffer both now and in the life to come.

Seize the day – seize today as the day you will work to further the kingdom of God and benefit the church as far as you are able. No matter if you are rich or poor, man or woman, old or young, weak or strong, God has put you into a place where you can serve Him and the neighbors he has given you. The working of your faith is accepting your situation as it may be and still serving where God calls you.

Faith is the point of Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast. Faith is shown in trusting the word of God, who is the king in the parable. This parable has two parts. The first is before the feast is ready, where the invited guests are called in, and this corresponds to God’s call to the people of Israel to believe in the promise of the coming Jesus. The second part, after those people reject his servants, applies widely to our time, after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Still the need for faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the same.

That faith is in the proclamation of the wedding feast to which God has invited guests in all the world. He has cleansed them, clothed them, and comforts and confirms them so nothing is lacking. Yet many reject this. They chose the way of death over the way of life. Here you have the people of Israel as your example. As king sent out servants to proclaim the wedding, so the Lord sent out prophets to the people of Israel. By and large they rejected them each according to their own office.

Those who went into their field are like the priests who God appointed to lead people to faith, but instead preferred to work in their own field by making their own laws and obscured the announcement of Christ. Those who went into the businesses are those who were laymen and fathers who had a responsibility to hear the word and teach their children, but instead used their position to gain more and more money. And those who killed the prophets were those in power, tyrants who did not want to hear that there was a higher king than them, who killed the prophets, even up to John the Baptist.

These were ones who were not looking carefully where they walked. They had lost any guide. Rather than putting the word of God, the Ten Commandments, before their eyes, they sought other things. Priests became lawgivers obscuring Jesus. Fathers tended accounts instead of families. Kings became tyrants and murderers. The fundamental problem was that they did not trust the Word, the proclamation of the wedding sent by the king, but sought their own advancement wherever they were.

You know this is not right, because you can see it easily in others. You can see when others are greedy, or legalistic, or tyrannical. You can see when people fail to live by God’s commandments because it injures you. Yet do you look carefully where you walk? In the vocation where God has put you, do you keep the ten commandments before your eyes? Or do you think because you are in church, because Jesus loves everybody, you can continue wasting each day on yourself instead of for the benefit of the Kingdom of God?

God doesn’t let sin go unpunished. There is vindication for the servants who are treated badly as their oppressors are destroyed. So God destroyed Jerusalem, which persecuted Jesus and the prophets. Let this be a warning as you hear the call today.

The Lord now sends out messengers through the apostles and the heirs of the apostles: the pastors and the church. He calls all to come to His feast. He wishes You to come, be washed in baptism, take the garment of faith, and taste the Lord’s supper of strength and comfort. Yet the call goes out to the good and bad. Not everyone who his called into the feast is chosen.

Like the man found without a wedding garment, there are those who will come to the feast, who come to church, who are considered Christian, yet are found without faith. This is nothing different than those who rejected the call before. You cannot be a Christian and live your life as you choose for your own benefit. That is like the man without the wedding garment. He came to the feast but by not wearing the robe rejected the very reason for being there. The proclamation is for all, the feast is completely free, but it will not be squandered on those who wish to squander it. Many are called, but few are chosen.

So how do you get the wedding garment? How do you not squander what you have been given and stay out of the outer darkness? St. Paul says, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Wisdom is in the Word of God. The fool rejects this and follows his own will. Therefore, stick to the will of the Lord by knowing the Word of the Lord. Have the word before your eyes. Read your Bible and hear preaching. Direct your life according to the Ten Commandments with the Lord’s Prayer as your aid. Pray for yourself and for the church.

Faith is a trust in Christ which then shows, bears fruit, in actions. When preachers point to Christ as the savior, the one who died and rose for your sins, that is a sign of faith. When businessmen do not rob or cheat, but work honestly and generously for the good of the neighbor and the church first, that is a sign of faith. When fathers lead their families and teach their children, that is a sign of faith. When authorities encourage the preaching of the gospel and discourage evil that too is a sign of faith.

All these only come because of the forgiveness you received through the Word and Baptism, that pure white garment that covers your sin. Because you know Jesus has died and risen for you, there is no need to return to the field, the business, or attack the messengers. There is no fear in the call to the wedding. For the king in on your side. He has conquered sin and the devil. Therefore, to truly prosper is to come to him, to trust his way is best, and to look carefully how you walk, applying yourself to the time.

Rejoice, for not only has God given you this time, but in Jesus shown you the way in which best to use it. How can you not raise your voice in praise to Him, singing and making melody in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, giving thanks, and acknowledging His grace to you? It is truly meet and right so to do. Enter now his wedding feast, the Supper of the Lamb’s body and blood, wearing your garments of faith with hearts trusting in his words, “for the forgiveness of sins.” Amen.






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