Sunday, October 13, 2013

Everything Is Ready

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity
October 13, 2013
One thing about Jesus, He can tell a story. Some of His parables are beautiful pictures of the grace and love of God. They come to mind when we want a picture of what kind of love God has for us and how He loves us. The prodigal son, the shepherd seeking out the one lost sheep, and so on. Today’s Gospel reading presents to us a rich, beautiful picture with a king and the lavish feast he prepares for his guests. It’s a marvelous image of all that God prepares and His gracious invitation.

But there’s something about this parable that is jarring. If you’ve ever been to a family gathering and relatives began arguing, it certainly mars the occasion. The Church is a family, and it’s sad to say, but things such as voters’ meetings sometimes have brother and sister Christians treating each other in very un-Christian ways.

This beautiful picture of the wedding feast of the king for his son is marred by the callous rejection of the invitees. It’s not just that they said, “No thanks, we have other things going on,” it’s that some of them made sport of their refusal. And what is sport to some is heinous by most peoples’ standards. Some of those invited to the feast “seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.” What is going on here? Why such a horrific reaction to a gracious invitation?

And if this beautiful picture of the wedding feast and gracious invitation doesn’t come to a jarring halt with the actions of those who were invited, we are further jolted by the response of the king. “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” What should have been a joyous event turned into a murderous spree and the king responding in kind, putting the murderers to death and burning their city.

The thing about parables is that they’re stories. Stories come in two kinds. There are ‘true stories,’ as they’re often called, stories about actual events. And then there are fictional stories, or as some like to refer to them, ‘not real.’ Even so, fictional stories, that is, stories that don’t recount actual events, often are told for the purpose of delivering truth. The events recounted may not be actual, but the truth conveyed by the telling of the events is most definitely real.

This ultimately is why Jesus is such a good story-teller. It’s not just that He’s good at telling stories, and He is. It’s that what He is bringing across in the telling of the stories, is the truth. And it’s not just stuff that’s true. It’s the Truth, as in capital T truth. He is telling His parables in order to proclaim to us the ultimate truth of the Gospel.

That’s the reason why some of His parables end up being so jarring. Why we have regular people responding to an invitation with murder. Why we have the king dealing with that response with putting them to death. Why when the wedding feast is finally filled with guests, there’s a man who has no wedding garment and the king throws him out into utter darkness, where there is eternal torment.

This kind of stuff doesn’t sound like Gospel to us. Somewhere deep down we wish these kinds of things didn’t roll off the tongue of our Lord Jesus Christ. We’d much rather hear the good stuff, the beautiful portrayals of God’s rich grace and mercy and love. We’d rather not have to come to terms with the murdering stuff, and the casting out into eternal darkness stuff. Where’s the Gospel in that? Where’s the love? Where’s the grace?

It’s in this. It’s in Jesus’ brilliance as a story-teller. You can be a great story-teller and still not tell the ultimate truth. When Jesus tells His story it’s always about the ultimate truth. It is the Gospel. The Gospel is pure grace. The Gospel is the pure love of God. It is the pure giving of all blessings on the part of God with no conditions attached to it.

The sad fact is, and this why Jesus speaks the way He does, is that some people reject this pure Gospel. Some people want nothing to do with the grace of God. Some disdain the pure love of God and His gifts and blessings. Jesus knows this. He knows that we sinful people are inclined to disregard the love of God. He knows this and so He speaks to it. His beautiful picture of the grace of God is marred, so to speak, by the brutal details of rejection and murder and casting into utter darkness, because we sinners mar His gracious invitation of eternal glory.

Jesus is not afraid to speak the truth. He does it because it’s His love for us that drives Him to be utterly honest with us. He has prepared a lavish feast and we so often disdain it. That’s why He speaks as He does about the brutal details. This is His warning to us. It is His making us aware that we shouldn’t take lightly the gracious invitation God extends to us. It is to our eternal peril if we do.

The only way the Gospel can be given is with another message first given. It is the Law. The Law is the opposite of grace. The Law is not a message of a gift given, but of demands that must be met. It is the message that you do not meet that demand. It is the message that you are therefore under condemnation. That’s jarring, there’s no doubt. It’s not what we want to hear. We want to go straight to the part that sounds good. But Gospel apart from Law is no Gospel.

On the cross Jesus dealt with the demands of the Law. In other words, Jesus didn’t just die because that was part of the plan. Jesus suffered on the cross for the very purpose of meeting the demands of the Law. What God demanded of you He exacted of His Son. What God rightfully ought to have demanded of you, He laid on His Son. And when the righteous holy wrath of God was assuaged in forsaking His only-begotten Son, His only-begotten Son declared, “It is finished.” The sin of the world was paid for. The atonement of God with the world was accomplished. The peace of God toward the crown of His creation shone brightly. God and man were now at peace. Jesus Christ accomplished it all. The proof of this was the resurrection of Christ. In rising from the grave, God was saying, “What My Son accomplished in suffering and dying is good for every person for all eternity.”

It is finished. It is accomplished. It has all been done. Everything is ready. There’s nothing left to do but prepare a Feast. A rich feast. An eternal feast. A feast so lavish that it defies description. Perhaps the best that can be done is what Christ Himself did in saying, simply, “Everything is ready.” Everything, as in, there is nothing else that is needed, or can be done, or might need to be worked out somewhere down the line, or that you might have to worry about at some point. If you want to know what you need to know for your sin and how God has dealt with it, look at the cross and Jesus’ words, “It is finished.” These words flow right into the King’s words, “Everything is ready.”

All you need to do is, well, nothing. I suppose you could say that you need to enjoy it, and rejoice in it, and give thanks for it, and believe that it’s true. You might point out that it would be a good thing to marvel at the amazing invitation of God to participate in such a feast. But none of that wouldn’t really be doing anything, would it? No, it couldn’t be, because, as Jesus said, “Everything is ready.” Everything has been done. All has been accomplished, and you simply get to enjoy it.

It is the Eternal Feast. It is eternal glory in the presence of God. You don’t experience it in the fullness of this glory yet, because your Lord has not returned in glory yet. That will come in His own good time. In the meantime, every time at this His Table He prepares His Feast for you it is this Feast of everlasting glory. When you partake of this Feast, partaking of His body and blood, you are participating in this Feast with angels, archangels, and countless Christians who have gone before you, the whole company of heaven. You are participating in it in the fullness of its blessings even as it is not in the fullness of its glory. And yet it is nevertheless a foretaste of the Feast to Come.

Every time He prepares His Meal here for you, His invitation is the same: everything is ready. There’s nothing you need to do. You don’t have to bring something with you or think of something nice you can do for Him. In repentance and humility you see that your sins make you very undeserving of this rich and lavish gift. But your Lord tells you that it is for these sins He gives you this rich and lavish gift, forgiving your sins in it.

Jesus tells it straight. Our sins require that. If you want to hear Him speak of His grace and love, consider the prayer we prayed in the Collect of the Day: “O Lord, grant to Your faithful people pardon and peace that they may be cleansed from all their sins and serve You with a quiet mind.” It is through pardon and peace. It is through being cleansed from our sins. Only then may we serve our Lord with a quiet mind. And when we wonder, how exactly does this happen? How do I know it’s real, because I don’t necessarily feel it, and I sometimes have doubts about it. There is a way we end every Collect, and it’s almost always the same: “through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” How? It is through Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Lord. He lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

This is the God who extends His invitation to you, here at this altar often, and for eternity in heaven, “Come, for everything is ready.” Amen.


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