Sermon 12.7.16 Midweek Advent 2

Pastor Walther  / Midweek Advent 2 / The Excitement of Wedding Preparation / December 7, 2016 / Matthew 22:1-13

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. “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.’ “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 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.’

    Looking into the eyes of her boyfriend, Sarah could tell something was wrong.  Her boyfriend, Joe, seemed sweaty and was stuttering. His hands were clammy.  His eyes were going back and forth between her eyes and the ground, her eyes and the ground, her eyes and the ground.  He was fumbling around putting his hands back and forth in his pocket. She was seriously thinking of grabbing her phone to call 911, thinking he was having a heart attack.  As she brought out her phone, Joe seemed to finally discover what he was fumbling around in his pocket for.  The look on Sarah’s face turned from fear and concern to immediate joy as Joe got down on one knee and proposed to her.  With that engagement ring, Joe was making a promise: a promise that a wedding was going to happen in the near future and that he would remain faithful to her as a future husband.  We were reminded last Wednesday in Pastor Frey’s sermon of that promise.
    But, almost as quickly as Sarah’s face had turned from fear and concern to joy seeing that he wasn’t having a heart attack but in fact was proposing, her face had in fact turned back to fear and concern, but it wasn’t because of Joe’s fictional health problems. Joe and Sarah were incredibly happy to be engaged but were no doubt a little scared and concerned with what came next: the task of wedding preparations.
    The question that any engaged couple often gets is, “How are the wedding preparations going?”  With my wedding coming up at the end of January, there are moments where Julie and I may seem cool and collected, but underneath the surface we are freaking out a little and could use a nap.  Wedding preparations are stressful, a lot of work, and sometimes the communication between all the different people is like herding cats, and if anything, Julie and I are trying to have a somewhat simple wedding.
    However, look at the preparations involved with this royal wedding as described in Jesus’ parable.  This king had so many facets to the wedding.  Many common Jewish weddings were celebrated for 7 days.  This royal wedding would go far beyond that.  You can see just how large this wedding was supposed to be based on the size of the meal. Oxen and cattle were butchered for this. I remember my family once purchasing a quarter of a cow, and the meat alone lasted us like a year if not more. So if you like meat, this wedding would have been your jam. Because there was so much food, the king no doubt invited a lot of people from his kingdom.  You also have to fit all of those people in a wedding hall that’s large enough. You also can’t just have people there without some ambiance.  So, I’m sure the king went with some music from the Rat pack of the first century, or a live band, or maybe some DJ traveling back in time.  Don’t get me started on the invitations! Can you imagine sending out thousands of invites, only to have to send a second round of invites? The cost alone makes you go crazy!
    And so we are often led to the question, why even bother with all these preparations for a wedding?  It’s because the wedding that a couple prepares for is exciting. The opportunity to see friends and family celebrate with us is exciting.  Being able to start off a marriage on the right foot of God’s Word is exciting.  An engaged couple prepare for all these things because they want people to be there and share in the excitement.
    That is why there needs to be the preparation of the invitations, because without the invitations, there wouldn’t be anyone to share the happiness with.  Yet with all the time and effort and labor of love spent with picking out invitations, maybe even making invitations, buying postage, sealing and sending envelopes, people receive that invitation differently. Have you ever received a wedding invite and were excited to celebrate? Have you ever received a wedding invite and would rather not go?
    That’s why Jesus gives to us this parable, but with a much deeper discussion than earthly weddings.  At that time, the marriage of God to his people in Israel was familiar to Jewish ears. Today as Christians, we see the marriage of Christ to his people of the church, where we will celebrate that marriage in heaven.  When we see the invite for this marriage of ours that God has placed into our laps, how do we respond? Are we excited or does it become a runaway bride situation?
    The Jews were the first to receive this wonderful invitation to be connected with God on such an intimate level. In fact, throughout the Old Testament, God would send invitation after invitation through the prophets. Unfortunately, they meant nothing to the Jews.  God’s wonderful plans of grace had never captivated their hearts.  The king had treated these men as nobles of his realm, but now we see how they regarded the king.
    So often we see that even today, we turn down the invitation to hear about the love of God and to be in worship. When we are given the law, pointing out our sin, we take offense rather than repentance.  Very similar to the situation with Israel where Gentiles were being included into God’s promise, you can’t help but see this on a national level where American Christianity is dropping off but rising in other countries like in China.
    However, we thank God that He loved us so much that He still wants us to be there in heaven to celebrate our wedding feast.  He isn’t going to let us say, “No” so easily, at least without trying again.  As we see in the parable, our God, like this king repeats his invitation after it has been turned down—a true picture of God’s repeated calls of grace.  That is a wedding we want to be at, one that we are truly wanted at, where we are the guests of honor! That is a marriage we want to be a part of.  That is a wedding invitation that we are excited to receive, because with that invitation is life eternal.  
    With all the preparation that God has put into this relationship and this wedding, we know that this will be an awesome wedding!  The price tag alone proves it. When you are told that a wedding you’re invited to is going to have a 6 course meal with a chocolate fountain, an amazing band, even childcare for parents with kids, you know the party is going to be off the hook, but also at a price.   Do you know how much an average wedding costs these days? About $27,000! That’s not even including the honeymoon! Can you imagine the cost to put a wedding on that we hear about in this parable, the cost for a royal wedding? The number would be absurd. But the preparation is important to the king and the cost isn’t because this marriage is important.  
    God sees us as a beautiful bride that deserves to have her wedding day! But the cost of that wedding invitation was extremely high. The invitation that God gives to us is sealed with blood, because this wedding cost him everything.  Jesus Christ laid down his life that you might simply come to this wedding.  He loves us that much, prepared or not! But his preparation and his excitement gets us so amped and so excited that we can’t help but wonder, how do we get prepared and what am I going to wear?
    We gotta look good. If we walked into a wedding from off the street, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, people would look at you silly.  But how do you look good when you are dressing for a king?  Your best clothes are like his work clothes. Your tux is a rental that other people sweated in. His tux is handmade with his name stitched in it and made from the finest of all fabrics.  So what do we wear to a royal wedding when we are far from royal and our wardrobe is lacking?
    It’s interesting that with many royal weddings in the ancient world, especially in the orient and as we see in this parable, by the command of the king and from his bountiful supplies, at the entrance of the wedding hall a wedding robe would be offered to each guest. So, no matter where they came from, both good and bad, everyone received a royal robe.  In this parable however, this one man had looked at his own robe, had perhaps lightly brushed it off with one hand, and had then told the attendant, my robe is good enough. I don’t need the one you’re offering me.  Do you see the connection to our lives here on earth and how we sometimes try to get into heaven? When we try to wear our own clothes, in other words, when try to wear our own righteousness and the good that we think we do to push ourselves up the spiritual ladder instead of putting on Christ’s righteousness, we disinvite ourselves spitting on the beautiful robes God has provided for us.  
    Yet, Christ in all his love as a committed husband does not forget about us or give up on us.  He continually reminds us of his love and his forgiveness.  I am in awe at the price that God is willing to pay for the preparation and the desire of bringing us to heaven.  That is an amazing demonstration of a loving spouse.  I’ll be honest, I’m not always reciprocating back to my Savior.  I go back to the thought that modern day weddings cost on average $27,000, and yet how much money do you think modern day couples spend on the marriage after the wedding day, often slim to none.  People worry more about preparing for the wedding than preparing for the marriage. Right there is just one of the many reasons for the divorce rate of today.  If God spent everything to give us everything, yet we invest nothing into the relationship, why would we expect anything but a failed marriage with God? But it is because of his love, his preparation, his excitement to share eternity with us that we get excited and want to prepare ourselves for this marriage.  The more we spend time with our beloved God in these sections of Scripture like this parable, we see how loved we truly are and how Christ is the one that prepares us for eternity!  Why bother with all these preparations?  It's because God knew that this marriage was important and wanted us to share in that awesome eternal excitement.  How are your eternal wedding preparations going? Amen.