Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sermon October 12 - 18th Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 23 (Pentecost 18) – October 12, 2014
Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
St Stephen Lutheran Church
The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, STS
If you’re not hungry right now, I do not know what to do for you.
The Word of God should make our mouths water today.
Isaiah’s feast which God throws on Mount Zion,
to which all the nations are invited;
the feast of fat things and vintage wines.
David’s vision of God setting the table and filling his cup to the brim
even while David’s enemies rage about.
And, of course, Jesus’ image of the wedding banquet;
everything prepared for an epic blowout,
the celebration to end all celebrations –
the royal wedding.
The tables groaning with fresh fruits and cheeses,
and the centerpiece, the fatted calf,
having been prepared just for this moment,
and you are invited.
If you’re not hungry right now, I don’t know what to do for you.
It made me hungry just writing this.

Jesus says, ‘The kingdom of God may be compared to a king
who gave a wedding banquet for his son.’
So it should be obvious that we are not just talking about food, here.
The Word of God is filled with images for a reality
which cannot wholly be expressed in words.
The kingdom of God.
The place; or rather, the time,
when God is victorious over all sin, evil, and death.
The place, or rather, the time,
when God satisfies every need, reconciles every relationship,
brings all into a peace that passes understanding.
If you’re not hungry right now, I don’t know what to do for you.

The hunger for the kingdom of God is not the hunger of the stomach,
but sometimes we know it as an almost physical ache,
the ache of the heart in the midst of troubles;
the longing of the soul in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death,
the hope of the spirit for justice and mercy
in the midst of a world where both are in short supply.
It can be compared to the longing for someone to share your days and nights,
but it is more than that.
It can be compared to the desire to be entertained,
for a momentary escape from the cycle of life,
but it is more than that.

It can be compared to the desire for a cool breeze and a shade tree
on a hot summer’s day,
to the desire for a warm fire and a hot drink on a day when the world is frozen stiff;
to a restful night at the end of a long and exhausting day;
but of course it is more than that.
For people can be sated with food and drink,
can know the joys of the marriage bed,
can know every comfort and escape which human artifice can contrive,
and yet we’re always wanting more.
We cannot rest content until God is king;
until evil is no more,
the longing of our hearts is stilled,
and the goal of our existence is reached.
If you’re not hungry right now, I don’t know what to do for you.

The faith of the Christian is that Jesus is this goal of our existence.
Jesus came into the world, died on the cross, rose from the dead;
to establish the kingdom on earth,
to birth the reign of God’s justice and mercy.
God comes to us without blame, without judgment, with lovingkindness.
This kingdom of God is both now and then,
now in infancy; then brought to full maturity.
The feast of Jesus is the feast of Isaiah brought into our world,
and the feast of Isaiah will be the feast of Jesus brought to its full realization in heaven.
Jesus says to the woman at the well,
Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.
The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’

If you’re not hungry now, I do not know what to do for you.
But if we are to believe Jesus,
there are apparently some who do not hunger for this kingdom.
Perhaps we do not speak of those who have never heard the Gospel,
or who have grown up in another faith,
but of those who are content with the fulfillments of the world;
those who believe that the world they can see and feel
is all that there is.
It is indeed a mystery that abundance does not lead to satisfaction,
but instead a repetition and intensification of the cycle of desire.
We’re never satisfied; we’re always wanting more.
Jesus said to the woman at the well:
‘Those who drink of this water will thirst again.’

And so an amazing thing happens.
there are some who, invited to a wedding banquet,
the biggest shindig ever,
don’t feel they need to come.
would rather pursue their own interests
rather than celebrate with the rightful King.
When called to the feast to end all feasts,
they don’t have time.
they can only think of their anxiety for what will happen to their own.
They reject the messengers;
and if the message is too threatening,
they even do violence to them.
In the terms of the metaphor,
this is what happens:
In his righteous anger, the king destroys those who,
out of fear and hatred, refuse his generosity and his authority.

There is also the one who comes to the wedding banquet
without the requisite clothing.
We should not assume that this man is too poor to afford good clothes,
or is simply ignorant of the tradition,
and is unjustly treated.
Instead, he is the one who comes to the party,
but not to honor the king and his son,
not to share in the merrymaking,
but to simply get all that can be gotten.
This person’s very presence at the banquet without the robe of celebration
 is a calculated insult;
this one believes he can get away with anything.
In the terms of the metaphor,
he is thrown out of the party,
as a bouncer would eject a gate-crasher.

Aren’t there those who bristle at the suggestion
that there is more to life than can be seen or felt or experienced?
Aren’t there those who doubt the generosity of God
for they are constantly coveting that which they do not have?
Aren’t there those who are in the ‘god business’
simply for the money or power or fame
and have no desire to serve and obey God?
The violence in the parable
is simply another imaginative vision
of the fate of those whose desires will never be satisfied
because they have the wrong desires.
It is a warning, do not become like those
who overhear the music, but for whom it is a dull and indistinct babble;
who will smell the fatted calf, but who will never taste it.
Truly this would be an occasion for weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But for those who,
out of no merit of their own,
have been called to share in the feast,
for those who simply hear and respond to the invitation,
there is the joy of celebration, both of the feast that is now
and the feast that is to come.
Those who believe that the heavenly Father
knows what we need before we ask,
and seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
will know the gift of accepting the earth and its pleasures
as signs of the joy of the world to come,
and the gift of being able to suffer the loss of the joys of the world when they must.
For those who see, in Jesus of Nazareth,
the Son for whom the feast is given,
there is the joy of the promise of the peace of God
that passes all understanding.
There is the foretaste of the feast to come,
the meal of the Kingdom which fully satisfies us
even as it strengthens us to live the joyful life to which God has called us.

Are you hungry yet?
If you’re not hungry right now, I don’t know what to do for you.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
they shall be satisfied.’
Christ Jesus…became for us wisdom from God,
and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.’
Come, taste of the banquet of the Kingdom,
the joy which is beyond all joy.
Come, for all things are now ready.