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Trinity 20, 2018. Matthew 22:1-14. Witnessing.

October 17, 2018 Leave a comment

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 22:1-14 (Is. 55:1-9)

October 14, 2018

 

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Isaiah foretold the day when God’s people would build up, raise up, repair the ruined cities and the desolations of many generations.

 

Happy words when you see destruction and decay around you.  And we do.

 

But Isaiah did not say that the people of God would summon the will and the energy and go out to build up what had been ruined, what was falling down.  Isaiah said the Spirit of the Lord would be poured out on the servant God would send, and He would come and preach good news to the poor and the opening of the prison to those in darkness, in prison.  And being set free from prison, the people of God would go out and repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.

 

All of this is good news.  Isn’t it?  What would you like to see rebuilt, raised up, that now is destroyed, falling down?  Is it your church?  Is it this town of Joliet, or other places like it?  Is it your country?  Is it your family?

 

And you probably have at least some idea what it would look like for your family, your church, your town, your country, if it were raised up and repaired.  Probably, hopefully, your ideas about what “rebuilding” would look like involve greater conformity to the law of God.

 

We think that America would be a better place if people worked harder and thought about other people and not just themselves.  If they worked hard to provide for themselves and their families.  If they got married before they started making families, and once married, they stayed together; and if we taught our kids that men should only women and vice versa.  And that if people make a baby they don’t want, they should let it live.

 

This is the way most of us think, and we are right to think this way, because God commands all these things. And that is the heart of it all.  We think that things would be better if people believed in our God, and worshipped Him.  If this was a nation that went to church like it was once.

 

But here’s something we forget.  It’s important for us to remember this today.

 

The people on the other side of these issues also want to see a better world.  A better world, a better country, probably a better Joliet.  They may want it even more passionately than you do.  They may work harder than you do to make the better world come.

 

“Yeah, but God agrees with us about how the world should be.”

Yes.  And no.

 

God stands behind the ten commandments, that is true.  But fifty years ago, one hundred years ago, when people didn’t live together unmarried, and abortion was illegal, and churches were fuller than they are now, people still didn’t obey the ten commandments.  There was what Martin Luther called “civil righteousness”—an outward adherence to God’s commandments.  And this had some value.  But people still hated each other.  People still cheated each other, coveted one another’s property and spouse; they still went to war, and people hungered and died of disease.  People honored God with their lips while their hearts were far from Him.  There were benefits to this outward righteousness.  But it was still a world subject to decay, corruption, and death, because sin was still alive in the world fifty years ago.

 

You can work to get back the world of fifty years ago or a hundred years ago, but that is not the world that God is aiming at and that He promises that His people will have the joy of building together with Him.

 

That world does not come by political action or revolution.  Or by voting.  Or by volunteer work.  Or even by spreading God’s Law.

 

It is a work of God.  We say in the Creed that we believe in the life of the world to come.  We believe in everlasting life, but also “the world to come” will have life.  The Bible talks about it as “the new heavens and the new earth.”

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.  And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  (Revelation 21:1-5)

 

That better world is God’s Work alone.  You can beat on the Supreme Court doors forever, but the Supreme Court can’t give it to you.

 

And if the Supreme Court makes abortion illegal—and God grant that it does!—but even if it does, the world won’t be made whole.  I’m not preaching that we should not vote and be active in politics to uphold the ten commandments in our country’s laws.  But I’m saying that if we give all our attention to that, we are overestimating human ability and underestimating sin contrary to the law of God.  The Law of God is good, righteous, and holy, but people are not by nature, nor are they made righteous and holy by the Law of God, much less by the civil law.

 

The life of the world to come is God’s work alone.  Since He does it, entrance into it does not come by beating on the doors of the Supreme Court and getting it to make laws that allow homosexuals to marry or forbidding them to marry.  Entrance into the life of the world to come, the paradise of God restored, is by invitation only. 

 

And the message of the Gospel reading is that God sends out the invitation to this new world, to this wedding and its attendant feast, in a perfectly non-discriminatory way.

 

Which is amazing, because that isn’t how anything works.  People always invite their friends and family to their weddings.  They don’t give their money and their inheritance to strangers; they give it to their children.

 

And at the very least, justice demands that you give good things to the deserving.  People still understand this today.  Bad people should not be treated the same as good people.  Even people who don’t believe in God say that.  (We just don’t agree on what makes a person bad or good.)

 

But the Gospel reading cuts through all of this.  The King calls the guests who have been invited to his son’s wedding feast, but they won’t come.  So then he sends his servants to bring in whoever they find on the street.  And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good.  (Matt. 22: 10)  The king sends his servants out into the public roads to invite whoever they find, bad and good, rich and poor, dirty and clean.  And nobody gets kicked out who comes to the feast, except for the guy who won’t wear the appropriate clothes, who tries to come to the feast without wearing the wedding garment that is provided.

 

This is how the new and better world, the Kingdom of God, is given.

 

God prepares it for us by judging and condemning the old world and the old man, the old Adam.  He allows Jesus, His incarnate Son, to be wedded to humanity.  Conceived in the womb of the virgin and so true man.  Baptized in the Jordan River, and so numbered with the transgressors, making intercession for the transgressors.  Finally, crucified, and bearing God’s wrath and anger against all our transgressions of His Law, whether outward rejection of Him and His Law or failures to keep it in heart, word, and deed.  Jesus, His Son, becomes sin for us, and is judged by God who does not acquit the guilty.

 

And then rises from the dead, loosed from our sins, the wrath of God satisfied, justice fulfilled, the Law fulfilled.  And when He rises He commissions His disciples to go bear witness to what has happened.  Then He opened their minds to understand the Scirptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations…You are witnesses of these things.”  (Luke 24: 46-48)

 

So God witnesses to you.  Everything is ready.  I am making all things new…It is done.  Which is the same as saying, “Your sins are forgiven.”  If your sins are forgiven, then you have a place in the new heavens and earth and the life of the world to come.

 

And Jesus knows you have trouble believing this, so He sends out preachers to witness to it in more than one way.

 

They give you the wedding garment of Jesus righteousness in your baptism, and they remind you to put it on by faith, to believe what God has done and said in your baptism—that you are righteous and holy and pure as Jesus your Lord when He rose from the dead.

 

He sends me to speak His Words and spread the feast of the life of the world, the wedding feast of Jesus, where He gives you his body and his blood that were given and shed for you to loose you from sin’s prison, to release you from your state of destitution where you have no righteousness before God.  Take, eat, Jesus says to you.  He doesn’t say, take, eat, and work.  Take eat, take drink, it is finished. It is done.  The life of the world to come is yours.  It is yours now and it will be yours on the last day.

 

That is the last of the 6 things of stewardship series.  Witnessing.  My job is to bear witness to Jesus and invite.  I am a preacher of the Gospel.  But I am called to do in the church, publicly, what all Christians are called, authorized, and privileged to do when they go out of the church.  They are called to bear witness to Jesus and the new world He has set free by His death for our sins and His resurrection from the dead.

 

This witness to Jesus has the power to free people from their bonds to sin, death, and the devil.  It is the only thing in the world that can do this.

 

It is the witness to Jesus and from Jesus that saves us from our sins.  When your pastor baptized you and your parents taught you the word of God, through that God preached good news to you when you were poor and unlocked your bonds when you were chained up in the dungeon, bound for eternal death.  And the promise was that, having been freed, you would build up, raise up, repair the world.  And this is really the way we do that—our witness as Christians, as the Church.  When we serve and give to those in need we live in a way consistent with our witness.  But the witness itself is the proclamation that God has loosed us from our sins in Jesus.  That witness in the world is the power of God that looses people from sin and death and places them in God’s Kingdom when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they believe this testimony.

 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Exaudi 2014. Witness and Martyrdom.

heinrich voes and johann eschExaudi, Easter 6 + St. Peter Lutheran Church, Joliet, Illinois + St. John 15:26-16:4 + June 1, 2014 (Confirmation of Alex ) + Witness and Martyrdom

 

Iesu Iuva!

 

Friends in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

In the Gospel Jesus teaches us about “witnessing.”  You’ve probably heard before that as a Christian you should witness to Jesus.

 

But there are a lot of mistaken notions about what witnessing means, why we should do it, and what will likely come of it.

 

Today Jesus teaches about how witnessing to Him works—how it happens and what comes of it.

 

 The witness

 

First of all, He says, “When the Helper comes…He will bear witness about me.”

 

Jesus doesn’t discuss how to witness or even tell the disciples that they need to bear witness to Jesus.  First He gives them a promise: He, the helper, will bear witness about me.  I will send Him to you from the Father, and He, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, will bear witness to me.  He will do it not with human strength but with God’s strength.  This is the first thing Jesus says about witness to Him, and it is a comfort, because His first word is, You will have a mighty helper, the Holy Spirit.  And He will bear witness to me.

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