Sunday, October 25, 2009

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Eph. 5:15-21
Matt. 22:1-14

The parable today is not a pleasant one, for it deals with the subject of judgment, and does so in a way that is both eschatological and historical. That is, it speaks of judgment that actually happened in the past, and of judgment that will happen in the future. Of course, from the standpoint of when the Lord Jesus told this story, everything it predicted would be in the future. And, the judgment of God came across as a single and easily recognized theme. In the sequence of time, the first image of judgment given to us in this parable is that of the king destroying a city that would not honor his servants or his son.

From the perspective of the king, his gracious invitation, given out of kindness and generosity, was rejected. Worse, his servants who went out to carry his benevolent tidings and summons to enter into his joy and the joy of his son, were treated with contempt and then murdered. So, the king destroyed their city. For a long time it lay in ruins, for centuries trodden down of the Gentiles; and to this day the temple has not been rebuilt. In the words of one of our hymns:

O aweful love that found no room
In life where sin denied thee,
And doomed to death, must bring to doom
The power which crucified thee,
Till not a stone was left on stone,
And all a nation’s pride o’erthrown,
Went down to dust beside thee.

This power was simply that of unbelief and rejection, a power that surrendered the king of Israel to the Gentiles to be scourged and crucified. It was the best people that did this, not pagans who worshiped idols and had no knowledge of God. Instead, these were the ones who had been invited. It is not politically correct to speak of such things, and yet the scripture tells us that not one stone would be left upon another, just as the prophets of the Old Testament had predicted the seventy years of captivity in Babylon, and more to the point, said that it was caused by the people’s sin. Saint Luke tells us:

And when [Jesus] was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
Luke 19:41-44

For many centuries the Jewish people suffered terrible injustices, and some of those injustices were caused by foolish men who dared to misuse these very texts of the New Testament. It is essential for Christians always to remember, when we are reminded of the severity that has fallen on any people, there must be with us only charity for those people and sorrow for our own sins. And, that we have a debt of gratitude to Israel for giving us our faith, for the apostles who preached the Gospel to the nations, and for the Blessed Virgin who said “yes” to God’s will that she give birth to God the Son. To hate the Jews is to hate God, for the incarnate God, the Word made flesh, our Lord and Savior, is a Jew. So, we must speak with great humility about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and of the Diaspora. But, we must speak of it, because we must learn from it. What must we learn? In the words of Saint Paul:

Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
Romans 11:18-21

And, what those words mean is this: If you are a Gentile by descent, that is, of any people other than the Jewish people, and you have faith in Christ, don’t boast about it as if you were better than the Jews. You are like a branch grafted into a new tree, the tree of Israel. And, the root of that tree bears you, because it is greater than you and all your kin and all your ancestors put together. When your ancestors were worshiping idols, when mine were painting themselves blue and performing human sacrifice, the root that bears us now, the people of Israel, were worshiping the true God in His holy temple. The lesson is: Do not boast, but rather take heed. “For if God spared not the natural branches...” that is, if He allowed terrible things to come upon the people of Israel, “take heed lest He also spare not thee.”

This is the meaning of the judgment to come, the eschatological judgment. That is, in the time of the end of all things as we know them now, when Christ has come again and the dead have been raised to stand before His throne. Again, from the parable, the king has been generous enough to admit into his son’s wedding feast the most common of people- people who cannot claim to be physically descended from God’s own relatives, people who are not of the noble blood of the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And, in keeping with the customs of ancient Mid-Eastern people, he has furnished every guest with an appropriate garment. No one needed to bring his own wedding garment, because that was up to the host. He provided them for his guests, a sort of vestment to symbolize the occasion.

And, from the perspective of this king, we see another offense perpetrated against his generosity, that is, an ungrateful ill-mannered guest who ignores the garment given to him at the door, and who wears nothing over his street clothes while in the royal palace. While there as a guest of the king himself for his son’s wedding, he ignores basic etiquette. The picture is one of a man going out of his way to insult the king, not one of a man too poor to buy a good suit.

The scripture tells us who we are in Christ. We have been baptized into His death, buried with Him in baptism and risen to walk in the newness of life, the life of the Risen Christ. We are told, therefore, by Saint Paul:

"The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
Romans 13:12-14

We are told to put on Christ, to clothe ourselves in Him. We must not live like the world around us, and not by their rules. Our minds must be renewed by the word of God.

If we understand where we are right now, and that we are here by God’s grace, by the goodness of His love in sending His own Son to take our human nature, and to die for our sins, then we must prepare for the day of that Risen Son’s return. Time will be rolled up like a scroll, and a new heaven and new earth will take the place of the world we have known. We are even now being summoned into that place where there is no more sorrow or sighing, and where God wipes away every tear from our eyes, for the former things are no more. If our hearts and affections cling only to this world of sin and death, living for pleasure instead of preparation to see God, we are most ungrateful and ill mannered. The time is now. We must put on Christ, and be found in Him now. What can we say except words of thanks for a generous invitation we neither deserved nor planned. It is His gracious invitation to one and all that His house be filled with guests, guests invited to abide with him in his house forever.


RC Cola said...

Great sermon. GREAT sermon.

Anonymous said...

I frankly am simply relieved that both your sermon and Father Kirby's were for the 20th after Trinity and not the Roman feast of Christ the King. Some of the propers for various Sundays and feasts in the BCP go back to the fourth century meaning that they represent the thinking of the very early Church. We should shrink from trying to redo what they did.

Canon Tallis

Jerry said...

The Feast of Christ the King actually takes priority over Trinity XX in the ACC Kalendar, so while it may be a Roman Catholic feast, it's also an ACC feast, just as are, e.g., St. Francis of Assisi (my parish's patronal festival) and St. Theresa of Avila. Papal promulgation of a feast is no reason to disregard the feast, especially when it's been adopted by a jurisdiction of the Continuing Church.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Jerry wrote:

Papal promulgation of a feast is no reason to disregard the feast, especially when it's been adopted by a jurisdiction of the Continuing Church.

I agree; but the ACC does not require use of the Missal, therefore, it does not require the feast of Christ the King. Also, it is not uncommon for the feast to be moved to the Sunday before Advent.