Trinity 20 Sermon 2012
Rev. Ed Maanum
How can I stand before the face of the Almighty God, the king in this morning’s parable? If I can stand before Him without being turned into dust like the Nazis before the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Last Ark, will He accept me as one forgiven?
Many in our self-obsessed culture find these questions unnecessary. Others answer the questions wrongly; by going back to their works and pointing to how great they are. Poor unfortunate souls! Those who either ignore the question about how one stands before God, or points back to their works, are not accepted by God and are not let into the wedding feast of His Son, Jesus Christ, to His bride, the Church. Only those who stand before God in their wedding garment are accepted by Him, and given all that a wedding guest is given, a feast and more.
So this morning, instead of focussing on the entire parable, we’re going to discuss three major questions concerning the wedding garment itself: 1. What is it? 2. How necessary is it? 3. How does one get it?
What is the wedding garment? For starters it is not your own filthy flesh that has been riddled with sin from its conception and diseased from the death that sin brings. For the Psalmist says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me (Ps 51:5), and “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers (Ps 5:5).”
The wedding garment is also not your own righteousness that earns you nothing. Even if you attempted to robe yourself with your righteous deeds and point back to them and say: “look at all that I’ve done;” you would still be covered in filthy rags (Is 64:6). All of your deeds, whether pure in eyes of others or completely polluted beyond recognition, are equally sinful in the perfect eyes of God. They do not save you.
So what is the wedding garment if it’s not your own flesh or righteous deeds? The wedding garment is Christ’s righteousness that was put upon you in your baptism, in His body and blood that you eat and drink at His table, that you receive in the words of Absolution that say “You are forgiven. You are mine.”
Now that you know what the wedding garment is, we’re going to shift gears for a minute and discuss the necessity of it.
St. Peter testifies to this need of being robed in the righteousness of Christ when, having been filled with the Holy Spirit before the Jewish Council he proclaimed that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).”
Most importantly, Jesus Himself tells His disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”
There it is. The only way you can appear before God as anything but as a sinner is through Jesus. Through His blood. Through Jesus’ Death that gives you Life, God the Father no longer sees a sinner but the righteousness of Christ.
It is only when you are clothed in Christ’s life-giving righteousness, that is your wedding garment, that you are accepted before God. This is because you are clothed with the Son of God, God made Flesh, Jesus whom God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Matt 3:17).”
Guess what? Because God the Father called Jesus Beloved, He now calls you Beloved. The ones who used to be robed in sinful flesh are now the ones robed in His Son’s righteousness. You are now ones called Beloved because when the Father looks at you He sees Jesus’ righteousness, instead of human flesh and self-serving sinful deeds.
Finally, how may this wedding garment be obtained so we’re not like the guy that was removed from the feast for not wearing one? Remember what happened to this poor guy? He showed up the king’s palace to feast upon the greatest food that he’ll ever have the opportunity to enjoy and he wasted it. A literal once in a lifetime opportunity was in his hands and he rejected it.
The man must have gotten into the wedding by wearing a wedding garment. After he got in however, he took it off. He’s representing those who are born in the faith, who are baptized, who believe for some amount of time. They got up to the foretaste of the feast in Holy Communion. They drank the blood and wine and enjoyed the body and bread and the fellowship. Then they rejected their wedding garment. They started to rely on God less and less for salvation and relied on their deeds more and more.
These people still come to church on Sundays. They still commune out of some habit they have. They come and listen to the sermon. In some cases they are the men preaching and administering the sacrament. Yet, their faith is gone.
Eventually the spiritual things of God became folly to them and they were no longer able to understand the things of God because they no longer wanted to (1 Cor 2:14). They have removed their wedding garments of Christ’s righteousness and have put back on a garment of rags, filth and deeds. Just like this man their jig will be up. Those who no longer believe but are hypocritically part of the Church will get bound hand and foot and taken out back to where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Article 8 of our Augsburg Confession: “What the Church Is” says, “Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ: The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, etc. Matt. 23:2. Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by evil men.”
Unlike this man who was underdressed, your clothing is not obtained by yourselves. Rather, God Himself put this wedding garment, the righteousness of Christ’s Passion, upon you. As Isaiah 61 proudly proclaims, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
This wedding garment, this garment of righteousness, of salvation, this garment of Christ’s Blood, is poured upon you in the Word of God, from the beginning of Genesis 1:1 when the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit created the world, through Revelation 22:21 when we pray “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”
You have been robed in the perfect obedience, bitter sufferings and death, and the faultless keeping of the Law of the Son of God, Jesus Christ your Savior that has earned salvation for you. Jesus clothed you in His death and resurrection that gives you forgiveness of sins so you can stand before the Father in your flesh without worry. Being robed in Christ, you point to the Christ that you wear as the only righteousness that you need. There is no greater ornamentation in all of heaven and earth than to be robed in the wedding garment of Christ.
Since you are robed with Christ’s righteousness you can rejoice in faith. You will forever thank God for the sacrifice of Jesus whose blood has set you free to be a child of God. Rejoice in Jesus that has been put upon you, and pray that you never take Him off. Amen