Invitation and Acceptance

Invitation and Acceptance

mercy, and peace to you, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. Amen.

you ask most people, they’ll admit that they really enjoy weddings. Usually,
these are occasions of great joy, in which the bride and groom’s family and
friends come together to help them celebrate their being joined together as
husband and wife. While this expression of joy seems to be the prevailing
pattern in all parts of the world, in almost all cultures and in almost all
faiths, it should be especially so for Christians, regardless of what nation or
culture they are found. This is because we ought to recognize that Christian
weddings are supposed to be representative of the perfect love and faithfulness
in which the Church—the bride—will be eternally united with Her groom, Jesus
Christ, in divine, heavenly, and truly holy matrimony.

noticed that in our day and age, and particularly in our American culture, the
one person close to the couple who really seems to be able to relax and enjoy
himself at a wedding is the father of the groom.

about it: The mother of the bride is often an emotional
wreck—much of it self-inflicted—attending to a thousand details to make her
little girl’s day as perfect as possible.

mother of the groom, on the other hand, may look at the bride
with a certain degree of envy. After all, this “other woman” has managed to
capture the attention and the affections of her little boy, and soon—if God’s
plan is properly followed—her son’s wife-to-be will become the one woman with
whom he is henceforth to share his most heartfelt thoughts and concerns.

The father
of the bride, of course, worries if the young buck marrying his little girl
will be able to make her happy and adequately take care of her. The reality
may be setting in that he is no longer his daughter’s primary protector and
provider. Even with the understanding that it’s all part of the order of God’s
creation, the knowledge that soon his sweet and precious child will be
intimately joined with her new mate may make him shudder. What’s more, he
probably hasn’t even seen all of the invoices for this extravaganza yet. He
may not have a clue as to how on earth he’s going to pay for all this, short of
another mortgage or liquidating his retirement account.

the father of the groom….well, he’s got it made, it seems. His “chip off the
old block” has shown that he, too, has what it takes to woo and win a young
lady’s love. And the expense? Well, a tux rental and a rehearsal dinner are
small potatoes compared with what that other guy—the bride’s father—has to
pay. The groom’s father can sit back, relax, have a few drinks, have a few
dances, work the crowd, slap a few backs, and enjoy himself.

can be radically different, of course, in other cultures and in other times.
This is certainly true of Jewish society in the time of Jesus. It was
customary in that day and age that the bride’s family provide a dowry of
possessions to the family of the groom—sort of as payment for the privilege of
getting her married off.

wedding ceremony and celebration, however, were usually arranged by the groom
and his family.

Jesus’ parable about the wedding banquet, that’s how it is, too. In those
days, people didn’t just order their invitations from the local print shop or
whip them up on their personal computers. They couldn’t just drop an envelope
in the mail and trust that their invitation would arrive at the home of the
intended guest. No, back then the process of inviting guests to a wedding, and
notifying them that it was time to come to the celebration, required a much
more involved process, and more of a personal touch.

when the banquet for his son was ready, the king sent his servants to the
guests to tell them to come. Some of those invited ignored the invitation.
Some were downright belligerent about it. They went out of their way to abuse
and murder the king’s servants—men who were just doing the work assigned them
by the king.

king’s happy anticipation in sharing his generous banquet with so many is
turned into outrage. Is it any wonder, then, that the king’s punishment for
such evil was severe?

this insult and the unworthiness of his subjects, though, the king is not about
to let the wonderful feast he has prepared go to waste. He’s put a lot of
effort and resources into this celebration, and he knows it is going to be
spectacular. He’s spared no expense at providing the very choicest food and
drink for those who would partake of it. He’s giving out the very richest and
best of everything at his disposal.

if those who were initially invited rejected his invitation, he’ll find others
who won’t. In a spirit of great generosity, he tells the servants to go out
into the public arena. He instructs them to invite anyone who will come,
regardless of their standing in the kingdom. Many such individuals are found,
and all of them are brought into the feast.

doubt pleased by the large number of people who have finally been brought into
his banquet hall, the king enters to meet and greet his guests. Another
problem soon arises, however. The king discovers that one of the guests isn’t
properly attired! How can this be?! Since they had been invited directly from
the streets with no warning and no time to prepare, the king would have
provided these guests with the proper clothing to participate in the feast.

this man, it seems, had rejected the king’s selection of robes. He decided on
his own to put his confidence in what he brought to the banquet himself. He
had no good answer—no reply at all, really—when the king asked him to explain
this. The man’s foolish arrogance costs him dearly, for he is hauled away by
the king’s servants, bound hand and foot, and removed from the wonderful
banquet. Thrown outside of the celebration, he is left to suffer outside in
misery and anguish.

would think that the Jewish religious leaders to whom Jesus was speaking in
this text would have gotten His point by now. After all, he’d told them three
consecutive parables with essentially the same theme. That is, many would be
invited to share in the blessings of the kingdom of heaven, but those who will
gladly receive this invitation might not be those who would be expected.

those who rejected the gifts offered by God through Christ would face severe
punishment. These leaders were rejecting the invitation, just like generation
upon generation of their ancestors had before them, and just as many in all
cultures, places, and times would for centuries to follow. Yet many had
repented of their sins and believed in Jesus as the Messiah, as would many more
yet to come.

do you stack up against those whom Jesus is condemning in this parable? How
often do you behave like the king’s unruly and inconsiderate subjects? When
the Lord wants to prepare good things for you, to lay out His lavish banquet
for your benefit, do you refuse to come?

the table is set, and all is ready, do you ignore His call? Do you wander off
in pursuit of your own priorities? Your own agenda? Your own goals? Could He
say about you, “Those I invited did not deserve to come.”?

of course. He could say that about all of us. We daily find ways to bend,
twist, and break His Law in almost everything we do. As the text of one of our
rites of confession and absolution of sins states, “We have not loved you
with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly
deserve your present and eternal punishment.”

may not have physically seized His servants, mistreated them, and killed them.
But we have no doubt at least occasionally despised His message and His
messengers. We have not rightly handled at all times and in all places the
invitation He’s issued to us.

might wrongly respond to His invitation in several ways. First, it can be
ignored, as the king’s subjects did when he first told them to come to the
banquet. This happens whenever we refuse to listen to the message of His word
with open, willing hearts.

invitation can also be rejected, as many of the people did when all was ready
and he summoned them a second time. This happens when we find something more
important to us than obeying His Law and trusting His Gospel, or when we
actively resist it because we prefer to dwell in those sins which we enjoy.

finally, His invitation can be received in an erroneous manner—that is, when we
won’t receive the invitation as it was given to us. Setting our own judgment
above that of the king, too often we want an invitation that can be enjoyed
under our own terms. This error happens when we substitute our own ideas of
righteousness and salvation for those gifts He provides in the invitation of
the Gospel. We behave just like that wedding guest who was found dressed in
the wrong sort of garment. He didn’t want to wear the garment that was
provided by the host.

God, though, that our invitation to forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life is
not subject to the whims and weaknesses of our own character. In His
foresight, He decides which people are invited. He issues the invitation
through His servants. He decides how, when, and where this will take place.
Many are called, both good and bad, using the means He has given us.

alone chooses those who will be granted the invitation and received into His
banquet hall. He properly clothes those whom He would have remain there, so
they may enjoy His company and partake of His rich feast.

Gospel text, then, is largely about invitations. Invitations refused.
Invitations ignored. Invitations re-directed and corrupted. But it’s also
about rejection and reception and acceptance. Acceptance of duty by the king’s
servants. Rejection of the king’s invitation and rejection of the king’s
servants by his subjects. Rejection—strong, clear, and eternal—of those who
had rejected and even killed those same servants. Reception of the king’s
invitation by a new group of people—those who were rejected by the world and
who in turn reject following the world’s path. Rejection of the acceptable
wedding garment by the man the king confronted, and rejection of this man by
the king. Lastly, Jesus’ statement that many are invited, but few are chosen.

does this theme of invitation, rejection, reception, and acceptance apply to
each of us in our lives of faith today? Like the parable, it also begins with
invitation and rejection.

invitation, and our rejection. Rejection of His authority, His love, His
guidance. And when we reject Him, we stand condemned, sinful and unclean. But
though we deserve rejection ourselves, He remains faithful and loving and
inviting toward us, His unworthy subjects. He wants to make us acceptable. He
wants to have us receive His eternal feast. Like the king who spared no
expense, our Lord Jesus Christ paid a vast, unmeasurable price to ensure that
His Father would prepare a beautiful wedding banquet for us. The precious Son
did not do this by asking the Father to do it on His behalf, but did it by
giving up His place in heaven and coming down to us in humility. By living in
obedience to the Law that we have rejected. By facing rejection Himself, and finally

in His death, our sin also died, and we became acceptable to the Father. We
could then be invited by the Word of God to join those acceptable people, both
good and bad, whom He has had His servants find and gather.

could then be clothed with the robe of righteousness, not covered with the
shroud of death. For that veil of shame and despair has been destroyed. It no
longer covers all nations with the disgrace of sin. It has been swallowed up

and Rejection. Reception and Acceptance. By the invitation which comes from
the Holy Spirit. By the rejection which was experienced by the Son. By the
reception of the Son’s acceptable sacrifice by the Father, which makes you
acceptable as well. By the reception of the Holy Spirit’s invitation to you,
on God’s terms and not your own.

these, you who are both invited and chosen have come to this sumptuous banquet
our God offers us, both as a foretaste in this life, and as a never-ending
feast in heaven. We are brought to that sacrificial feast at which our Lord
Jesus is both victim and priest.

not refuse His invitation. Do not ignore His invitation. Do not reject His
invitation. Do not try to change His invitation to make it fit your own
notions. Instead, be gathered by His servants, you who are unworthy, and fill
the wedding hall. Be made acceptable in the wedding clothes washed white and
pure in the blood of the Lamb. Everything is made ready. Everything is made
perfect. Everything is made yours.

the name of the Holy Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, Amen.