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Matt. 22.1 thru 14 ryllParable Sermon

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            Scott Ryll

Matt. 22:1-14

Behold the Lamb of God!

Pentecost 21

Prologue:  The Set Up

On the surface today’s parable is hard to relate to.  It’s full of two kinds of hard sayings.  Hard sayings that chill us to the bone.  Hard sayings that overwhelm us with joy.  This is a parable about judgment.  The judgment of reluctant servants.  Today we will be judged by the Word of God.  Will we be found wanting?  Come, let’s compare ourselves to these reluctant servants and see how we compare.

            Act One: Reluctant Ears.

            Scene 1:  Jerusalem in Jesus’ time:

Tension.  Nothing but tension.  I am so tired of the tension.  I am so tired of this Jesus of Nazareth.  Every day He stands accusing us.  Everywhere He goes, the marketplace, the streets—even the temple.  He never stops accusing us.  He keeps telling us that we’re missing the point.  That our traditions are standing in the way.  He keeps telling us that He is the way.  He says that we are white washed tombs.  That our hearts are far from God.  I’m a Pharisee, all I do all long is give me heart to God!

            Outrageous!  You know what I heard Him say, just this morning.  With my own two ears.  He said that the kingdom of God was going to be given to the bums on the street.  The gentiles, the Romans.  That Israel was not worthy of His invitation.

            Invitation to what?  What could He be inviting us to that the Prophets haven’t already invited us to? Isn’t that just what our traditions preserve?  Who does He think He is?!?

            Scene 2:  Rural Lutheran Church, Nebraska—modern day.

             I don’t like it.  I just don’t like the implications.  Pastor has been stuck on the “Go ye therefore into all the world” theme for too long now.  As if Pentecost wasn’t long enough and boring enough.  Does he have to drag it out this long?  Sunday after Sunday.  I’m tired of this topic.  Why’s it so important anyway? 

            Rural Church has always been open to the community.  We’ve never shut people out.  Our doors have always been open to whomever walks through them.  We’re open! 

            At first I thought he was just calling us to vigilance again.  Good thing too.  The greeters have been remise lately.  The youth program has seemed unimaginative.  That’s why we brought in a DCE. 

            On the other hand, stewardship is good.  We support two volunteer missionaries and one career missionary.  We send food to the local food bank.  What more does he want from us?  From me!  Why won’t he let this topic go?  We are doing everything we’ve always done.  Shoot, we’re doing it better since he’s come.  I just don’t get it!

            Act Two:  Reluctant Attendance

            Scene 1:  The King’s wedding

            I was just standing there.  I, like everyone in the room, had been pulled off the streets to go to the king’s wedding.  None of us had been invited.  We thought that we were too low for this event.  We, the common people.  Everyday people.  Why would He invite us to His Son’s wedding feast?  But there I was!  Joy of joy, to celebrate with the king, to see him face to face.  Too much for the likes of me.  I was overwhelmed.

            The king entered and I went from joy to horror.  The king stopped right next to me.  He talked to the guy standing to my left.  He asked him how he got in there with just his street clothes? 

His street clothes!  We were all in street clothes.  Like I said we just came from the street, what else would we be dressed in?

The guards bound him up and cast him down into the deepest darkest dungeon.   Into the dungeon on the king’s orders.  No hope of parole, in the deepest darkest dungeon for all of his days.

Scene 2:  Judgment Day.

He came back!  We knew He would.  He always said He would.  Now He’s here.  Just like it said.  Now we’re all lined up before Him.  Now He is walking from person to person.  Separating them.  Judging them.  How many times now have I heard them plead “Lord, Lord, but I knew you.” And then how many times has He responded:

 “where were you when I was hungry?—well my church had its food closet.

“where were when I was naked?—but I always supported the clothing shelter.

“where were you when I was sick?—I was part of the shut in ministry

“when did you welcome me in as a stranger?—My doors were always open!

“Depart from me you reluctant servant!”

He’s coming to me next.  What will He find?

Intermission:  Refreshment Served

Brothers and Sisters in Christ we are unworthy and reluctant servants.  That is the plain and honest truth.  We are unworthy to receive God’s graces.  Yet that is exactly what we have received in Christ.  We are healed, and we rejoice, amongst ourselves.  Too easily we leave God’s work to others.  Too easily we become passive Christians.  Joy ought to be on our lips, overflowing into the ears of all who pass by.  Instead we are reluctant proclaimers.  Reluctant to go out of our way to share His word.  Reluctance to enter the fray.  Reluctant to face the judgment of God.

It is too easy for us to say it is pastor’s job.  The DCE’s job.  As the pastor it’s too easy for me to say that is it your job, my job is only to preach the word.  To criticize your lack of action.  Then I am not only reluctant, I’m a hypocrite.  None of us can weasel out of this responsibility.  None of us are allowed to be reluctant.

It is terrifying to tell others about Jesus because His word is a two edged sword.  It leads to judgment.  John felt this two edged sword.  In the book Revelation he tells us how no one was found in heaven and on earth who was worthy to open the scrolls of God’s final judgment.  At first that might strike us as odd.  Shouldn’t he have been happy?  No scroll, no judgment.  Instead John was terrified to the point of tears.  Closed scroll, closed judgment.  Closed judgment, no judgment.  No judgment and we all remain in our sins.  Truth is, no judgment—no  salvation.  So how’s John’s tension released?  How are his tears wiped away?  The company of heaven sang out:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

            Yes!  That’s surely it!  Christ is worthy!  Christ is our judge!  Now we have an eternal hope! 

The sheep and the goats will be separated.  Everyone will fit into one of these two categories.  It is at once horrifying and overwhelming.  Horrifying because we are not worthy.  Not one of us.  We are all lost sinners.  And we know it.  Overwhelming because we are His sheep.  Because we will be judged and found worthy in Christ.  And we know it!

Christ is worthy!  He is worthy and He has taken our portion of God’s wrath.  He was judged in our place.  We will be judged.  But we will be judged by a new standard.  His standard.  We will be judged in Him. 

Our reluctance can’t stifle his willingness.  He was willing to die for us poor and miserable sinners.  He was willing to take God’s plan of salvation to its ultimate end.  He was willing to become the very message of salvation itself.  So that every knee should bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  That is why God invites us to the wedding.  Now everyone in heaven and on earth will be judged in Christ.  Those found in Christ will not be found wanting. 

Fear not!  As sure as you were buried in Christ through baptism you have been clothed in Christ!  You are already in Christ!  You are already dressed for the wedding!  You have already been washed in the blood of Jesus!  You already stand before God, white as snow!  You have already been called a good and faithful servant!  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

Act Three:  Joyful Servants

Scene 5:  God’s servants before the time of Christ

I’m a prophet.  I’m God’s servant.  I speak God’s word to His people, Israel.  They don’t always listen.  No, they rarely listen.  Instead they persecute me.  They treat me poorly.  I expect to meet a prophet’s end.  I expect to loose my life one of these days.  What can I do?  I can’t hold God’s word back. 

He has shown me His plan.  To save us from our sins.  To save us and bless us.  When the Messiah comes He will do wonderful things.  But I am afraid at times that it will mean bad things for this stiff necked people who do not listen to God. 

At times I feel reluctant.  It’s at those time that I know He’s stronger.  Working in me.  Strengthening me.  I know that the words I speak have the power to either save or condemn.  I know I’m unworthy of this task. Yet it is my task.  The task He has given me.  So I await the Messiah and I speak His word faithfully.  What else can I do?

Scene 6:  God’s servants since the time of Christ.

I’m a Christian.  I’m God’s servant.  I’m forgiven.  I proclaim God’s word to anyone who will listen.  They’re always there.  On the streets.  At work.  In the grocery store.  Even my neighbors.  I tell them about all of the great things that God has done.  I tell them about the Father’s plan.  How He sent the Son by the power of the Spirit to save us from our sins. 

Sometimes they listen.  Sometimes they make fun of me.  Sometimes they even ridicule me.  But I keep on telling whoever will listen.  What else can I do?  God has saved me.  I can’t contain it.  Behold the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world!  My sins! 

I always tell them that this invitation is for them.  That the wedding feast of the Lamb and His bride has plenty of space for them, and all of their family and friends.  I tell them that doors of my church are always open.  That they should come and hear God’s Word for themselves. 

Everywhere I go, I tell them.  On the streets.  At work.  In the grocery store.  Even my neighbors.  What else can I do?  I’m a beloved child of God!

Encore:  Final Blessings

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, go now into all the world and tell them what God has done.  Say to them “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” and see what they will do!  See what God will do through.  Terrifying and overwhelming.  Stand firmly in Christ—you will be found in Christ on judgment day, whatever anyone else may say. 

Now to Him who is able to keep from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen

Focus:             God saves His people by judging people according to Christ’s new standard.

Function:         That the hearers will be admonished towards a new standard of evangelism.

Structure(?):   Compare and Contrast.

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