[Picture: The Wedding Feast, by Eugene Bernand]

Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon on the Twentieth Sunday After Trinity, 10/13/2019. The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the Twentieth Sunday After Trinity, click here.


If I have any economics majors in the pews, I’ll apologize in advance. I know that this doesn’t well summarize even a 100-level course on the subject, but it’ll have to do:

If you are thirsty, you buy water; and if you’re hungry, you buy bread. You work for the money, and you trade it for stuff.

This is simply how we live here, and it requires little to no ingenuity whatsoever. Really, unless you are a child, with no experience at all in the matter, you don’t need to wonder for a second about how the kingdoms of this world work.

But if you’re wondering what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, that takes more imagination.

Once or twice upon a time, folks thought the Kingdom of Heaven was just a bigger, cooler version of a kingdom on earth, but when Jesus saw their lack of creativity, and when He saw that they had not taken the prophet Isaiah’s course on the subject, He told them a story.

Jesus told them a story about the Kingdom of Heaven. And when He did, He said it’s a lot like this time when a King gave a wedding feast for His Son; and the King invited a whole bunch of people, and he sent His servants with a gorgeous invitation, stamped with the royal seal, which when broken and read aloud offered the most enticing and flavorful announcement:

My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready.

Come to the wedding banquet. (verse 4)

It’s ready! It’s prepared! We have prime rib and filet mignon, and an endless supply of the vintage wine. The only thing missing is…you. So get over here! It’s even better than one of Nik’s soirees. But they were very busy.

Some thought the yard work was more important, others had to go stock the shelves at the store, and some were just so mad that it wasn’t their wedding, that they killed the messengers.

That, of course, was their call. And the rest of their story is told with armies and destruction and fire. They can have that if they really want, but that wasn’t the party they were invited to. That’s not what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like the best party there has ever been or ever will be. It costs you nothing. You’re on the guest list. And the Host very much wants you there, and not somewhere else.

This is often treated as an opportunity to discuss church attendance, and if that applies to you on many mornings besides this one, you know who are. But I won’t dwell on that now, since it’s not really Jesus’ point.

Jesus is first addressing Israel. They have ignored or rejected the prophets’ invitation; they have refused to acknowledge their Messiah, now among them: the King’s Son, come to proclaim His Kingdom, Jesus Himself.

And they can have it their own way, the way of yard work and business deals and selfishness; but they should think long and hard about how that story goes. And while they think on it, the invitation goes out to everyone.

Go to the market! Go to the highways! Copley Square and Fenway; Harvard and MIT; the burbs and the boroughs, even New Hampshire, for crying out loud! I want this place full.

And would you believe, it worked! Here you are! The wedding hall is filled! Those first guests weren’t worthy… But neither are the second guests. For,

When the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.” (verses 11-13)

What made someone worthy to be in the wedding feast? It wasn’t the invite, per se. After all, by the end of the story, the King has invited everyone. In Jesus’ parable, being worthy is like being dressed for the occasion.

Kind of like with the church attendance thing, this is a moment when I’d love to air a commercial about dressing up for church. Still a good idea; but, alas, not the point.

Jesus is saying that the King has a dress code. He wants you in wedding clothes. And not just any clothes, whatever looks nice and hides Thanksgiving dinner. He wants you wearing the clothing He provides.

In the ancient world, if a King were going to throw a feast of this measure, he provided everyone with wedding garments.

It might sound weird, but it was actually very practical. Not only can the King be sure that everyone is well dressed, but nobody can tell who is rich or who is poor. Everyone is provided for; everyone is given to; and so everyone can just enjoy the party.

The King doesn’t want anyone trying to get in on his or her own dime. Maybe the man found not wearing a wedding garment had a very nice outfit, so nice he wanted it to stand out; so nice he wanted to be praised for it; so nice that he thought it was just as good as anything the King could give him.

But the King wants you wearing His outfit. The King wants you robed, covered, and clothed in His Son. This was always how the story would be told. Just six chapters after the words recorded in our Old Testament text this morning, the prophet Isaiah writes:

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. Isaiah 61:10

Likewise, this is what St. Paul means when he later writes to the Church in Galatia,

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Galatians 3:27

In the waters of Baptism, the King has clothed you with the beautiful, clean, white garment. You went into the water with your own righteousness, but you came out of the water with Christ’s righteousness. You went into the water with your own clothes, but you came out with royal wedding garments.

This is what makes you worthy: the King’s free, gracious, generous, and glorious provision for you; a beautiful, clean, royal gown, purchased with the life of His Son – something for your wedding day.

This white robe, your baptism, is your wedding garment. You are not even just a guest. You, the Church, are the Bride of Christ. So you not being here makes as much sense as a bride not showing up on her big day.

And like every bride on her wedding day, you wear white, because you are covered by the righteousness of your Bridegroom. No one is saying that your husbands are perfect – we all know better than that – but the point still stands because marriage is a picture of Christ and His Church.

Which makes this place a wedding hall, a place for feasting and celebration and joy. You’re dressed for the occasion, after all. And if you’re not, if you’re not baptized, come see me after and we can get you all set up.

In the meantime, let the celebration go on. The wedding hall is full; the Paschal Lamb has been sacrificed; the Feast is prepared; Christ has come with the whole Kingdom of Heaven, and it is like no other kingdom.

Come drink living water for free,

Come buy everything for nothing,

Why would you spend and spin and worry and fear?

Listen, and eat what is good.

Let your eyes see what your ears will hear,

And you will delight in the richest of Fare.  Isaiah 55 (paraphrase)


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