Matthew 22:1-10, Galatians 3:27, Isaiah 61:10-11: Thanksgiving in Robes of Righteousness

The Lord Jesus tells a tale of a wedding feast, to which a king invites others to attend.  Earlier, those asked to take part agreed, confirming their attendance according to the custom of the day.  First, the invitation goes out.  Those who plan to be present respond, and when the feast is later ready, a servant hails them into the celebrations.

In the end, those invited refused to come.  So the king instructs his servants.

“The wedding is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.  Go now into the roads leading out of the city and invite everyone you find to the banquet.”  So, those servants went out into the streets and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good.  The wedding hall was full of guests.

So, what allows these strangers to dine at this feast?  The king isn’t in their group of friends, nor is his betrothed son.  None of them woke up expecting to eat at his wedding dinner.  No, they’re going about their business, when the call to celebrate comes their way.  An invitation, delivered by an outsider, interrupts their plans.  The summons, however, contains the strength to draw them into the celebration feast.

Stranger still is this king welcoming both the well-behaved and the evil.  For he lays down no pre-qualifications.  The only condition is for someone to be alive.  Did you catch Jesus saying the parable is about the kingdom of heaven?  So, He splinters open a sneak peek into the ways of His Father, not people.  Yes, we learn the Lord’s Church is for sinners, showing His saving deeds are for everyone!

No one needs to bathe himself beforehand to come into the Church.  So, if any cleansing is required, God will do the clean-up; this is Christ’s picture of His Church.  Ancient bloodlines tracing back to Abraham do not make you a part of His holy people.  No, God admits you, not whether you can make the cut or not.

In this story, you are on the guest list of this generous King, without any worthiness on your part.  To be celebrating the wedding isn’t because of the life you live or what you do.  No, everything is because of God’s grace, the righteousness of His Son, and the working of the Holy Spirit, who calls you to come.

To believe this invitation is for you is a gift to you from above.  This same confidence brings you to return to the forgiveness of your sins, where you delight in the fellowship of the saints and angels.  The gift of God transports you into the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the communion of His sanctifying Spirit.

Well, the story continues, revealing two kinds of reactions to this Ruler’s invitation.  The first rejects the message.  The parable pictures this by telling us about people who want to do something else instead of feasting at the meal, hosted by a king.

Remember, this is a story about how God behaves in His kingdom.  So, the bountiful feast describes something more significant—who will be dining at the throne room of heaven for all eternity.  Those attending, receive and rejoice in what God chooses to bestow in His meal.  The Father above invites everyone—and your wrongdoings, no matter how prevalent or wicked—do not disqualify you.

In this wedding celebration, everyone is wearing identical outfits, wedding garments provided by the host.  A few verses after our reading in Matthew, one man gets thrown out for wearing his clothes, not the supplied clothing.  So, what disqualifies someone is choosing not to be at the dinner or trying to be with the King on your terms, not his.

The same is true in the congregation of Christ.  Each person in the Lord’s House is dressed alike, in His purity and virtue.  The life-giving Spirit gave you this garment in the water and Word of baptism.  In our Epistle reading, you became reacquainted with this, for all who are baptized into Christ are now clothed with Him.

Every guest at the King’s Table eats the food of sin’s forgiveness.  The only disqualifier is coming to the Supper with your stipulations, not the Host’s.  Do you not understand?  Nothing you do qualifies you for anything relating to your redemption.  The Apostle Paul hammers us with this in Romans.  “Now if [your salvation is] by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6).

Now, this changes everything, not only because a merciful God saves you, but also by how you live because of Him.  Think this over.  For some imperfection contaminates everything you do—but God is still at work, undaunted, doing everything required.

So, every moment now turns into a renewed license on life.  Let this sink into your soul, and your life will become a lifelong thanksgiving.  Give thanks!  For your problems, whatever they may be, are temporary.  Though events may never turn around in this life, your future holds eternity in its hands, free of sorrow and pain.  So you can live in gratitude and gladness.

Scan all around you.  Ample evidence of your heavenly Father’s loving care is everywhere.  Rich reminders of His goodness hide under every rock and cranny.  In the forward march of seasons and years, God established His laws of nature, providing opportunities for food to flourish to support His creatures.  Though we are under the curse of sin by our doing, He still enables us to work, organize, and use His creation as He provides.

The foundation for your thanks is your everlasting bliss with the Triune God in resplendent glory.  The food and drink we relish, which satisfies our bellies, are secondary reasons to thank God above.

The faith within you furnishes you with new eyes.  The momentary bounties of this earth we so enjoy are to enable you to value the wonder of eternity all the more.  Every day of our lives can turn into a time of rejoicing for the present and future blessings of God, the chief being our life with Him in heaven.

From all God gives you, salvation is supreme, for you will never lose this unless you choose to cast it aside by living in unrepentance.  Only eternity matters when your eyes close in death.  For when your final breath wisps away, everything you own will fall from your grasp except what survives into eternity.

The prophet Isaiah tells us, “The soil makes the sprout come up, and a garden causes the seeds to grow.”  The Lord plants faith inside us, which produces righteousness to His glory.  Now, this can be an enormous difficulty for us because we are both saint and sinner, like the guests at the party.  How are we to do these holy deeds?

Again, Scripture doesn’t leave us wanting.  “So will the Lord God create righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.”  So who is doing what?  Not you, but God almighty, for He is righteous and provides you with what you lack.  The perfect holiness of your Savior is a pure and spotless garment.  Through a Spirit-breathed trust in God’s Son, before the Judge of all, you wear a robe of righteousness, which covers the ugly nakedness of your fallen nature.

From what our God grants to us, we can respond with thanks, prayer, respect, and reverence.  But if we are deficient in what our Father wants to give us, our most heartfelt praises will falter and fall flat.  The shape of the worship service is designed to show this, which is why we glorify God after receiving forgiveness and life from Him.

Any attempt to buy divine favor with our struggle and striving makes our efforts useless—even harmful.  For if our confidence in the face of judgment is in the works we do, they become a false god, an unreliable redeemer.  To try and add to what Jesus does is to reject His saving work—and you can’t earn eternal life.

So, quit trying to earn points with the God of the universe.  Do you think by doing so you’ll create a thankful heart?  No, you’ll either start resenting God; perhaps, you’ll turn into a Pharisee.  With God in charge, however, you’re free to risk helping others, for what you do is flawless to Him.  So, if you happen to fail in your love for God or when assisting others, all is still well with Him.  Now, this is a reason to be grateful!

From start to finish, real and lasting thanks flow from God, through you, and back to Him.  Often, your neighbor is in between you and God, benefitting from your overflowing gratitude.  “All right, pastor, but what you are saying doesn’t describe me.”  Let’s consider the remedy.  The experience we garner in this world will tell us to strive harder.  Ah, so a little work-righteousness is still lurking within you and me.

No, you need more from the Source of thankfulness—God.  The solution is not to haul up a bucket from an empty well but to receive a new supply.  So, every week, the giving King of heaven beckons you to His feast, where He feeds you with His eternal approval.  By the power of His Holy Spirit, He nurtures the seed of faith inside you.  The implanted seed grows and bears the fruit of goodness, which is also His doing.

Taken away from your self-striving and brought again to Jesus doing everything for you, He refreshes your spirit.  For, in Him, you are now pure enough, and freed to live without failure.  Once more, He fills you to the full, which inspires you to offer God-given thanksgiving, not self-generated sinfulness.

Now, we both realize our emotions don’t always follow in tow, but what God delivers is still real.  Though counterintuitive, when you fathom this, you are liberated.  For if your heart doesn’t bubble over in appreciation, God will, nevertheless, consider such insipid gratitude as worthy, which reenergizes you in thankfulness.  “Well, pastor, what you are preaching sounds crazy.”  Yes, for this is the Gospel of our grace-filled God!

With Isaiah, you can now sing.  “In the Lord, I find my joy, and in my God, my soul delights.  For He clothes me in garments of salvation and wraps me in a robe of righteousness.”  In Christ, you cannot lose but only win.  How can we not be thankful?  Amen.