I have been absent from this world for a while. I am preparing to leave Missouri and head to Illinois for a year on a vicarage assignment. I am hoping through the nest year I will be more faithful in corresponding what is transpiring in Staunton through this medium.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Meditation on Matthew 22

God is continually calling his people to listen to him and receive the wonderfully free gift of His Grace. We see this in our OT lesson where God calls his people Israel to a new covenant, which is based on the earlier Davidic covenant of Grace. God calls us freely to be his people and yet we are prone to bow down to earthly gods. We bow to earthly gods that ultimately have a higher price on our bodies and souls, and the gods themselves end up being nothing more than ashes and dust. We view this gracious call of God in our Gospel lesson. Jesus is teaching the pharisees by parables. What is taught about the kingdom of God by this parable in Matthew?
First, there is only one king.
Second, we must be invited. No invitation no admittance.
Third, there are two possible responses to this gracious invitation. We see from our OT lesson and the Gospel these responses. Messengers are sent with the gracious invitation of God to come and be his guests; we are left to believe the invitation is true and trust the one sending it or we ignore the invitation and turn to our work and perhaps kill the messengers.
In our Gospel lesson Jesus uses a parable to illustrate what the kingdom of God will be like, or perhaps it is better to say, what the “Reign/Rule of God” will be like. The reason we should not think of a kingdom is because the “Kingdom of God” is not a location. When we speak of the Kingdom questions arise like, “where is it” or “what is it” and we are left with puzzled looks and poor answers. No, we are better-off talking of the Reign of God.
The Reign of God is more clearly understood as an active thing not a location. Who is reigning? God. When is he reigning? Now. And, that is the point of the Gospel of Matthew. The Reign of God proclaimed by the Prophets and Judges of the OT is now on earth in the man of Jesus. Jesus is God and He is reigning. This makes the “Reign of God” a divine action that is accomplished through the words and deeds of Jesus and wherever they are present. And so, in light of this fresh teaching on the “Reign of God” we can take a look at the parable concerning the Reign of God with refreshed vision.
We have two parts in this parable. The first section deals with a people who ignore the invitations of God. They received previous invitation from the king. The king has sent messengers to remind them of the king's gracious invitation. But, the people ignore the invitation and turn to their own work, some of them even kill the kings messengers for reminding them of their invite. On account of their ignorance to the invitation they are destroyed.
The first section of this parable leave me a bit breathless, but this parable gets even better. As if the first parabolic punch were not damaging enough to the Pharisees, Jesus goes on to tell the second part of the parable. The first group is destroyed, which means they are no longer under the Reign of the God. However, God is not happy with an empty hall, in other words, he wants people in and under his reign, but he is in no way going to get them by force. So he drafts a new invitation of grace. One sealed and signed by the body and blood of His Son. He sends out more messengers with the invitation on the tips of their tongue.
The messengers are sent out into the streets to spread the invitations and gather everyone they can into the wedding hall. This invitation is so well recieved that the hall is filled with guests. This is where we find ourselves today. We are thrust into the middle of the parable story. We too have been gathered under the Reign of a king, our God, by hearing the gracious invitation of God and trusting it to be true. We are marked by the blood and body of this new invitation of Grace. We are in the kingdom and under Reign/Rule of God. We have been gathered in by the ordained servants of God who are still spreading the invitations of God from their lips. So, being people under the reign of God, or as it is called nowadays being the Church, let us take a closer look at what this church in the parable is like.
What do we see in verse 10? Servants sending out the invitation, good and bad being gathered with the result being a full wedding hall. Seems simple enough, at least until we apply a negative question, which is: what do we not see in verse 10? I hope this is not too confusing a question. But, if the people in the wedding hall are the ones living in and under the Reign of God, otherwise called the church, then we can learn a great deal of what the church, as the consecrated people of God, does not look like. So, what do you not see? (Pause)
I will tell you what I do not see and perhaps that will help us. I do not see divisions among the people in the hall. I do not see groups forming and bickering over carpet or hymnals. There is no finger pointing back and forth. There is no one complaining, wagging their head saying, “this church blah-blah-blah.” Something else I do not see, the gathered people bragging or complaining about the servant that gathered them. No servant is too arrogant, quiet, long-winded or introverted. I do not see those who have been gathered taking the place of the ordained servants. Perhaps we should keep that in mind in our evangelism efforts as a church. These are just a few of the things I do not see. And, do you know why I do not see them? Because there is only one King and Lord and when he comes he will have no tolerance or patience with any other “kings” or “lords.” Because when we “wear our own clothes” in the hall or thumb our nose at the gracious invitation of the king, we are telling Him, we rule ourselves and your Grace is not needed. And, when we communicate to the king that even though we are in his hall that we will have nothing to do with him ruling us, we see clearly why the Kingdom of God or the Reign of God is much more than a location.
The missdressed man from our parable is in the wedding hall of the king. He is in the right location we might think. We might say today, “we are in the church” this is the right location, isn't it? However, when the king comes what is very clear is that even though this one man is in the right place he is certainly not of the right Kingdom. No, he has established his own reign and rule in his life. We learn that his kingship and God's kingship are not compatible. And we are crushed to find that our kingship is much the same as the man in our parable. If we want to rule ourselves we thumb our noses at the invitation of God. We ignore his Grace and turn to our own ruling ways. Now, if there is one thing we have all observed in the reigns of unrighteous kings, presidents, and magistrates of this world it is that when one ruler comes into power he does his best to eliminate all opposition and subdue his enemies. How much more, then, will a righteous God who is our King and Lord cast out those who consider themselves to be kings of what God has made for them?
Beloved, there is not time to spare. The King is coming. He is on his way and the time is short before he will return to inspect the guests who have been gathered. Do not worry about gathering more people in if you yourselves are not wearing what is proper. Leave the gathering to Pastor Gleason, to Pastor Fritsche, and all those ordained servants who go forth from God to the streets. Do not take it upon yourselves to fix whatever you see wrong within the wedding hall or the church, it is not your house and therefore not your problem. God will come and clean house in his time, and that is bittersweet at best. Bitter because there are those among us who are not garbed in the proper attire, which is the righteousness of God that comes by Grace through faith. Sweet because the King is coming.
Beloved let us draw near to the Lord with a true heart. Let us look to the king for our healing. It does not come from any of us. The healing we need is that of the King, our Lord Jesus. Pastors will not fix what ails the church. You and I, the rabble who has been gathered in, we will not fix the church. It is only the maker of the church, the one who rules over it, the Lord, only He will fix her. By the forgiveness that comes through the Grace of God in the blood of Jesus we will be healed and restored to being the church. It will not be great campaigns, new evangelism models, or new pastors, it will only be the Blood of the King himself that heals the Church. That is why the Lord came. He came to make us right with him. He came to gather. He came to Reign.
Beloved the time is short. The king is coming. Let us prepare for his arrival by examining our hearts and minds. As people who have been freed from the reign of the devil by the blood of Christ let us examine our hearts and be ruled by God as guests and beggars He has no need for other kings. Repent, and return to God, the invitations of Grace have not yet ceased, the doors are not yet closed. Amen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What comes out of the heart?

I have had a great deal of interaction with the heart of commercial America recently. Jesus in Matthew tells us that it is what comes out of the heart that corrupts, not what enters through it. Words are, truly, the first things that pour forth and spill our of the heart. Therefore, the words that I have been hearing lately from commercial America have been hurtful, grating, greedy words. What am I to expect? Consumerism is dying when the consumer becomes despised. The customer has become a competitor when he demands right service from a producer, that is what I am experiencing. I am trying to take from the bottom line. I am growing weary of this all take and no give relationship we have.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Excerpt from Stark

I cam across this gem today in my prayers from Stark,

"Keep my heart to this one thing, that I fear thy name. Grant that this week I become more pious and godly, increasing in the knowledge and love of thee, and as I leave week after week behind me, so may my inward man grow, that when the last week of my life arrives, I may be assured of thy grace. Should this week prove a week of crosses, strengthen me by the Holy Spirit, that I may bear and overcome everything by thy powerful assistance. Be thyself my help, and my preserver from all trouble. Now I comment myself, body and soul, to thy fatherly protection, as all Christians should do."