Twentieth Sunday after Trinity 2021

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, blessings on this Twentieth Sunday after Trinity as we imagine the scene described in the Gospel reading for today. Our Lord and His disciples are on their way to Jerusalem where He will be handed over to His persecutors and sacrificed on the Cross for our sins. He knows what is in store for Him, and no doubt this weighs heavily on His mind. Our Lord is faithful to His Father, but He is not suicidal; and at one point He will pray in earnest that this bitter cup may be passed from His lips. With His death at the forefront of His mind, He shares in the tragic sorrow of mankind which remains for the most part oblivious to the nearness of its own demise. Mankind lives on the precipice, always about to stumble into the abyss, and yet men fool themselves into thinking that they are living out their lives on sure ground. The realization that we are so close to the edge of our own destruction does not really hit us until it is almost too late, and then we are more prone to go the extra mile to try to hold onto the illusion that we are safe and secure in ourselves than to embrace the One God who is alone able and willing to save us. When the would-be guests reject the invitation from the King to His Son’s wedding feast, they do so at first not so much out of hostility to the King as from a conviction that they do not really need that invitation to be contented. They are busy on their farms or with their merchandise. Their worldly concerns give their lives enough meaning; their worldly success enough pleasure; so why deny what they seem to have built for themselves on their own terms and with their own hands by accepting the King’s invitation? Why go to Heaven on the King’s terms when we are contented enough with the Heaven we believe we have made by and for ourselves? When the King persists, and sends out the invitation a second time, there is a very real possibility now that the King will break down our illusion. He has butchered for us the fatted calf. The banquet promises to be better than anything we can provide for ourselves. Surely, what we think we have cannot compare to what He is promising us. With our illusion of self-contentedness breaking down, we respond to this second invitation with much more spite, even to the point of murdering several of the messengers. We are in a death struggle with the God who wants to save us, and we are prepared to kill and to destroy whatever is necessary to rip ourselves free from God and to drown on our own terms. This is the allure of sin: What may start off as the pride of a self-made life ends in willful ignorance and self-destructive madness. In confronting His own near death, Christ Jesus avoids this same madness, and so by sharing in the tragic sorrow of our own plight He enables us to share in His open-eyed and clear minded steadfastness to the end. The King has invited us all to the wedding feast, but like Christ Jesus we cannot go there clothed in our own false illusion and self-defeating pride. We must take off all that in order to be fitted for the wedding garment. No matter how much we may hope and pray otherwise, we cannot be fitted for that garment unless we are stripped bare of all of our sins and conceits. This is death, for the wages of sin is death, and until the Second Coming of Christ Jesus in all His glory it is inescapable. If we have faith in Christ Jesus, and if we are reborn into His eternal life, then we shall pass through death into a glory that makes death seem picayune and inconsequential. As St. Paul reminds us in his Epistle to the Romans: “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Notice that when the King sent out His messengers the third and final time, they “went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good.” To go out into the highways is to travel far and wide. The King is extending His invitation beyond the ones originally chosen. What the Law had given unto the Jews, grace is opening up unto all men, the bad and the good, so that even the untouchable leper or the hated Samaritan may find a seat in the banquet hall waiting for him. The King responds to the intransigence of His own by being all the more magnanimous to those once apparently cut off from Him. The more we fight Him; the more He loves us, and extends the net of His love to others. The King responds to our sins with righteous anger, but He is not drawn into our mercurial darkness. Instead, He just makes the big feast that much bigger and better by expanding the guest list, until our spiteful rebellion against Him is shown to be as ridiculous and self-defeating as it always was. As described in the Song of Solomon: “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” If love is the banner fluttering over us, and life is the candlelight before us, and God Himself is the bread and the wine, then the only good choice for us is to be thankful and obedient. Anything else but thankfulness and obedience comes from the Devil and serves only to pervert the wedding feast and to rob us of our joy at the feast. As the Prophet Isaiah says: “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” The converse is also true. If you are disobedient, such as we see with the man who shows up at the wedding feast in the wrong clothes, you are not going to harvest and to eat the good of the land. Instead, you are going to contribute to the degradation of the harvest. You are going to spoil the food and the wine at the banquet for yourself and for everyone else. Sin is a contagion. It will spread about that banquet hall if allowed to fester, just as it has rippled across the history of mankind from when Adam and Eve first sinned. Given how highly contagious sin is, there is no choice really but to shackle that rebellious guest and to send him and his disobedience to the bowels of hell. There is too much at stake otherwise. As read in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white.” In spite of our sins, He approves us. We are fit for the wedding feast, for Christ Jesus has righted the wrong we never could have righted ourselves. Our garments shall remain white, for Christ Jesus has taken it upon Himself to wash them for us. Our bread shall give us joy when we eat it, our wine shall render our hearts merry, for Christ Jesus is in communion with us when we dine with Him in all His glory. Nothing and no one will be allowed to rob us of this gift except ourselves, and so the man attempting to rob the feast of its glory, and any men who follow his sordid example going forward, will be banished. As C.S. Lewis writes in The Great Divorce: “If we insist on keeping hell (or even earth) we shall not see heaven: And if we accept heaven, we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs from hell.” The King is granting us an invitation to the wedding feast, but we must go to it on His terms. As C.S. Lewis also writes in The Great Divorce: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who will say to God, Thy will be done, and those to whom God says in the end, Thy will be done. All that are in hell, choose it, for without that self-choice there could be no hell.” The man who shows up to the feast in the wrong clothes chooses his own hell over the King’s invitation. He is given what he chooses. Let us pray, my brethren, that we may be steadfast in choosing Christ over sin and life over death.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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