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Discovering the faith of our ancestors

June 28, 2017

Sermon preached as part of the celebrations for the “Heimattag” of the Transylvania Club in Kitchener

2nd Sunday of Holy Trinity

“Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.  The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’  So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.  He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

 

 

Matthew 22:1-14

With this comparison, or more exactly, parable, Jesus tells us about a royal wedding that is an occasion for great joy. A king is inviting people! And given the context of the parable, we might even say: It is the king of kings who is inviting us, the almighty Lord of heaven and earth! Think for a moment, what would happen if one day you found an invitation to a royal wedding in your mailbox? It would be printed with golden reliefs, have the royal family crest and your name would appear there: You are being invited to a royal wedding! Or better yet: a royal limousine is parked in front of your house; a royal servant, wearing royal robes and white gloves, passes the envelope to you.
Jesus said: “He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come” How great! Those who preach the word of God are like those messengers, and in this sense, so is everyone who proclaims the Gospel by means of sermons or testimonies of Jesus Christ at the request of God.

There is no doubt that you will accept this invitation and circle the date in your agenda. It may even happen that someone hesitates and says: But I cannot accept that invitation! In this case, the king will be patient and generous: he will send another magnificent servant later, also with the limousine (perhaps they may even come several times) and he will want to know if you have changed your mind and if you are willing to go and honor him with your presence. Jesus told them, “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready”. I can smell the rich aroma of the roasted meat of the royal wedding party; I imagine there will be salads of all kinds and sauces of all kinds and garnishes and soups and appetizers and desserts and cakes. And He said, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (Jn 6:51)

But there remains a worrying question. What attracts me to attending a royal wedding and wedding party? And in relation to the parable, this question becomes even more distressing because there are people from the street who are invited; even the homeless and socially marginal are invited. Where are we going to get the right clothes for a wedding like that? And the good news tells us: If you do not have anything appropriate in your wardrobe, do not worry! The king will even give you something appropriate. He does not want to see anyone dirty or poorly dressed at his wedding; everyday clothes will not do. That is why, at the entrance of the wedding, he will give out appropriate clothing: dresses, tuxedos, neckties, silk handkerchiefs, ornaments and other related things. And God has already given you all this in his kingdom when you received him and you were baptized: “The blood of Jesus Christ and his righteousness are my clothes and my adornment,” are the lyrics of a song. In baptism, God gave us his garments of salvation. We could never get such clothes on our own.
Through this parable, Jesus wants to tell us about the great joy that comes with being a child of God and belonging to his kingdom. That’s as beautiful as taking part in a royal wedding. And the best thing about this invitation is that it is valid for all people without exception, both for the good and the bad. Jesus said, “So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” Thus, “many are called,” which includes all people of the world.

But not everyone will reach eternal salvation. God knows that only a few will accept his invitation, and they will attend and they will stay; they are the “chosen ones.” Jesus chooses these people. That is why it is said: “Many are called but few are chosen.” But the parable also has a dark side. Not only does Jesus tell us about the great joy of the kingdom of God, but he also tells us about the great gravity of it. From the same nuptial joy, suddenly there arises hostility, and at the reception a cruel expulsion takes place.

And so it happens: some guests despised the great honor that the king was granting them, despite his repeated invitation. Jesus said: “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them”. The king is so beside himself that he even declares an inclement war on the guests who despised his invitation. Jesus says that: “The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” Whoever prefers their day-to-day affairs than to God, whoever turns his back and despises his invitation, whoever makes fun of Him or persecutes his servants, has earned his anger. You will not have to be astonished if God punishes inclemently.

But there are still some problems with some guests who have wanted to participate in the party. Jesus says:
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?”
The king asked him kindly; maybe even expected an apology. Instead, the guest fell silent. The guest did not address his host. He did not give him the slightest answer. We believe that he also despised the king, as well as those who at first did not want to attend. And he also got the anger of the king:
“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
Apparently this guest either rejected the wedding clothing or took it off later, perhaps because they were uncomfortable for him or because he did not like them.
Not everyone who is baptized remains forever in baptismal grace; not all who are baptized maintain the faith of salvation wrought by the forgiveness of Christ. Our ancestors were able to cope with the hardships, shortages and sufferings of the past, for they had accepted this invitation from the king, that is, they were already part of the kingdom of God, they were among the guests who enjoyed the favor and protection of God. We call all this the blessing of God. When we withdraw ourselves from God, from his fellowship, from His word, from the church, we also gradually drift away from the blessing of God.

Our ancestors were able to cope with many difficult situations, not only because of their ability to work and their good Germanic virtues and traditions, but first and foremost because they remained in a real relationship with God and did not merely carry out religious traditions.
I’ve had the privilege of working in Argentina for almost two decades with congregations of Volga German origin –in fact, I even have a daughter in law of Volga German heritage– and I can bear witness through the countless conversations with hundreds of German Volga elders who have told me of their and their parents’ hardships and sufferings in Russia since the beginning of the twentieth century. And they have all told me one thing: ‘we could face it all; we have always been able to overcome everything because we had God on our side’. In addition to the familiar Bible that was read every day in the house, and of course personal prayer, there would also be a song of praise from their “Gemeinschaftsliederbuch”. –Until today, I have kept a personal copy for myself as a treat from one neighbour, one of the old ladies of my former congregation—

It was not their will, their tenacity, their steadiness or their abilities that helped our ancestors to continue, to migrate, and to thrive in an unknown and even discriminating country. It was the foundation of their faith in God and His blessing. The title of my sermon is ‘Discovering the Faith of Our Ancestors.’ For those who didn’t know this, it may be a discovery. For those who know it but have stopped practicing the faith, have stopped having a relationship and fellowship with God where they put God in the first place in their lives, it will be a re-discovery. I know that among the Transylvania Germans it has also been like this. I also know of the Volga Germans and many other ethnic groups. I know of those who have accepted God’s invitation to believe, to trust and to have the Word of God as the authority for their lives, to have the church as the main meeting place and, of course, to have a daily relationship with Jesus. They have been able to endure, to get ahead and to thrive thanks to the blessing of God. And that is the best legacy of our ancestors that we can re-discover: their faith in the living God. Their devotion to God enabled them to succeed despite trials and miseries. When a people loses sight of all this it begins to fall and to lose the help and support that comes from God. When a people put God first, God begins to bless those people and even their related ones and to heal that land. This applies not only to a particular ethnic group but to entire countries. And we can confirm this from the Bible when we are told: “Remember the Lord your God, because it is He who gives you the power to produce that wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:8)
Many forget that all that our ancestors achieved did not come firstly via their will, hard work, and persistence, but because they put God first. As we read in psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain”.
If we live in a very prosperous country and we are very positive and hard working people, but we forget God and we reject his invitation, everything begins, unfortunately, to gradually decay and to be corrupted in the absence of God’s favor.
And thus, Jesus, through this parable, tells us about the great joy of being invited to the kingdom of God, but also of the great seriousness that it implies. Jesus did not threaten his listeners, nor force them. God doesn’t force anyone to believe in Him; it is always an invitation, like the parable of wedding. He simply tells a story. And the same parable applies to us today. It tells us about the joy of being invited by God and of the serious consequences of despising that invitation. The invitation is still standing, even today, in the same way as it used to be. There are still enthusiastic messengers of God who continue to invite both good and bad to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And what does this mean for us? Let’s find out for ourselves. What Jesus did is simply to tell this parable in the same way that I did. It is in us to experience what happens when we accept Christ and we begin to see Him again and walk in His paths. Our ancestors knew it very well and they experienced it also.
Amen

E. Pellini

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One Comment leave one →
  1. margkahl permalink
    June 28, 2017 4:22 pm

    Thank you for sending the sermon, it fed my soul and heart. Margaret Kahlmeier

    Margaret the Joyfull Beader 📿

    >

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