Many are called

A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. At last, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. She will be called woman because she was taken out of man. And the two shall become one flesh. Each wedding was an extravagant event. A suitable, perfect, wonderful helper was found for Adam, and likewise the perfect helpmeet for each husband [for you]: to show the world the love of Christ for his bride the Church. The day God gave Eve to her husband rocked the newly formed cosmos. He changed his creating pattern, got his fingers in the dirt, and even moved flesh and blood so that Adam would have a wife to die for. Every marriage is a mystery, but I’m talking about Christ and his Church. Your marriage, my marriage, Adam and Eve’s marriage, defined by a better, more perfect, most perfect union: Christ for his bride the Church.

But we have made it into a burden. Whether a mere annoyance to our calendar or a conflict that harbors hate and anger, we have degraded, misused, and discounted this gift, this extravagant and lavish gift. But this gift is a lens by which we see Jesus and his love. This gift is what defines who the church is…Your marriage does not define marriage. Likewise, the state or the opinions of men and women cannot and do not define what marriage is. No court or judge can define what was established at the cross of Jesus as some blanket civil union between the emotions of two people—regardless of who they are. Call it what they will, the facts remain. The marriage of Christ to his bride, the Church, is what defines marriage. Today we see into that wedding. Today we see that not only our own marriages are defined by Jesus’ marriage to the Church, but our faith—our Christian life—is defined by this Jesus by virtue of his death and resurrection, which is of course his marriage to the church.

[We have made Christianity into a burden. Jesus says, “If any man would follow me, let him deny himself, pickup his cross and follow me.” We must lose our life in order to find it because if we hold on to our life, our selfishness, if we try to make a name for ourselves, we will lose ourselves to the outer darkness. The world would have you believe that you have a unique identity by yourself, by virtue of yourself. But your baptism changed that. Your identity is not of yourself, but of Jesus. Your identity is of the Church, of absolution, of self-sacrifice, of denying yourself.]

The school children often ask what heaven will be like. Today, Jesus gives us an answer. The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a King who gave a wedding feast for his Son. Not a wedding feast like your wedding or my wedding. This kind of wedding feast was not a short event, a day or evening alone event. A wedding feast was an event that required lodging, clothing, food, drink, entertainment. It was days long…it was extravagant. And the wedding feast prepared by this King would have just been over the top. When it’s all set and ready to go, the King sends out the servants to find those invited and escort them in. The Word goes out. This is the preaching of the Gospel. In the Garden, from above the waters of the Flood, from the mountains of Moriah, from the burning bush, the midst of the Red Sea, from Canaan, and Israel, Judah, Babylon, and Bethlehem. From Corinth, Rome, and Spain, India, and Asia…Africa, Europe, America…the four corners of the world. And even to the midst of New Mexico. From the mouths of apostles, evangelists, and pastors everywhere, the Word goes out.

But there are excuses. They pay no attention to this great gift, this extraordinary invitation. You didn’t have to pay for anything! The King wants his people in his presence and he’s stopped at no expense to take care of his guests. [It is a testament to his character, his very identity. This Father has given us our body and souls, our reason and senses, he gives us our eyes, ears, and all our members and still takes care of them, wife, land, animals, and all we have. Only out of his Fatherly divine goodness and mercy.] And instead of running to hop on the carriage—the people invited seize his servants, treat them shamefully, and kill them. Anger rules in our hearts. Selfish desires have us wrapped up so tight that we even think of the Gospel and the heavenly gifts as hostile to us. We think our own way and our own plans are just as good or better than the King’s. We are proud of our own dirt and our own sin and even the fig leaves we have tied together as our clothing.

This is not some text to shame us into coming to church on Sunday and to make you feel bad about missing church on a given week. No, this is a text to show us that we have forsaken God and his gifts.

But the King will not have an empty wedding hall. Compel them to come in. I will clothe them and feed them and they shall be my people. It isn’t some decision in your heart. You didn’t cause the others to forsake the invitation. You were just walking the main roads. The servants found you minding your own business. They invited you to something out of the world. It sounds too good to be true, but it is true. It’s a wedding feast that has no end. The King will take care of you forever. There will be no need to fear anything. The Son of the King has married a wife. She is without spot or blemish. The King will attend to your every need. Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live!

The stops on Sunday morning are tastes of the feast that has no end. When the Church worships, it is the Bride of Christ gathered together. The little pieces of the whole, the members of the Body together with the Head. You’ve heard it called a foretaste of the feast to come. You’ve never tasted anything like this. But there is the temptation to say you don’t need to taste. The devil, the world, or maybe your own heart will say you’re okay another week. Perhaps you’ve been used to making it. Maybe you have your own business, your own plan. For the King, he bids you come. He says, they are weak, my Son is strong. They need to eat. My Son leads them to the green pastures of his body and his blood. The Hall won’t be empty. He compels you. Come, eat! Come, drink!

And just as he did in the Garden so long ago, he still does. He walks in the midst of you. He looks as his guests. He brings his Word right up to you. Even here, he brings his Law and Gospel: to show you your sin and to give you your Savior (the BrideGroom). It was necessary that he clothe you. Like Adam and Eve, the fig leaves we have used to cover our shame—whatever you have conjured up to cover your sin and guilt, won’t do. He must kill the Lamb and use his righteousness to cover you. No one can gather in the presence of the King if the King doesn’t first clothe him. In the waters of baptism, he does just that. He wraps you in the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus, too. Having been wrapped in Jesus’ clothing, the King delights in his Son and in you. He delights with you.

A suitable, perfect, wonderful bride was formed for Jesus. She was created as his hands were nailed to a tree. And so the man has left his Father and has been joined to his bride. She has been taken out of him. By virtue of the Water of Baptism and the Blood of the Sacrament she is joined to him—bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. They are no longer two, but one. He sustains her. He keeps her in safety. He feeds and nourishes her. He gives his everything to have her. Jesus dying on the cross is the definition of marriage. His resurrection is the bride’s life: your life. The day Jesus died on the cross, the cosmos was rocked to its very core. He created by dying. He sustained her by giving up himself to take her to himself. You are the Eve he died for and now he lives to give you forgiveness and life with him.

Come, for all things are now ready. The King has prepared the dinner, the Lamb has been slaughtered, and now he lives again. Come, all you who thirst and are hungry. Come to the waters and to the Lamb. Eat and Drink. Come to the wedding feast. Christ will transform you. You are his beloved.

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The Cupboards Are Bare

At the city gates the widow of Zarephath stooped down low, gathering sticks, so that she could prepare her final meal. The God of life is found in the depravity of death. But the anxiety and worry of life will cloud our sight and we’ll miss the God who is standing in the middle of our troubles. The cupboard was bare, the flour was running out, and there was barely enough oil to do anything. Her anxiety about life, with many worries running through her brain, are interrupted from above. “Go fetch me a glass of water,” Elijah said, “and while your at it, grab me a small morsel of bread.” But I don’t even have enough for my son, the flour is running out, there is barely enough oil to do anything, and I’m preparing a meal of sticks. It seems as if death is reigning, worry is supreme, fear is everywhere.

The depravity of life had met this woman. Times were hard in Zaraphath. But, times were harder in this woman’s life. The weight of hunger, the disease of malnourishment, and the alienation of picking up sticks off the ground – had brought her beyond anxious. Her worry was her life, and her master was death.

Life is hard. Age gives aches and pains. We loose loved ones and the dinner table isn’t as full as it once was. Our minds are quickly distracted by worry and anxious thoughts. What will I wear? How will we feed our family? . . . How long will we have? What are you seeking? Even the wicked seek their own righteousness and love those that love them.

And how many masters do you have? You will love one and hate the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You either have one master or you have the other. It is impossible to serve them both. The widow’s master may be yours. One has many names and faces, as many, in fact, as you could possibly want. You can call him “God.” You can call him “Allah,” or “Buddha,” or “Scratch,” or simply make up a new name. He doesn’t mind. He’ll go by anything. He’s kind and tolerant…oh and patient. He’s never jealous and hardly ever gets upset. But he’s a liar…and a cheat. He’ll tell his followers they can have as many masters as they want. He’ll give you choices and let you indulge yourself. But it’s all so he can trap you…devour you and ruin you forever.

The other master is jealous and stubborn. He never bends and always demands. He won’t let you call him something else. He exposes the sensitivities of man. He calls you a sinner. He won’t let you have other masters. He is the God of truth. He is light of light. He has no empty promises and fading pleasures. He is life…but he is found in death. If you belong to him then you can follow no one else. But there is no need for anyone else. Jesus is life and comfort. He is help in every time of need. He is our rock and our fortress. And this Jesus still wants you.

Is your cupboard bare? Is your master anxiety, worry, and death? Who arrays the grass of the field? And who is it that makes the flowers grow and the sparrows fly? It is Jesus. Elijah answered the widow of Zaraphath with the truth of God’s word. As that woman made a small cake for Elijah, he gave that woman food from heaven. Jesus became her master there, even as he was her servant.

Standing in the midst of your trouble is Jesus.

Life will be hard. Times will be rough, and the cupboard may from time to time seem bare. To the human eye, the small morsel of bread on the altar may seem like the fixing of your last meal before you die. All the world seems like it is resting on your shoulders and your mind will seem like your master. Death will be your focus, and work will overwhelm you. But our God does not reign from heaven above—not yet, not now. His wisdom and power is only made known in Christ Jesus who reigns in the midst of his people. His reign and his work is here. Awesome and powerful and mighty only in Jesus. Without him and his righteousness, without Jesus, he has no mercy, no grace… we would not call him awesome, but awful.

What shall we eat? We shall eat the Body of Jesus, born of the Virgin, executed for crimes He did not commit, and raised again to glory by His Father given for you. What shall we drink? We shall drink the Blood of Jesus poured out outside the city gates for the remission of your sins. What shall we wear? We shall wear His righteousness, the wedding garment of joy that He provides by Grace.

You have a bread that will last forever. When the times are hard, and the morsels look small, know that God dwells here. His reign, his kingdom is here and everywhere his Word is preached and Holy Supper given…in a small voice and a morsel of bread, a sip of wine. He has conquered your hurts and sorrows. He has died so that you live. And so when you partake of his body. . . When the pastor places Jesus on your lips, you are partaking in your death. Life is found in the depravity of death. It is your death and it is Jesus’ death. It is a putting of his cross before you and in you…It is a death that frees you from Satan and eternal torment because it is the death of Jesus’ cross that stomped the head of the serpent and undid death and sin’s debt. It is your foundation and your life. It is your reward and your nourishment. On your knees, before that altar, your strength and your song are placed upon your lips and you are in fellowship with God.

Despite the temporary nature of the things God provides for us now, we know this: Jesus is coming back. Death has been defeated. He will not abandon us to the grave. For the meantime, it might get better and it might get worse. Lilies bloom, wilt, and die but new ones rise up behind them to bloom again. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Eat the Body of Jesus. Drink His Blood. Wear the clean garments of righteousness that He gives to you. All things pass away except this one thing: the Word of God. The Word made Flesh has paid your debt. You are forgiven, clean, and whole. And on the last day He shall call you forth from the grave. No one will stop Him.

Matthew 6