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The Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 22:1-14

Rev. Kurt Hering

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity
Trinity Lutheran Church  
Layton, Utah

Play MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Oct 13, 2013 

Preaching to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas since February 8, 2015. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.

It is not our going to church or what we do there that saves us. Going to church means that we are going to the place where God is feeding us with the bread of life – “every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God” for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Six days a week you live in a world that is doing its best to convince you that God doesn’t exist -- or if He does that He is a God whom we have to fear and figure out a way to satisfy by doing enough good stuff so that He isn’t angry with you anymore.

But on the seventh day, God calls you to a day of rest. And this not a day simply to rest from our earthly labors and do nothing but what is fun and entertaining and distracting from your troubles, but a day to rest in the tender loving care of your Lord and your God as He opens the kingdom of heaven to you in His holy Christian Church.

To hear the entire sermon preached for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, "The Kingdom of Heaven,” click on the MP3 audio link provided above. The audio begins with the Old Testament Reading, Isaiah 55:1-9. The sermon begins at the 14:00 point of the mp3 file.

A servant of the Word and His folk,

Pastor Hering

For those of you who prefer to read or read along while listening, the preaching manuscript follows below.

Nota bene: Sermons are meant to be heard. Some points from the manuscript are explained and filled out during the preaching, so you will need to listen to the audio file to get the full message.

TEXT: Again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Matthew 22:1–14

Dear people of God,

The Kingdom of Heaven is better than anything you have ever seen or experienced before in your life—or anything you will.

• It’s better than the “happiest place on earth—the “Magic Kingdom of Disneyland.”

• It’s better than that place you go where everything stays there after you leave it.

• It’s better than a luxury cruise in the Caribbean or a Hawaiian holiday.

• It’s even better than Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s house.

Jesus and the Scriptures that speak of Him spend a lot of time telling us what the kingdom of heaven is like.

• Pearly gates, streets of gold, buildings of precious jewels

• Angels and arch-angels gathered around the throne of God in glorious singing

• The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. Isaiah 11:6-7

But today, Jesus tells more about what it won’t be like—i.e. what/who won’t be there.

• Those too busy and attached to the world.

one to his farm, another to his business

• Those caught up in religions of the Law.

seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them

• Those who value their freedom above Christ’s holiness.

there a man who had no wedding garment

do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

In today’s Gospel lesson Jesus tells a parable about those who will not enter the kingdom of heaven. It is spoken to Jewish religious leaders, indeed any religious leaders who do anything but preach and teach Christ and Him crucified to deliver the forgiveness of sins to His people for salvation and eternal life.

Thus, the parable is a warning to them, a call to repentance for all, and a comfort to believers. It is again an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. And it is at the same time about the history of God calling His people Israel and the continuing story of His church today—for the Kingdom of Heaven is forever. Forever begins for people on earth by being born again of water and the Spirit by the grace of God through faith in Christ and the forgiveness of sins He showers upon us in His holy Christian Church, which is the kingdom of heaven come down to earth.

The heavenly banquet is closed to those without the wedding clothes of faith, which are none other than the robes of Christ’s righteousness we receive in Holy Baptism. Pretenders, those come to celebrate themselves rather than the groom, are not welcome. These are the ones without the wedding garments. This by the way, is why we require our pastors in the Lutheran Church to make sure that everyone who comes to the Lord’s table is taught and examined lest they end up like the man without clothes – snatched away in the middle of the feast as a pretender and cast away with the unbelievers.

Of course there are many in this world today, just as in the days of Jesus and before who don’t care to be at the banquet at all – these are they who declined the invitation, some to play in the fields and others to tend to business and still others even going so far as to persecute those who bear the invitation. This sinful attitude, sadly also shared by many who have even been given the precious wedding clothes of Baptism, is what our Lord is speaking of when He gives us the Third Commandment.

Third Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. 

But, if we are saved by grace through faith and not by our own works, are we not now free from this commandment and at liberty to do as we please on any given Lord’s day? This is the same question and problem the church faced in Luther’s time, to which he responds in his Preface of the Small Catechism:

“Since [works righteousness among us] has been abolished, people are no longer willing to go to the Sacrament, and thus they despise it. Here again encouragement is necessary, yet with understanding: We are to force no one to believe or to receive the Sacrament. Nor should we set up any law, time, or place for it. Instead, preach in such a way that by their own will, without our law, they will urge themselves and, as it were, compel us pastors to administer the Sacrament. This is done by telling them, ‘When someone does not seek or desire the Sacrament at least four times a year, it is to be feared that he despises the Sacrament and is not a Christian, just as a person is not a Christian who does not believe or hear the Gospel,’ for Christ did not say, “Leave this out, or despise this,” but, “Do this often as you drink it” (1 Corinthians 11:25), and other such words. Truly, He wants it done, and not entirely neglected and despised. ‘Do this,’ He says.”

Again, why do this if we are saved by grace and nothing we do, including going to church can save us? Very simply because, as our dear Lord Jesus tells us in Luke 14:15, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!"

It is not our going to church or what we do there that saves us. Going to church means that we are going to the place where God is feeding us with the bread of life – “every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God” for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Six days a week you live in a world that is doing its best to convince you that God doesn’t exist -- or if He does that He is a God whom we have to fear and figure out a way to satisfy by doing enough good stuff so that He isn’t angry with you anymore.

But on the seventh day, God calls you to a day of rest. And this not a day simply to rest from our earthly labors and do nothing but what is fun and entertaining and distracting from your troubles, but a day to rest in the tender loving care of your Lord and your God. It is a day to rest from the labor of trying to please Him or hide from Him and to enjoy the good things that only come from Him through His Word. You see, without hearing the Word of God for the forgiveness of sins, your rest and recreation is really no rest at all.

That is why Luther goes on to say in his Preface:

“Now, whoever does not highly value the Sacrament shows that he has no sin, no flesh, no devil, no world, no death, no danger, no hell. In other words, he does not believe such things, although he is in them up over his head and his ears and is doubly the devil’s own. On the other hand, he needs no grace, no life, no paradise, no heaven, no Christ, no God, nor anything good. For if he believed that he had so much evil around him, and needed so much that is good, he would not neglect the Sacrament, by which evil is remedied and so much good is bestowed. Nor would it be necessary to force him to go to the Sacrament by any law. He would come running and racing of his own will, would force himself, and beg that you must give him the Sacrament. Therefore you must not make any law about this.... Only set forth clearly the benefit and harm, the need and use, the danger and the blessing, connected with the Sacrament.”

That, dearly beloved of God, is what the parable in our Gospel lesson does for us today – it “sets forth clearly the benefit and harm, the need and use, the danger and the blessing, connected with the Sacrament” because it is the wedding feast, along with all the blessed means by which God delivers the forgiveness of sins and the very bread of life to us in His Church. 

Dear people of God, the kingdom of God is what this parable of the wedding banquet is all about. As Martin Luther teaches us, the kingdom of heaven “is what we call the Christian church on earth.” The whole reason that God is so adamant that you Remember the Sabbath Day by hearing His Word is to invite you to the wedding banquet of Christ to His church and to clothe you for it. To stay away from the banquet as it is set before you is to decline the very gift of heaven itself. To come without wearing the wedding clothes of Christ is to invite punishment.

But, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!" clothed in beautiful wedding garments at the invitation of our heavenly Father. Thanks be to God He has invited us and prepares us here in this world through His church. Otherwise we would be like the one with no wedding garment bound and cast out from the presence of God.

The Lord in heaven is ALWAYS here with His church on earth wherever He gathers it, even to the end of the age--to feast with you as He feeds you with the bread of His life and the blood of His forgiveness. And He sends you back out into the highways and byways of the world to bring the invitation to the kingdom of heaven to those out there who have yet to hear about it or are simply abstaining from the table of the Lord because they have better things to do.

Dear people of Trinity, Welcome to the wedding feast you blessed of the Lord! Enjoy, take comfort and be strengthened by the very presence of our Lord, who is at the table with us--clearly revealed in His Word spoken into your ears and mysteriously hidden under the bread and wine He places between your lips. You are indeed blessed as you eat this bread in the kingdom of heaven, for you are clothed in the wedding garment of the Lord that is your Baptism into His Word that forgives you all of your sins--in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.



Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.



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