2023-10-15 Pentecost 20
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
I trust everyone had a nice Thanksgiving last weekend! Great big dinners, family and friends were in abundance no doubt. And after a week of Turkey bun lunches, I bet you’re excited to eat anything but turkey! But today on this 20th Sunday after Pentecost, we’re back at the table again, back at the feast. Both in the Old Testament reading and the Gospel it is abundantly clear that feasting and eating are back on the menu! Especially our Isaiah reading - it is really richness rich! “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined” (25:6). The absolute best of everything will be rolled out at this feast.
But did you catch the verb tenses in the reading? Probably not - unless you’re a total Bible nerd like me! But listen to the reading again: “And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. God will swallow up the dark veil, He will swallow up death, He will wipe away the tears, He will take away the reproach of His people. It says all these things will happen because they haven’t happened yet. And the feast of victory is yet to happen too because the warfare isn’t over yet. But it truly is a picture of what is to come.
These passages are light for our path because we are a people still in darkness. Now we still see the images on the internet and watch the TV screen of the dark shroud of death that covers our world. The terrible conflict this past week in the Middle East. Russia and Ukraine. All the other wars in countries around our globe that the Media didn’t tell you to get upset about. Darkness still abounds in our world. The deep, dark wet blanket of sin and death cover humanity like a mourner’s veil!
We’ve all been affected by the darkness. We’ve all felt it first hand and tasted of its bitterness. Whether it be difficult times and hardships or outright death itself. We’ve all been there or we will be, some day. And it’s kind of funny. I’ve noticed a shift during my ministry. A shift away from the term “funeral” and shift towards things like “memorial service” and “celebration of life” more and more. The emphasis is on celebrating what was and kind of pretending that death and the dark veil doesn’t bother us. Oh I get the “keep on the sunny side of life” mentality and all, but I highly doubt that changing the name of something makes the sadness and loss any less. We still feel the effects of death. We still have the grief and emotions. We still have the darkness all around us.
Can you imagine what might have happened in the garden of Eden if Adam and Eve would have known the pain they would feel in finding the dead body of their son, laying in a field? If that image was attached to the warning label of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil?? This is what will happen if eat of it, if you touch it. Maybe they would have thought harder when tempted by the sly words of the serpent! An interesting notion to consider. But as we all know hindsight is 20/20. And it’s also pretty darn useless too! It’s too late! What’s done is done. Like a feather pillow being cut open and shaken into the wind, we cannot put all the feathers back. We cannot undo the fact that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We can’t do anything about it. But thanks be to God, we know Someone who can.
Of course, this is the one and the only, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who has come deal with our greatest enemy, death itself. And we know that He did this by entering into death, even death on a cross. The sinless Lamb of God who dies in our place. He plunders Sheol and crushes it by the power of the Resurrection. He causes a dazzling light to shine and illuminate our dark world of sin, death and the devil. And because He has won the victory for us, He can throw the banquet. He can host the biggest victory feast that mankind has ever seen! And this, as Isaiah tells us, He will do. The grand feast of victory awaits all who trust and believe that our Lord has won the war already, even though the battle rages on.
And then we see the coolest detail of today’s readings: “’Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast” (MT 22:4). Who are those ones who are invited to this grand feast?! It’s us! It’s you and me, those who have the party clothes! The white garment of our Baptism, washed clean of our sins and gussied up by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone! We are the ones invited to the dinner. We are the ones graciously beckoned to come and gather around the table of the Lamb in His Kingdom that has no end! Come and eat of the richy-richness! For death that devoured us has been swallowed up by the death of Christ our Lord. This is what Isaiah is talking about. He points us ahead to the glory that our Lord has done and has promised He will do.
I saw a post on social media this past week, decrying the warfare and death upon the innocent women and children, civilians caught in the crossfire in Palestine and Israel. Both sides blame the other. Celebrities and influencers get on their band wagons, further fuelling the discord amongst the brave keyboard warriors. “What’s it going to take to have peace in the Middle East?!” the post said. “The Zionists have to leave!” says one person. “The Palestinians need to quit bombing!” says another. But amidst all the static and noise in the several hundred if not thousands of replies to the post, one clear, two-word answer was given: “Jesus Christ.” That’s what it takes for peace. That’s what it takes for love to conquer hate. That’s what it takes for forgiveness to drive out fear. That’s what it takes for good to conquer evil.
On that last day, the day of resurrection, when the final blow to death and darkness has been given, someone will stand up at the epic feast of victory for our God, giving a toast to our amazing Lord and Saviour: “It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (25:9). Our eyes will shift over to the One seated at the head of the table and there we will see our Lamb who was slain, surrounded by His people and His angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven. Everyone will raise their glasses in triumph, reunited once and for all, praising the Lord of life Who saved and set us free. We will eternally be glad and rejoice in His salvation forever more! This is where we keep our focus. This is what we look forward too in gracious anticipation. The feast of victory awaits all who trust in the victory of Christ our King. Now and forever more. Amen!