Sermon – Trinity 18, 2020

St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, Trinity 18, Oct. 10, 2020 Canon Claude Schroeder

Lectionary Readings: Isiah 25. 1-9, Philippians 3. 4-14, Matthew 22. 1-14.

Even under these present ‘unhappy circumstances’, I want to wish you all “Happy Thanksgiving.” Thank you all so much for coming today.

Our tradition of  having Thanksgiving Long Week End goes back to 1957, when the Governor General of Canada Vincent Massey, issued a proclamation stating: “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the second Monday in October.” 

Well, a lot has changed in this country in the last 63 years.  For one thing, our connection with the land is not what it used to be.  We can come to church at Thanksgiving and sing, “We Plough the Fields and Scatter”, but how many of us plough the fields and scatter? But as it happened, back in May I got to go out with Henry Friesen and Nat Ross and ‘ploughed the fields’ in the community gardens to raise money for our refugee family. We had great harvest of potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini and strawberries in the garden at home. (May have wrecked a few friendships forcing zucchini onto people). And although there is a renewed interest in our culture in things local and organic, overall our relationship with the land is rather tenuous.

Modern culture has also really done a number the interior life of prayer and thanksgiving in people’s lives, with rather serious consequences I might add. More on that in a minute. All of which is to say words like, “God”, “Thanksgiving,” and “Blessing” to quote Vincent Massey, have been wiped out from people’s vocabulary and lived spiritual experience. What does it look like, what it does sound like, what does it feel like to offer thanks to God for the blessings of the Harvest? For many people, this is completely foreign thing.

So, what are we left with at Thanksgiving? What we are left with is that which the modern industrial, technological and information economy has blown apart, and that is… getting together with family.  In this economy, family members and the generations, are split apart. This is not a good thing, and well know and feel that in our bones.  So, we have this tremendous need and desire to be together as family at Thanksgiving. Well, CO-VID has certainly put the kybosh to that plan, but as the Prime Minister said, “Let’s hope we can all be together for Christmas.” 

I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one.

So, where does that leave us who have come to church this morning on this CO-VID Thanksgiving Long Week End?

“O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”

What a thing for us to do at a time when a great many of the wonderful things we had planned have been put hold, God knows for how long…

During all the turmoil and uncertainty of the world and of our lives, today, by faith, we make the good confession, “O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”

What exactly are these plans formed of old, faithful and sure? What on earth is God up to?  

That’s a good question!

In our reading today from the prophet Isaiah, who was speaking at a time of great turmoil and uncertainty for the people of Israel, we hear of God making the city a heap, and the fortified city a ruin. That doesn’t sound very good, but then again, maybe there are some things that God needs to come in and do something about. But in our understanding of the providence of God, holds that is deeply involved in absolutely everything that happens on this earth. Both the good and the bad are part of God’s provision for us, for which we need to give thanks. For on the night that He was betrayed, to be handed over to be crucified, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my Body given for you.” When in the midst of a thankless situation, we give thanks, we are touching the wood of the Cross, and uniting ourselves to Jesus in his suffering, death, and resurrection. 

Here see how it is that in the midst of the ruin of the godless cities in which we live, God is providing a refuge for the poor and the needy.

“When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled.”

That I think is what Church is all about, it’ s the place where in the midst of the collapse of all kinds of   systems and structures, God shelters the poor and the needy, and silences the song of ruthless, and gives us songs to sing.  

I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

But in the vision which Isaiah saw, God is making for all peoples a feast of rich food, filled with marrow, that’s meat on a bone, which is particularly juicy…But what about the wine? Can’t have a feast without wine! God is a connoisseur when it comes to wines. He has selected well aged wines, strained clear, to accompany the meal. Cheers! Prost!  

“On this mountain, God is going to destroy the shroud that is cast over all the people, the sheet that is spread over the nations, when he swallows up death for ever.”

There is a sadness with Thanksgiving family dinner, and it’s that somebody is always missing from the table. It’s not just that somebody in the family, has died, but that a relationship in the family has died. There has been a divorce, and parents are alienated from their children, and children from their parents.

But in the church, we get a foretaste of that day, when God will swallow up death for ever, and will wipe away the tears from all faces, and will take away the disgrace of his people. Everything will be healed, everything put right. It will be said on that day, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

This is the plan of God, formed of old, faithful and sure, which we believe God brought to pass in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, which Sunday by Sunday we celebrate and give thanks for in the church.  

I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

I don’t know the of the valley of the shadow of death that you are currently walking through.  But I am here to tell you, to you need fear no evil.  The evil is there, you don’t need to be afraid of it. For your rod and your staff comfort me. You prepare a table before in the presence my enemies, you anoint my head with the oil of his Holy Spirit, and my cup overflows…Surely his goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever. 

Sitting around the table with family at thanksgiving is good, but sitting down with God around at His table… I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

And it is why St. Paul could write,“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.”

Joy, unlike happiness, is nor dependent upon outward circumstance It comes from within.  You can be in very unhappy even miserable circumstances, and still experience peace and joy, because you know as Paul wrote, “that Lord is at hand.” He is right there with you.

And so, writes Paul, “Do not worry about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be and know unto God, and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

At a time when anxiety levels are at an all time high, this is something we need to take to heart. 

Imagine what it would like for you to live your life free of worry and free of anxiety, and possessed of an inner peace. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?  This is what awaits us when we surrender ourselves to the love and providence of God. There is nothing for us to worry about, nothing for us to be anxious about. This of course is something that isn’t going to happen overnight, but something that comes to us with practice. Praying with thanksgiving is not some pious exercise for religious people. It is the lived experience of the presence of God.

And so we come to our Gospel lesson and the crazy and shocking Parable Jesus tells of the Wedding Banquet of the Kings’ Son. Here we have a wonderful illustration of what we understand the Christian faith to be. It’s an invitation to join to the wedding banquet.  By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ has united us in our humanity to His divinity, giving us a share in His victory over sin and death. It’s the marriage of heaven and earth. But we also have in this parable an illustration of secular society that is at best indifferent and at worse hostile towards the King, and the King’s Son, that is utterly caught up in its money-making schemes. As Jesus tell us those who had been invited made light of it.  while others mistreated the royal messengers and killed them.

What is the King to do? It seems to us rather extreme, when the King called out his troops and destroyed those murders and burned their city.  With typical exaggeration, Jesus is simply making the point that there is no life outside this party, for the simple reason that one day we are all going to die. This comes to us an invitation to think about what is it that really matters in life? What’s the point of all this money and power when you don’t have God in your life?

Having dealt with his enemies, Jesus tells us that the King sent his slaves out into the streets to haul in everyone they could find, both good and bad. What a bizarre crowd this turned out to be with school teachers, nurses, doctors, civil servants, rubbing shoulders with drug pushers, bag ladies, and prostitutes.  Such is God’s grace. Our presence at the Banquet has nothing with our goodness, our badness. It’s all about His goodness to us. But when the king came in to see his guests, he noticed a man who was there not wearing a robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe, and the ordered him thrown out on the streets.

What’s this all about? 

If ever you have gone to a high-class restaurant that has a dress code, you will know that they will provide the men with tie to wear. This is the way it worked in Jesus day. The host of the wedding provided guests with a garment to wear. 

Like the guests who couldn’t be bothered to respond to the invitation, this guest couldn’t be bothered to put on the garment that his had supplied him with.

And so it is that in the celebration of Holy Baptism in the Church, after the person takes off their clothes and steps into the pool for the mystical washing away of sin, when they come out, they are given a white robe to put on with the words, “Receive the robe of righteousness, to show that you have put on Christ. Be clothed in his love that you may stand without shame or fear on the day of his appearing.” This too is what Church is all about. It’s about allowing God through His love and forgiveness to change us, from the inside out. This white robe that I am wearing, by the way, is there to remind us all the robe the Church gave us at our baptism. 

What is that robe? 

It is Jesus Himself. 

He is the one clothes us with his mercy and loving kindness, and He is the clothing which must put on, and so become fit partakers of the wedding banquet, showing ourselves to be not just among  those who are called, but those who are chosen.