In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
You have been called to the feast. (Matt. 22:10; Isa. 55:1) A feast that you can not buy with silver or gold. (Isa. 55:1b) A feast of heavenly splendour. Better than any table a king could lay before you. You have been called. (Matt. 22:3) Your spot has been reserved. It belongs to you. The clothing you need to wear (Matt. 22:11-12) was given to you in Holy Baptism. (Gal. 3:27) The servants of our God, His Holy Angels, will collect your soul upon death to usher you into the presence of the Lord. (Matt. 22:3; Luke 16:22) And in the resurrection He will gather your newly raised body and all who are His own from the four corners of the earth to to that eternal celebration. (Matt. 22:8-10; Mark. 13:27) This is all yours. For free. Because you have been called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit through the word of salvation which is yours in Jesus Christ. (Isa. 55:3a, 4, 5; Rom. 10:17)
You can reject this calling. (Matt. 22:3) It is a fool hardy thing to do, (Matt. 22:7; Eph. 5:15-17) but it can be done. And many do because they are busy with the cares and deceitfulness of wealth which chokes out this faith that had once sprung up in them. (Matt. 13:7, 22; 22:4; 13:22) Or even if you are poor and have no distraction of wealth, you can take off the clothes you were given in Holy Baptism. (Matt. 22:11-13) You can walk as unwise (Eph. 5:15), naked, and sinful before the Lord, rather than clothed in the glorious splendour of Jesus and His righteousness. So that as someone walking in the wisdom of this world—not according to the heavenly wisdom which is from above (Jas. 3:17)—you are truly squandering your salvation, wasting your time (Eph. 5:16), your chances, your opportunities that the Lord gives you in life. The moments where He calls out to you via your family, or the circumstances He puts you in. Those moments in life, where your thoughts turn from yourself and to eternal matters. Where He places in your path one of His people who share with you the right word at the right time (Prov. 25:11, 13) so that you might be renewed in faith which clings to Jesus. And most of our world is doing this. Wasting their time. For many are called but few are chosen. (Matt. 22:14) And just because you have received the calling of Holy Baptism doesn’t mean you have to walk with Him in wisdom. (Eph. 5:15) Or be clothed by Him. (Matt. 22:12) You can flat out reject the calling He has placed on your life. But it will do you in. (Matt. 22:13, 7) For in the end—though it is alien to Him, though He takes no delight in it—He is just and will give you what you want. He will let you be far from Him. And will cast you into the outer darkness. For those who want nothing to do with Him in this life He will not force them to come to His feast in the next.
And so you are called to walk wisely in this world. (Eph. 5:15) To call upon Him while He is near. (Isa. 55:6) And He draws near to you by His Word and Sacraments. All you who have been baptized have had Him draw near to you. You who desire to hear His word of forgiveness for your sins, who desire to eat of His body and blood and have life in His name, He is drawing near to you. He is calling you to faith. His Spirit is strengthening that faith.
He is calling you to walk wisely. Which means to be different than our world. (Eph. 5:15-18) We’ve all walked a few steps on the world’s paths. We know that while there is some fun to be had in the short term, almost everything the world promises turns out empty. Meaningless. A chasing after the wind. (Eccl. 1:14-17) For none of it lasts. Things on earth only last as long as you are willing to continue to pay the cost of constantly putting in the effort to maintain or grow those things you’ve slaved for. And anything that you can’t take with you into the next life is not worth sacrificing the good gifts of God for. There are many thing that are worth that cost especially those things that come from above and are a calling from our Lord. (Jas. 1:17) It is worthwhile to pay the cost, to put effort into serving your husband or wife, maintaining a sacred and holy bond with them. Sacrificing your desires for the good of your relationship together. For this increases your joy, brings stability to both of your lives, and is a blessing to your children. It is worth the cost to pour yourself into your children. To train them up in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6), to teach them right from wrong, and see that they become people of character who are able to do right by others in this world. It is worth the cost to be competent and good at your job. Not just to sluff by, but to be an asset to your employer. For the world needs faithful workers or everything grinds to a halt. Or if you are an employer, to run your business and treat your employees in a stand up way. It is worth the cost to be a good hearer of the preacher God puts in your life, to support your preacher with your prayers and tithes, and your fellow Christian with your presence in Divine Service so that they are uplifted by your presence and encouraged by your faith. It is worth the cost to be a good citizen. To work for the well being of your fellow man, and the proper functioning of your government. For all of these things are ways in which we are called to love and serve our neighbour. They are ways in which God is at work in you and through you, giving to the neighbour He gives you those things He wants them to have as He grants them through you.
So we are called to act wisely. Soberly. To not be filled with wine and “spirits” but with the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 5:18) And the Holy Spirit comes through the word of God (Eph 6:17), especially when that word is attached to water and wine. But no matter how the Word comes the Word is always at the centre of the Christian’s life. And Christ Jesus has given us the gift of song. Whereby not only your heart or mind are engaged in words, but your whole being, body and soul, is engaged. And so music is a particularly rich blessing from the Lord, especially when those songs, hymns, and spiritual songs fill your mind, heart, and body with His word. For if you are full of the Lord—i.e., full of His Word—you will begin to overflow in joy, patience, strength, long-suffering, and love which pours forth in you by Holy Spirit’s power. (Gal. 5:22-23)
This is why the Christian Church from the earliest of times has sung. Even in St. Paul’s letters (some of the earliest documents church has) he quotes things which must have been songs that they were already singing in the churches he founded. (e.g., Phil 2:6-11) And throughout the centuries before Jesus took on flesh they had a whole song book in the Bible called the Book of Psalms. Our Lord once told Job, “Were you there when the morning stars sang together?” (Job 38:7) For song has been part of our Lord’s creation from its first moments.
We Lutherans have a particularly rich tradition of singing. In fact, it was often said, that the reason the Reformation spread was through the songs Luther and others wrote. It seems we need to reinvigorate that tradition in our day! I know Pastor Swem had encouraged us to memorize Scripture verses for this very reason. And I intend to begin again with that plan, but my hope is to set most of the verses to song. So that you might not only learn them by heart, but be able to sing and pray them throughout your day. For Christ has placed a calling on you. And why spend your days listening to some ear worm from the radio, when instead the word in your head and heart could be that of your loving God and Father?
For Christ Jesus has called you by His Gospel. He has enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified and kept you in the true faith. He has done so by allowing Himself to be lifted up &and become a martyr, a witness in the sight of all the nations. (Isa. 55:4) when He was lifted up and glorified on a Roman cross. (Isa. 55:5) Yet He has overcome the world and all rulers, all powers. For He has called and keeps you by faith with the whole Christian church till He takes you to His eternal feast.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock