One of my second-cousins got married last week in Milwaukee, and my mother, my sister’s family, and I all were invited to the wedding.
So, months ago I arranged to take vacation last week, but, as the wedding’s RSVP deadline neared, Wisconsin’s and, in particular, Milwaukee’s coronavirus cases reportedly surged, and so we ended up not going to the wedding, ceremony or reception.
Perhaps somewhat ironically, last Sunday’s appointed Gospel Reading for many was Jesus’s so-called “Parable of the Wedding Feast” (Matthew 22:1-14), in which a king gives a wedding feast for his son, but those originally invited ignore repeated invitations and do not come, instead going off to farm and business, and one of those later invited, who does eventually come, refuses to wear the wedding garment that the king would have provided him.
The sermon based on that parable that the people at Pilgrim heard last Sunday in my absence drew attention both to our putting earthly concerns ahead of God’s inviting us to the Kingdom of Heaven and to our trying to receive the Kingdom of Heaven on our own terms. Perhaps right now the best illustration of both of those problems is fear of the coronavirus’s keeping people both from attending church services in general and from receiving the Lord’s Supper in particular.
In the parable, the city of those rejecting the king’s invitation was burned, and the man not wearing the wedding garment was cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Because of all of our sin, we similarly deserve temporal death and eternal torment.
We might debate my immediate family’s coronavirus-related nonattendance of my second-cousin’s wedding. But, there should be no debate about the importance of yours and my not rejecting but, enabled by God, favorably responding to His invitation to receive, with repentance and faith, through His word and Sacraments, His forgiveness of sins for the sake of His Son, the God-man Jesus Christ, crucified for us.
Especially the bread and wine of the Sacrament of the Altar that are Christ’s Body and Blood forgive the sins of those who are clothed in the baptismal robe of Christ’s righteousness and who rightly receive them (Isaiah 6:10; Revelation 19:6-8).
The Sacrament’s real food and drink are not something potentially poisonous to be avoided but salutary (health-promoting) gifts that strengthen and nourish our bodies and souls to life everlasting.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore.You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org