Sunday, April 17, 2005
Laestadius' Sermon No. 97
In response to a reader's question, I've retyped this sermon (which I will hereafter remember as the breast exam sermon) from LLL's "New Postilla" for your review and comment. Notice the repetitions . . . those aren't typos.
Matt. 22: 1-14
In today's holy gospel the Savior speaks of the Great Supper to which so many have been called, but nevertheless, so few come. We have formerly surmised who are those who blaspheme the servants of the King. Also what kind of guests are gathered from the streets and lanes. And also who might be the one who comes to the wedding without the wedding garments. But we have never spoken of the time the King comes to see the guests. We can see from the actions of Joseph the high lords do not stand at the entrance to receive the guests as is the custom of the smaller lords of the world. The high lords await till the guests have entered the wedding hall and only then come to see them. When now the good and the bad guests are coming we need, by the grace of God, to consider as to what time it would be when the King comes to see the guests? We know the supper is held in the afternoon or evening. It is dark in the world when the guests are seated at the table and the candles are lit. The window drapes are drawn so that all the bums or fools who want to peek in cannot see nor understand what is taking place in the wedding hall. At the time when the Kind enters all the expected guests have arrived. Some interpreters of the scriptures presume that the servants have not noticed the guest who came without the wedding garment. But since they had a command to call all who want to come, that is the good and the bad, it may be surmised that the servants did not want to chase him out before the King came. All the expounders of the Bible say that the guest was a servant of self-righteousness, which did not take the wedding garment. But the servants of self-righteousness are of many kinds. One servant of self-righteousness is the pharisee whose conscience has never awakened. Such a one will not come in to the wedding hall with harlots and publicants. Another servant of self-righteousness is the prodigal son who herds the swine. His conscience is awakened. he knows he is in a poor condition but the merchant of self-righteousness has gotten such a power over him that he will not arise and go to the father except at the last distress. yet the servants do not want to chase such a one out since he has come. He is penitent, begging for grace and still does not want the wedding garment the King has offered to him by his servants. The rags of self-righteousness hang around his knees, and , it has been noticed all the dogs of the house are angry at such a beggar who walks in rags. They bite those rags. However, the servant does not want to chase such out for they pity him. But the King is angry at such rag-devils who do not accept the offered garments.
Hear now, you wretched rag-devil. The servants of the King know you from afar by the rags of self-righteousness which hang around your knees and because of which the dogs bark at you terribly. The servants do not wish to drive you out for they pity you and want to have mercy on you. You are so spiritual in those rags that you do not want to strip naked and take the wedding garments. you do not want to show at all our shame to the world. You have such great self-righteousness that you do not want to part from your self-repentance. you desire greater distress, greater agony of conscience, thereby to merit salvation. If you do not strip yourself naked soon the King will come to see the guests. Perhaps now is the time at six o'clock in the evening when the supper is held. I presume now is the time when the Kind comes to see the guests. Is there such a guest here who has not accepted the wedding garments? If it were so that the guest would himself have had to prepare the wedding garment then this mute guest could have given an excuse of having no means. But since the garment has been offered to him also by the servants, his rejection of them has been the effect of honor and self-righteousness. Such a guest despises the love of God or King, therefore the King becomes angry. Can you say, you unhappy wretch, that you have not been offered the wedding garment; can you blame the servants that you have not been led to the dressing room wherein all the other guests have stripped themselves naked; have cast away the rags of self-righteousness and of worldly honor and accepted the wedding garment? But you speechless guest did not want to unclothe yourself, did not want to leave the rags of self-righteousness, did not want to accept the holiday garment offered to you without cost by the King. Thus you have despised the goodness of the King. His mercy, and the richness of His long suffering in that you have not accepted His gifts. Therefore you have nothing to say when the King inquires, "Friend how comest thou in hither, having no wedding garments?" Can you say you have no means by which to prepare them? Why do you not take them when you can get them for nothing? Pride, stubbornness, self-righteousness, and the honor of the world are so thick in you, therefore you sit mute when the Lord asks: "Friend, how comest thou in hither, having no wedding garment?" Who knows what will happen now when the King comes to see his guests. The King is not far from the wedding hall, only one door between them. You guests who have come into the wedding hall, how soon do you think the King will arrive? How long do you think He will tarry before He opens the door and comes to see the guests? The King is still in His chamber and the guests in the hall of the supper. Sit down quietly, sitting in fear and trembling and look at one another if all your clothes are in such order that the King will see no fault in them. You have been gathered from the streets and lanes of the city where the poorest people are, not having learned manners. When the King comes some have not shaved their beard, as Joseph when he was brought before the king. Perhaps some have not combed their hair. Some have not anointed their heads with oil. Some may not have stood before the mirror before they went into the supper room. Some have not remembered to take along the handkerchief with which they could wipe their nose if self-righteousness should begin to flow. Have you stood before the mirror you fine maidens? You fine maidens: have you looked in the mirror and examined your hearts when you come into the wedding hall? Do you not think that the king loves pure and soft breasts? The king looks upon them the first, for he greatly loves the daughters of Zion who have pure and white breasts, provided they put off adultery from their breasts. Have you remembered to put the betrothal ring on your finger when you come into the King's chamber? Assuredly you remember daughter of Zion that you have been betrothed to the King's son for whom the King has prepared a wedding. You have been been betrothed with Him in Holy matrimony which He made with you when you were beautiful in his opinion, when He redeemed you from the bondage of the enemy, sweating blood for you, saying "I am sorrowful unto death." He gave you a holy kiss when Judas gave Him an unclean kiss. He took you into His bosom when the crowd of the devil put Him into chains. He took you into the church after the manner of a bride when the devil had forsaken you.
Now the King of Heaven has prepared a marriage for His Son and called many guests whom He has collected by His servants, from the streets and lanes of the city. Feel now, daughter of Zion, your breasts, feel the pearls on your neck, feel the crown on your head, feel the rings on your fingers, feel them all now in privacy before the mirror, the wedding garment as well as the shoes as to how they fit, for soon the Kind will come to see the guests. But woe unto the unhappy wretch who has not a wedding garment when the King comes. It would have been better had he not come at all to the supper since he did not accept the offered garment. To such an extent you unhappy wretch despise the King's grace and mercy that you do not want to accept His grace. Woe, woe unto you unfortunate wretch! Go quickly into the dressing room and strip off the rags and take the wedding garment before the King comes. Who knows but He will soon come to see the guests. Soon he will come from the His chamber into the wedding hall. There is only one door between the King's chamber and the wedding hall. Soon will the door open and th King comes to see the guests; soon the Righteous One will step in. Is there someone here from the tribe of Benjamin to whom the Just One will give a kiss and say, "God bless you my son"? Is there anyone here of the children of Israel to whom the Righteous One will give five changes of raiment as that righteous Joseph gave to Benjamin?
Prepare yourselves, you wedding guests, for now the King is coming to see you. He is on the way and when He comes, the doors will be closed. The candles will be lit and the guests are seated. No one can enter anymore but a guest having no wedding garment is put outside.
Prepare yourselves you bidden guests. Examine your breasts you daughters of Zion and be ready to receive your King when He enters. When the King comes to see the guests, bow yourselves humbly before Him, falling at His feet as the children of Israel bowed before Joseph, and say, "We pray thee forgive your brothers their trespasses and evil deeds when they have so badly treated you." Then He shall say, "Fear not, you thought evil against me but God has turned it for good, that He did as now is evident to save much people. So fear not, for I will feed you and your children." Amen. Now and forever. Amen.