Sunday, October 12, 2008

October 12, 2008 Proper 23A Psalm 73

Indeed, God is good to Israel; to the clean of heart. Yet I, my feet almost turned away; as nothing my feet slipped. For I was jealous at those boasting; prosperity of the wicked, I saw. For there is no suffering in their deaths; and fat is their belly. In the troubles of men, they are not; and as men they are not plagued. Therefore pride circles their neck; violence clothes them as a garment. As fat, their eyes go forth; the imaginations of their heart overflow. They mock, and they speak in wickedness; oppression from on high, they speak. They set in the heavens, their mouths; and their tongue walks on the earth. Therefore, their people return here; and abundant waters are drained down in them. And they say, "How does God know; and is there knowledge in the most high?" Look, these are godless; and carelessly for a long time they became great in strength. Only in vain have I cleansed my heart; and washed, in innocence, my hands. And I was plagued all the day; and my punishment in the mornings.

Doesn't seem sometimes like life is not fair? You try to take care of yourself, only to have some odd malady come upon you to bring you down, while those with unhealthy lifestyles never seem to become ill. You strive to be honest, yet you see those who lie & cheat succeeding much more than you. You are a nice person with much to offer, yet the guy or gal you care about chooses another, less-worthy companion. Not only do you think life is not fair, but you may question if God is fair.

In today's Gospel, God doesn't seem to be acting fair. He is the King Whose invitees to the wedding fail to show up, so He invites strangers. But one of the strangers shows up without the proper attire. No big deal, we would like to assume, since we view God as One Who doesn't care about the outside, but only what's on the inside. So he ties up the poorly clothed guest & casts him into the outer darkness, presumably to die! Now that doesn't seem very fair at all!

The psalmist Asaph shares a similar frustration in Psalm 73. He speaks from the perspective of a clean-hearted man, innocent of the sins of the prideful & violent men of the world. Yet, though undeserving, they are richly blessed with food, comfort and health. But what about the godly one? He is plagued, punished & persecuted. He is mocked & oppressed, with seemingly no way out. Why are the godless seemingly blessed, while the faithful one is allowed to suffer and die? It just isn't fair.

Wait just a moment...what exactly is *fairness*? Some would say equality at least would be more fair. Others would argue that getting what you earn or deserve would be fair. But neither one of these is God's idea of fairness. For God's justice doesn't punish those this world would discipline, nor does He bless those whom this world would reward. Which is why the Righteous One ends up the One being punished...which is why the One without proper clothing is the One Who is forsaken.

In all honesty, there is only One Who is truly righteous. Only One person has ever been able to clothe Himself in His Own holiness. Only One is completely pure & innocent. Only One is truly Godly. And that One is none other than Jesus, Himself. So He is the only One truly worthy, on His Own, to come to the wedding feast. He is clothed in the white robes of His Own holy righteousness, and is the only One Who should never be persecuted, plagued or punished. But He was, anyway.

It appears that God's justice is quite different than this world's fairness. Jesus, God's Son Who had earned life eternal in heaven by His perfect obedience chose, willingly to give that up. He forsook the holy garment of His Own righteousness and gave it to you to clothe you in Holy Baptism. He is the only One found at the wedding feast without clean clothes. For He Who knew no sin became your sin, and received your punishment at the +, cast out & forsaken, into the utter darkness of death.

Jesus underwent all of this so that you could receive the blessed invitation to come to the wedding. The gospel message of the Son's great love for you drew you to accept that invitation by the gift of faith. Cleansed from your sins which were washed to Jesus at the cross, you are now and evermore clothed in the wedding garment of His Own holy righteousness. And you come to the wedding feast to be satisfied from His banquet table, eating His body and drinking His blood for your forgiveness.

Is God fair? Not as this world counts fairness, for which we are grateful. For your God is better than fair, giving the punishment you deserve to Jesus, and instead, giving you the life Jesus earned!

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