|Posted by Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry on October 12, 2020 at 8:55 AM|
A sermon on Matthew 22:1-14
Having watched enough wedding show on TV, I know that this parable is not how wedding celebrations are supposed to go. Especially not ROYAL wedding celebrations. They’re supposed to be over the top celebrations where everyone wants to be- to eat the free food and to be seen by the important people. But Jesus tells a story that doesn’t make sense- where all the folks invited find ways to get out of going. Some folks ignored it, some say they’re too busy and some get angry about being invited at all!
And maybe the only part of this story that DOES make sense in how the king responds. The guy who just paid for the celebration. I set a feast, he must have said. It’s FREE the food is good and I CHOSE to invite you to it. So what could be more important than coming? What could get in the way? And what could make you so angry at the invitation that you’d want to destroy the party and hurt the messengers?
But in his anger- which gets pretty destructive- the one thing the king doesn’t do is cancel the party. Nothing- not even the bad attitudes of those he invited can’t make him stop that celebration. And he says- I’m just going in invite more folks who don’t usually get invited. And I’ll fill up my house. The party’s that important. It HAS to go on. Because it’s the party of God’s kingdom! And that kind of party cannot be stopped.
And do you know what that means? Our bad behavior isn’t going to cancel the party! And in a whole country full of bad behavior right now by so many, isn’t that a blessed relief to hear? God will not cancel the banquet of his love even when we’re horrible. And God will keep inviting folks- even misbehaving folks- to join in! Because our God is so much better than we are. And so much more patient and tenacious. So that party won’t be cancelled. Even if we choose not to get ourselves there right away, the party will keep going on.
And, beloved ones of God, we are folks who have heard about a party and showed up for it. Because we’ve heard this is a banquet we need to get ourselves to! We’ve heard that God’s party is a place of forgiveness for ours mistakes. And we’ve heard this feast is a place where we will finally be filled up instead of always being hungry for more of whatever we think we lack. We know this is a banquet where there is peace is on the menu- a peace that lets us take a full breath even when things are still a mess around us. And we’ve heard that it’s a feast where we are invited to belong, to be among fellow beloved ones in a community where love is central, even if it’s always imperfect this side of heaven.
So we’ve dropped what we were doing and walked in to enjoy the grace God is handing out- like when we line up on the sidewalk when we see they’re handing out free ice cream somewhere!
And what good news that would is- we all get invited in. Well, it’s good news until we get to that next part of the parable. That part where the one person gets thrown out for not having the right clothes. And my memory goes back to going to Baptist church with my grandma when I forgot to pack a dress for the weekend I visited her and how she told me how ashamed she was for me to show up that way. I don’t remember getting thrown out into the outer darkness, but it can feel like that when grandma says she’s disappointed.
But Jesus was not my grandma- and I trust that what we wear doesn’t matter, despite what some churches and some people in churches may say. So what’s up with the wedding garment?
Well, for one, everyone knew that a wedding garment was expected. It wasn’t something that you could claim you didn’t know about. And it was common that those who were too poor to have a spare garment could borrow one from a friend. So, it’s not something that had to do with your status. And, some scholars think that it was the host himself who was responsible for providing a wedding garment to anyone who didn’t have one. So, it definitely isn’t a problem of not being able to get your hands on the right clothes.
Not wearing a wedding garment, and especially not to wear a wedding garment to the wedding of the king’s son, wasn’t because someone was poor or ill-informed. Instead, not wearing a wedding garment was an act of defiance. It meant that he wanted to come to the wedding on his own terms. Maybe he was just stopping by for a minute on his way somewhere else. But he had decided to only doing only what made him comfortable. He was showing up for the free food, but he wasn’t willing to be a part of the party.
Because our regular ways and actions get comfortable, don’t they? Our old habits get too comfortable to change them. And we don’t think we need to bother, either. So we hold onto our fears, our resentments, our prejudice and our hatred. We get comfortable not sharing our gifts or sharing our money or sharing the best of who we are with one another. We speak about folks in ways we shouldn’t or get too lazy to do the work God needs us too. Sometimes we get comfortable going our own way and we think the king should just be thrilled that we showed up in the midst of our busy lives. Not showed up to church, but to the reality of God’s work in the world.
But as much as we may be loved by God no matter what, this morning Jesus seems to say that it does matter HOW we show up to the party. I love you folks, but you need to change out of those sweatpants and get dressed for the party!
When we think that us saying we love Jesus is enough, Jesus says, “change out of those sweats and let my love change your heart and mind and soul.” When we think we don’t need to be compassionate and forgiving because God loves us already, Jesus says, “put on my robe- be clothed in my love so you can actually do the work of loving your neighbors. When we think we don’t need to resist evil in ourselves and in the world because God will understand, Jesus says, change out of those comfortable clothes and be clothed in my strength to stand against the evil that tries to take over.
And I don’t think that’s meant shame us for when just don’t have the strength to get ourselves ready. I don’t think it’s meant to kick us when we’re already down and struggling. And it’s not to tell us we need to be shined up before we get ourselves to church or the community of God’s people. We know full well that Jesus lets us crawl our way into the party of God’s love if that’s how we have to get there.
But when you come inside, take the robe that you’ve been given and put it on, Jesus says. Don’t stop by in sweat pants on your way to where you really want to be. Trust that you’re supposed to be here. At my banquet. Because you were invited. Trust that you have been welcomed in to the feast I’ve spread and that you belong here. Because here there is grace for you. There is hope. There is healing and peace. There is food enough for everyone. I assure you it’s the best invitation you’re going to get.
So change out of the sweatpants. Stop wearing your old ways and thinking that no one will notice. Put on the robe and come inside and join the party. Be all in- don’t hedge your bets and be ready to leave. Put on the robe and get ready to stay awhile. Dress like you’re ready to party in my love. And then let the party begin. And let it begin to change you.