My first sermon preached at St Andrews, Kildwick on Sunday 11 October 2020 at Holy Communion.
Readings: Phil 4: 1 -9. Matt 22: 1 -14
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Wedding invites, getting ready
I suspect there are few here who have not been to a wedding at some time or another. Often told well in advance so that there is plenty of chance for a person to look in their wardrobe and say “I have nothing to wear …” Many years ago I worked in the menswear trade and one of our regular lines was as an agent for Moss Bros which ensured that those attending a smart wedding were correctly attired in morning coat and grey topper. Men would come in several months before the event to be measured up, then a day or so before the big event collected their attache case with the correct clothing.
Most weddings are not rushed and lot of planning goes into them.
Context of Parable
A similar passage in Luke but with differences. But in both accounts the religious leaders were being targeted about their failure to recognise Jesus as the Messiah and their continual rejection of him.
These later chapters of Matthew abound with run-ins with the priests, scribes and pharisees – those in positions of power and influence but many were also ensuring that their personal power was maintained by compromising with the occupying Romans.
Jesus reached out to the leaders who repeatedly ignored his message and tried to malign him.
This story refers to the coming of the Messiah that would herald in God’s Kingdom. It immediately follows on from the parable about the wicked tenants who kill the owner’s son so the leaders knew exactly whom he was targeting.
[Worth remembering the gospels were written 30 – 40 years afterwards, each writer being selective according to their angle. It is possible that the verse about burning the city would be very apt if written after 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed, especially for a Jewish readership whom Matthew was primarily writing for.]*
Meaning of the parable
Some see this as looking forward to the end times when there will be a judgement but we can learn from it for today as well. It is about the kingdom of God which can be understood as a future event when we are in heaven, but is also about living a life of Christian service here and now and we should all be conscious of God’s standards in our lives.
The king represents God, the son is Jesus and this story is about God throwing a party for his son; the leaders of Israel were invited but they had refused. They had waited for the promised Messiah for hundreds of years and yet refused to acknowledge him because he was not what they wanted -his message was too uncomfortable for them.
This message was primarily aimed at the leaders, scribes and the priests. However they, by rejecting Jesus and his message are depicted here was those who snub the wedding invite. The king actually labels them as unworthy (v8). So we have picture of the invites being extended to all the people around – the everyday people, good and bad alike. Look at the people Jesus mixed with we have tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor and despised – those on the margins of society. All we welcomed and it seems they flocked into the wedding hall.
I understand that it was normal in those days to let people know there was to be a wedding and then a second invite much closer to the actual day. Most people even now, have plenty of notice of the occasion. So last minute excuses are not really understandable – they were going about their everyday work or trade. They even killed those bringing the invitation much as prophets had been killed and Jesus himself.
The wrong clothes
Then there is this unfortunate who is not wearing a wedding suit. Not been to the Moss Bros agent! This part is not in the Luke version – and seems to create a discordant note against the love of God for all. There is this sense of God demanding all to be invited and none shut out, even those we might exclude or those on the edge of society yet here we read of one being sent away for not having the right clothes.
Since we get an idea that these people were brought in some haste, we could ask would any have had wedding garment. Some suggest that the host would have provided these. For some reason this individual was not wearing his.
Something marked him out: and I would venture that there is something wrong inwardly rather than literally the wrong clothes. Was it a wrong attitude or arrogance – I am not sure but something marked him out. It is a stark reminder that the bible does mention judgement – and sadly not all accept the offer of God’s love.
We are loved, God redeems us but then there is, an expectation that how we live changes. True repentance involves change. God takes us as we are, no question about that, but his love and care for us wants us to change. We read of Jesus forgiving, healing individuals and telling them to “go and sin no more.”
Example of the “right clothes”
The bible abounds in examples of the way we should behave: how belief modifies what we do. We need to be aware of barriers that prevent us from becoming all we can be in Christ. Paul in the Philippians has such a list.
Paul tells then to “stand firm in the Lord” and writes about “guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” which I take to mean that you belong, you believe so this leads to behaving in the right way.
A reproof to two ladies to agree, and an admonishment to all to rejoice, just as we heard in the music of the first hymn; also to be be gentle and avoid worry. How many find it hard to even think of rejoicing in the present changing world full of restrictions due to the Covid 19 crisis? How many need to embrace such a view in these days of rising health concerns in the present pandemic? Then Paul follows this up with a list of the sort of things that we should think about: true, honourable, just, sure, pleasing, commendable. Many will have their own favourite passages which speak to them but this exhortation to think in a good way is one that was consistently pushed at us when I was in a bible class as a teenager. We are all invited to share in the good news of the Kingdom, and may we all be wearing the right spiritual clothes when we are confronted by God.
May we be ready to respond to God’s invitation and put on the righteousness that underlies our faith. Amen
[….]* this section was in my notes but not used due to time constraints