Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Wrong Robe?

This morning I want to start with the most confusing part of the Gospel.
I want to talk about the man without the correct robe on who gets kicked out of the wedding banquet.
It has always seemed odd to me that the person who accepts the invitation to the banquet feast is the one who is kicked out.
One way to interrupt Matthew’s parable is allegorically which means that the pieces of the parable equal something else.
The king is God, the slaves are the prophets, the guest initially invited where the religious people of Jesus’ day, the destruction of the city is the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the people invited are the people of the church, and the guy without the right rob is a person who doesn’t get it.
So this is one way to get us to solve what the parable is trying to say.
The problem with allegory is that it only gets us so far.
We know what Matthew was saying to the people who he is writing the Gospel for, but what is God trying to say to us through this parable?
There is another step that needs to happen in figuring out this parable, and it is for us to leap to our day and time and try to understand how God is speaking to us.
Allegory only gets us so far, and I might suggest that stopping at that point has led to some very bad behavior on the part of Christians towards Jews.
The allegory suggests that the Jews reject Jesus and have Jerusalem destroyed because of it.
However, what is really going on is an internal struggle among Jews.
Even in Matthew’s day Christians were still Jews.
They still practiced all the dietary laws, circumcision, and worshipped in the synagogue.
But there is an internal fight about weather Jesus was the messiah or not.
I would equate it to the fight between Missouri Synod Lutherans and ELCA Lutherans.
Both of us claim Lutheranism as our heritage, but we have very different understandings of what that heritage means.

So what are we going to do with Matthew’s parable, and what are we going to do with the man without the right clothes on.

I would start by saying that this is always a concern that we face on a very practical way.
What to wear?
I am going next Friday with my mother to anniversary celebration at the church in Worcester were my grandfather was the pastor.
I was talking to her on the phone to make plans, and I asked her, “What is the dress code?”
I didn’t want to show up with Jeans and a t-shirt when everyone else was wearing suits.
Also, I don’t want to over dress show up in a suit when everyone else was wearing business casual.
So dress matters.
My mom actually taught me that people make a decision about you in the first minutes of meeting you based on your dress.
One time I was going to a visit and college campus and came down in what I thought was appropriate.
My mom saw what I was wearing and sent me upstairs to change.
I would say this is even more so for women.
Who have even more choices of what to wear.
We face on all the time the decisions of appropriate clothing.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that when we accept the invitation to the feast of God that we think about what we are going to wear, not in physical terms but spiritual.
What is the right attitude to have a feast offered by God?
What is the way we should show up at such a feast?

This parable is about more than what clothes are acceptable at a wedding feast.
It is about what attitude, what behavior we bring to the wedding feast.
God is not mad because the person forgot the right clothing, God is mad because the man is not prepared to be at the feast.
The man has not changed himself to be at a wedding feast.
This is a problem within modern Christianity.
We have made being a Christian about nothing.
I am guilty of this on many occasions.
We have so emphasized grace and love that we have forgotten that being at the banquet of grace and love changes us.
It makes us different.

When we come here on Sunday morning and sit in this pew it should change us.
It is not about legalistic ideas of behavior so much as it is about the way that we recognize and accept God’s grace.
Notice that the people who accept the invitation are both good and bad people.
And more than this we individually are mixture of good and bad.
There are good things about all of us, and some bad things.
So this is not about morals, this is about how we show up.
Are we ready here in this place to confront those parts of us that need work?
Are we ready to commend those things into God’s gracious hands?
Are we now ready to be honest about who and what we are?
Are we ready to have our lives given over completely to God?

For me the key to this parable is that people are invited to a feast.
They get invited to a really great feast!!
It is so great that we hear it described, “Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready.”
Why wouldn’t you want to go?
And once you got there why wouldn’t your life change because of it?
Why wouldn’t you live in that place in joy!
And sometimes we as Christians who have come to the feast we lose the joy of the celebration.
We lose the joy of serving others.

All of Matthew’s understanding of what it means to live in this kingdom goes back to the Sermon on the Mount.
It all goes back to the people that God blesses, and those people are not the pretty, rich, and powerful.
They are the weak, poor, and miserable.
And God blesses them and us not in our greatness but our weakness.
And sometimes it is hard to celebrate that.
It is hard to be honest about ourselves, and therefore it is hard to accept God’s grace to us.

Let me give a practical example.
Let us say that a church is failing.
Not in terms of mission, but in worldly terms.
There are only a few people in a congregation, but they put all they have into serving the poor in their community with a daily lunch.
They spend all the money they have in providing this lunch.
They spend all the service hours they have in providing it.
On Sunday morning they still only have 30 people in worship.
Eventually, they have to close.
No one throws them a party the Bishop doesn’t go down and have a big celebration luncheon.
We see them as a failure, but if we believe what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount they are blessed.
Not the huge church with the full Sunday school, and million dollar endowment celebrating their successful building campaign.
Most of us would look at that church and want to emulate it, but what Jesus calls us to, what we are invited to is a feast of joy celebrating the one who gave himself for us and the world.
We are celebrating not just our good selves, but our broken selves that have come to know the wonderful life changing gift of God’s grace given in Jesus Christ.
We have come to eat the finest meats, and share in the wine.
It is not drudgery or obligation; it is joy to be here.
If we don’t come with joy, if this banquet does not change our lives and how we serve and give for others, than we too are lost in the outer darkness just like the people who don’t show up at all.

So here we are this morning.
We have come to the feast of God.
We have accepted the invitation.
Let us live in the joy that comes in knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for this day.
This very day with all of its good and bad, with all of its ups and downs God’s grace is sufficient for today.
Let us celebrate at the feast that we are changed and made new by knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior who prepares the banquet for us.

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