Matthew 22: 1 – 14 Faith’s Fashion Statement   October 11, 2020


Faith’s Fashion Statement

Matthew 22: 1 – 14


(preached on October 11, 2020)


Some years ago, my younger son Reggie got married.  The wedding was in the northeastern part of our state, at a hotel in the town of Beverly.  Because I was living out in Westfield, almost three hours’ drive away, I traveled the day before the wedding and stayed that night with a good friend who lived about half an hour from Beverly.  When I arrived at my friend’s house, I brought in my suitcase.  I also took the dress I was going to wear to the wedding out of the car and hung it carefully in the guest room closet.


The wedding was at six o’clock the following day.  Late that afternoon, I pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, happy that I had plenty of time to change.  I went to the back of the car to get my dress.  But when I opened the hatch, no dress!  I had left it behind at my friend’s house!  Here I was, less than an hour before the wedding, without my dress, my carefully chosen dress.  I was filled with panic.  What could I do?  This was a catastrophe.


I called my friend in great alarm.  Fortunately, she was able to meet me halfway and deliver the dress.  I made it back to the hotel just in time to put on the dress, run a comb through my hair, and hurry to the wedding.


The next day, I reflected on my narrow escape from fashion catastrophe.  I realized that my son and his bride would have been happy to have me at the wedding, even if I hadn’t worn that dress.  But I would have been mortified to appear at the wedding wearing jeans and a T shirt. (Even if it was a nice T shirt.)


A wedding is a big occasion.  A wedding is a joyful occasion.  A wedding says that two people have great love for each other, such great love that they want to spend the rest of their lives together.  With flowers and champagne, music and dancing, a wedding says those two will be there for each other, whatever the future may bring.


That’s why Jesus often compares the Kingdom of God to a wedding.  The Kingdom is the new life we find in a loving relationship with God.  In the Kingdom, lives come together in mutual joy: our lives, and the life of the One who made us.  In our passage for today from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus portrays the Kingdom as a wedding banquet put on by a king for his son.  It’s a party full of celebration, with plenty of good food and drink, laughter and dancing.  But this parable of the wedding banquet also packs a punch.


At first it sounds like a parable about God’s extravagant welcome, God’s invitation to all, to a joyful feast where no one is turned away.  But the parable doesn’t end there.  The king enters the banquet hall and looks over the scene.  When he spots a man who isn’t properly dressed, he says, “’Friend, how dare you come in here looking like that!’  The man is speechless.  Then the king tells his servants – ‘Get him out of here!’”


That’s the punch packed in this parable.  The invitation to the party is given to all, but it comes with an expectation.  The expectation is that when you accept the invitation, you’ll arrive in the proper attire.


If you’re having a little trouble with this parable today, you’re not alone.  I think a lot of us have trouble with the message of this parable.  This parable is hard to hear.   We often hear about the grace of God that is freely offered to all, and in this wedding, the invitation is offered to all.  But not everybody gets to stay.  That fellow – the one over there – the one who’s not wearing the right clothes – he gets the bum’s rush.


When I listened to this parable as a little girl, it seemed very unfair to me.  It didn’t seem right for a wedding guest to be kicked out just because of what he was wearing.  Here he was, on the spur of the moment, hustled by the king’s servants into this elegant hall, with music and dancing.  When was he supposed to find the time to change?  And how come all the other guests are wearing the right thing all of a sudden?  Where did they get their outfits?  None of them are well to do.  Why should this man be kicked out because he doesn’t have the proper attire?


Over and over again, Jesus says the kingdom is for all people: the poor, the disabled, the outcast, because God loves all of us.  God invites all of us.  But in this parable he’s talking about what comes after we accept God’s invitation.   Once we accept the invitation, God expects something of us.


When we accept the invitation, God expects us to turn over a new leaf and change our lives.  As a wise person once said, “God loves us just the way we are, and too much to let us stay that way.”  God’s Kingdom is like a wedding, but it’s a wedding where love and justice reign.  Those are the garments you need to put on for the wedding: the garments of love and justice.


When you accept God’s invitation to the Kingdom, you have to make some changes in your life. You know, when you think about it, that’s not all that different from what happened in Jesus’ ministry.  Yes he reached out to all kinds of people.  When the lepers and the lame came to him, though, he didn’t smile and say, “That’s OK – you’re fine just the way you are.”  He healed them.  They wouldn’t have been satisfied with anything less.


When the outcasts and women of ill repute came to him, he didn’t say, “You’re fine just the way you are.”  He reached out to them where they were, but his love refused to let them stay as they were.  Responding to his love, they changed their lives.  They wouldn’t have been satisfied with anything less.

God’s Kingdom is like a wedding, a wedding where love and justice reign.  When God welcomes us into the Kingdom God calls us to take a good hard look at ourselves, and change our lives where we need to.  God expects us to put on the garments of justice and love.  That’s the right attire for the wedding that is life in the Kingdom.  Because God loves us just the way we are, and too much to let us stay that way.

















Rev. Elva Merry Pawle

Pentecost 19