(Proper 23, Mt 22.1-14)
the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into
the outer darkness . . . For many
are called, but few are chosen.” (Mt 22.13-14)
the two weeks since most of us evacuated
the idea of leaving your home without knowing whether or not you are going to
return is a humbling experience. So
we were humbled – and changed
– and continue to be changed - by our
evacuation, even though we mostly came out OK.
know that will always remember how
profoundly sad I was on Wednesday night.
I was safe in
as I watched the television that evening, seeing the new path of the hurricane
headed directly at
for whatever city or area happened to eventually be in the way.
Because by then, we knew it was certain that the best
case was going to be a very bad case for
lots and lots of folks. And so I
found myself – just profoundly sad at what was coming.
And at how long it would take and how hard it would be - to rebuild.
To start over.
only did our evacuation change us, I think it also taught us some things –
particularly about ourselves. We all did the best we could before we left – but none of us got
everything done – or remembered to take everything that we later wished that
I think it is really telling to consider
what we did take (and not take) and what that might say about our priorities –
about who we really are. At church,
as I looked around my office, there was very little that was of significantly
higher value than anything else. So
I just took one small box with some pictures and three of my bibles.
And of course, we took our historical records and the two computers.
But that was it.
for my home, I took clothes. Lots
and lots of clothes.
that was not particularly revealing –
After all, I have always known that I like clothes.
I usually try buy nice things and I take very good care of my clothes.
now I know that I must value clothes more than just
about everything else in my house. Because
that is about all that I took.
I gues that my idea was that I would need clothes to work no matter what
happened, and that we would just have to start over without all of that other
whatever I was thinking, the result was a
large SUV - full of clothes - and with
virtually nothing else.
if the king had invited me to a wedding
banquet while we were on the road to evacuation, I
definitely would have had the right
clothes to wear.
what about that? What did you think
about this morning’s parable in which a party guest is apparently sent
straight to hell because he showed up in the wrong attire?
Didn’t that seem a little harsh to you?
A little strange, coming out of Jesus’ mouth?
Yeah, did to me too. So be
glad that you’re not the preacher.
look at it again.
begins where he left off in our reading last week.
His audience is still the chief priests and elders of the temple – the
religious leaders of the day. You
will remember that last week Jesus told them the parable of the vineyard, in
which God, the vineyard owner, ultimately takes the vineyard away from the
workers to whom it was entrusted. Takes
it away because they decide that they, and not
the owner, should be in charge of the vineyard.
Instead of stewardship, they wanted ownership.
The result is they lose their opportunity to be part of God’s kingdom.
morning’s parable begins with the same tone.
The King sends out invitations to a chosen group of people to come to a
lavish wedding banquet for his son. But
many of the recipients do not take the
invitation seriously. They had their
own business to take care of, so they ignored the invitation and went on with
what they were doing. When the king
sent out his slaves to remind them, some even mistreated the slaves for daring
to bother them again with the king’s invitation.
Naturally the king is very angry at the way that his invitation is
treated. So angry that he sends his
troops against them. And in the
place of the original invitees, opens his invitation to everyone he could find.
We read that both good and bad were invited this time.
so far, the parable, while maybe a little harsh, is at least understandable.
We know that the king represents God.
And the banquet invitations that are delivered by the slaves are the
prophesies that have been sent, through John the Baptist and other Prophets, to
the religious leaders of the Israel, telling
them that the Kingdom was at hand and to make themselves ready to be part of it.
were being invited to a celebration of God's son entering
into God’s kingdom. But they paid
no attention. Some made light of
John's insistence that the Kingdom was at hand. Others
just ignored him and went about their business. And
some even went as far as to have him killed.
because the leaders of the people refused to answer their invitation to the
feast, the King of Heaven invited all the rest of the people to take part.
And we would assume that to include us - the Gentiles.
I said, at this point we are still OK. We
understand that Jesus is rebuking the religious authorities for being more
concerned about their own place in things,
rather than listening to God’s prophets and bringing the people of
kicking them out of the kingdom and inviting others, even those who lead bad
lives, is an acceptable concept for us.
all, that is how People
like you and me get invited!
this is where the parable takes a turn. Because
one of those like us. One of those
who got invited in spite of who he was, is discovered by the king to be
the king declares, “Bind him hand and
foot, and throw him into the outer darkness . . .
For many are called, but few are chosen.”
sound too much like the grace that we have grown accustomed to hearing about,
does it? I thought grace was free.
That there it came without a catch.
now Jesus is saying that I only receive it if I am dressed properly?
You mean one bad hair day, I
can lose it all??
grace is freely given by God. But NO,
that does not mean that our claim to faith allows us to do whatever we want in
life. Being born again by water and
the Holy Spirit is a free gift, for which we did nothing to deserve.
And while it is a ticket to heaven,
it is NOT a ticket to do whatever we want,
whenever we want. So there are
conditions. There are
expectations by God that we are expected to
I wrestled with this reading, I thought about our Sunday banquet, the feast of
the Lord that we share at Communion. And
I thought about what expectations go along with receiving the bread and wine. And
how those expectations might fit into this parable.
Sunday, we are invited to God’s Eucharistic banquet, up there at the altar.
And all believers are invited. But
there are some expectations. Expectations
of wearing the right clothes.
one: we don’t come to the table, wearing our proud
clothes – but we come dressed in humble
clothes – confessing and repenting our sins before
receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
In that confession of sin, we admit to our
smallness, and we recognize God’s
that sincere confession is expected before
we accept the invitation to the feast.
we don’t wear the robe of self-sufficiency
when we come to the table. But we
put on the robe of Christ. By
hearing the Word of God – proclaimed and
preached - before we present ourselves at
the banquet. We come as seekers of
the Word, as those who long to know more –
not as ones who know it all already and have
it all under control.
thirdly, we don’t wear clothes of self-importance, but rather we dress in the
clothes of justice and peace for all. When
we pass the peace before communion, we are effectively reconciling ourselves
with our neighbors. So it is important
to seek out those with whom we have slighted or had a disagreement with –
because it is expected that we are at peace
with our neighbor when we arrive at the banquet.
lastly, we don’t wear rich clothes with golden threads.
Instead we wear the clothes of stewardship, and give our gold back to
God. Our gifts are presented at the
altar before we take part in the banquet as a small token of appreciation to our
host, without whom we are nothing.
main thing that this parable tells us is that it is not enough to just show up
here on Sunday. God invites us all,
that is for certain. But he is not
interested in warm bodies. God is
looking for guests to his banquet who will rise to the occasion of honoring
God’s son, Jesus Christ. Guests
who will wear the clothes that are made from the material that we receive
from Jesus Christ.
from the material of justice and peace for all.
from the material of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
made from the material of proclaiming the gospel message far and wide.
that become part of us – that we wear every
day of our walk in faith. Clothes
that God expects us to be dressed in, when we come to his banquet
. . . . . One evacuation story
before I end.
I mentioned, about the only hurricane preparation that seemed like it might be
effective for the church was to put sandbags in front of the thresholds of the
doors in Quin Hall. They are pretty
low, and our street is prone to high water when it rains a lot, so we thought
that might keep out some water. But
on Tuesday evening, we heard from the Landscaping Company that they were not
going to be able to provide the bags – they were just too busy trying to fill
earlier orders and making their own preparations for the hurricane.
But in all of that discussion, we were given the phone number of a man
that works for them. And it turns
out that he lives directly across the street from the church – here on 36th.
His name is Javier. I know
him just to say hello. I actually
see more of his kids – they like to play soccer in our big yard out there.
on Wednesday morning, I saw him - outside loading up vehicles with his family on
Wednesday morning. So I went over to
check if we might be able to get a few bags.
he said that the problem was that the company was closed, because everyone was
leaving the island ASAP.
he felt guilty about leaving the church exposed.
So he said that he might have enough time to go fill some bags himself,
if I could get a couple of guys to help. Well,
I went in and made a couple of calls, but by the time we arrived at the company
to help, Javier and his sons were just leaving to return to the church.
and his four sons had filled fifty bags with sand in what couldn’t have been
more than 20-30 minutes. Then they
carried them into Quin Hall and used them to secure all of our outside doors.
course, I tried to give him money. But
he absolutely would not take it. I
said; just let me buy your family lunch or gas for your trip.
He said NO. I cannot take
money from the church. This is
something we do for you because it is God’s church and we are your neighbors.
then he and his sons went back across the street and resumed getting themselves
packed to leave. Dressed as they
were. In simple clothes.
Clothes that were just perfect for a banquet.