Year A Proper 23 Matthew 22 2011
The King's Reception (What Are you Wearing to the Wedding?)
Matthew 22: 1-14
Perhaps you have heard of the family that moved into the neighborhood and the little country church decided to reach out to the family. When they arrived at the doorstep the members of the church were surprised to find that the family had 12 kids and were for the most part poor. They invited the family to services and said goodbye. Later that week the church responded to their need. They delivered a package to the family and said, "We want you to know that you and your entire family are welcome at our church anytime. We have bought you these gifts and we want you to feel comfortable and at ease in our congregation. We hope you can use these," and they left. The family opened the package to find 14 suits of clothing, beautiful clothes for every member of the family. Sunday came and the congregation waited for the family, and they waited. The family never showed. Wondering what could have possibly happened, after lunch the members of the church returned to the home and found the family just getting back, all dressed in their new clothes.
"We don't mean to be nosey but we would like to know what happened. We had hoped to see you this morning in church," the leader of the church inquired.
The father spoke up. He said, "Well, we got up this morning intending to come. And we sure do appreciate your invitation. But after we showered, shaved, and dressed, why we looked so proper we went to the Episcopal Church."
That's a funny way of talking about a serious problem. Invitations are sent to many to come to church but so few people respond. It's frustrating. Many of you have reached out to neighbors or friends and asked them to come to church and you know all to well the disappointment, how few respond.
Maybe that is why we find this morning's parable so familiar. We are told that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and the chief priests in a parable. He said the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who was giving a wedding banquet for his son. The reception that was given was immense. You've all been to wedding receptions and you know how they can get out of hand. Imagine one thrown by a king for his son. Invitations are sent to all the friends of the family but they all turn down the invitation, they are too busy to attend.
The king then invites everyone out on the streets and in the marketplaces. The dinning hall is filled with guests but there is problem. It just so happens that as the king is mixing and mingling with the guests, he sees a man who is not wearing the appropriate wedding attire. He is wearing an old, perhaps tattered robe, obviously the garb that he wore in everyday life, his street clothes. "Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe," the king asks. The man was speechless, so the king had him bound and tossed into a place called outer darkness. Jesus concludes the parable with these solemn words: "Many are called, but few are chosen."
On the face of it the story sounds rather harsh, and it is. But if we look a little closer we will understand that in God's Kingdom:
- Everyone Is Invited to the King's Reception.
- Not Everyone Will Respond to the King's Invitation.
- The King Chooses Who Can Stay.
God Enjoys AND Enjoins Us
Director/actor Woody Allen is known for a lot of quotes. But maybe his most famous quote is this one. Anyone want to guess what it is?
But Woody Allen is famously wrong. Ninety percent of life is what we do AFTER we show up.
Why do we want to believe Allen's computations so badly? We eagerly embrace Woody's calculus because it takes us off the hook for all but ten percent of our lifetime of screw-ups, fall-flats, and melt-downs. It is easy to just "be there." It is much harder to be there for the long haul, the hard times, the big tests, the final curtain.
Just "showing up" at your wedding might get you married, but it doesn't build a living, loving, fighting, mortgage paying, in-law juggling, overdrawn, children challenged, lifetime relationship.
Just "showing up" at the birth of your child might make you a "parent," but it does not make you a changing diapers, up-all-night, learning dinosaur names, cheering at rain-soaked side-lines, doing Algebra homework, enforcing curfews, saving for college, Mom or Dad.
Just "showing up" at church every Sunday morning might make you a member-in-good-standing, but it does not automatically put feet on your faith. G. K. Chesterton used to say that "Just going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car." To be a Christian takes action; it takes a day-to-day commitment to follow Jesus wherever he leads...