Archive for November 14th, 2018

Matthew 22:1-14The Wedding Garment

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Written on June 1 and posted today as FavoriteSunday’s Gospel reading was the story of the wedding guest who appeared without a wedding garment . . .

The Parable of the Wedding Garment

This story frightened me as a child.  So much violence, so much anger.  Weddings were enormous family celebrations for us; just inviting aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents was automatically a guest list of at least two hundred.  My parents were from large families, and these families valued and celebrated life, and they accepted all – even the various black sheep.  On the Sunday this parable was read we five had lots of questions for Mother and Dad: Why did this guy invite people who did not want to come?  Who would miss a wedding and a chance to gather the clan in the first place?  Why did this guy kill people who made him mad?  Why did he invite people and not tell them there was a dress code?  When we were young Mother and Dad would patiently explain that those who were invited should have gone, that the images here are dire because Jesus is making a point, that in those days everyone had “a wedding garment” that was worn when one was invited to a wedding.  When we were older it was explained that this story was more about the presence of the kingdom here and now, and about the “wedding garment” being our own conversion of heart.  Our “wedding garment,” they explained, cannot be bought or borrowed from another.  It cannot be feigned or imagined.  God has a specific measure and infinite mercy.  He calls each of us.  He has a plan in mind which Jesus shows us and the Spirit nurtures in us.  Our proper response to this invitation is to follow Jesus’ model, and to allow the Spirit to live within in order that we discover true repentance, so that we cultivate an honest softening of the heart and a willing obedience to do as God asks.  When we receive the invitation to the feast, which happens frequently – in case we hadn’t noticed – we are to go . . . and we will need to be prepared.  We understood this since the traditions of scouting and the military life were woven through everything we did as a family: One needs to always be prepared for any eventuality, we learned.  This was only prudent.  This was wise.  This was wearing how one wore the “wedding garment”.

I am amazed at the haphazard way in which so many people live, bouncing from one problem to another like a pin ball – or from one thrill to another, from one addiction to another – without much investment in discovering how to stop any insanity in their lives.  I understand when I read this story today that the ejected guest is the colleague I work with who complains but does not want to solve the problem, or the family member who persists in unhealthy behavior and refuses to move down a path that brings clarity and resolution to a worrying problem.  Mother and Dad were right.  This story is not about the nit-picking God who invites all to come to the banquet of life . . . it is really about the stubborn creatures who have heard a message and refuse to believe it.  Once seen in this light, the parable makes sense . . . and it is something to be taken seriously.

For today we might pause to reflect and ask ourselves . . . Do we have a wedding garment prepared to wear when we receive invitations to wedding feasts – are we ready to do God’s work when called in the Spirit and as Jesus does?  Do we know where our garment is, does it need mending, does it need cleaning up – when was the last time we examined it carefully?  Do we know what this wedding garment signifies – are we ready to say to the God who created us . . . “We have worked hard on ourselves to soften our hearts and bend our stiff necks.  We have discarded our wide phylacteries and long tassels to put on the simple garment of Christ.  We have come to labor in the vineyard to do the work you need rather than the work we want”.

In the Christian Baptismal Rite, a white garment is often bestowed on the baptized child.  Many infants wear a special white baptismal dress.  We later see white fabrics used in First Communion dresses and suits, in confirmation and graduation robes and dresses, and even in wedding gowns.  With all of this imagery to remind us, let us dig out our own wedding garment from the closet or chest where we have stored it for a special day.  Let us clean it, repair it, refurbish it . . . for every day is Banquet Day in the Kingdom and we have need of it often . . . Do we act as if this is this something we know?

A re-post from October 12, 2011.

Image from: http://edharewood.fatcow.com/Life_of_Jesus_Christ/parable-of-the-wedding-garment/

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