Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
October 13, 2002
The Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14
Sermon: "The Wedding Banquet"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, 'Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.' But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen."
The Wedding Banquet
Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost - October 13, 2002
"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen." NRSV
How do we feel towards this man without a robe?
How do we feel about the actions and response of the king?
Do we think the king was unfair to this wedding guest? Who throws a guest out at a party for not wearing the right clothes? Shouldn't the king have been merciful? After all, the man did show up. His earlier attempts to invite people failed miserably. No one came to the banquet. At least, this man came.
I guess the real big question though is, "What if I were that man?" Well, what would you say if I proclaimed, you and I are that man.
See, Jesus is telling this parable to his disciples. The main feature in this parable is the man and the robe. Jesus is using a wedding custom of the ancient Jewish people to explain the kingdom of God. When a guest came to a wedding they were given a robe to wear. The robe placed everyone on the same footing. Rich and poor, city and country, family and friend, were all welcomed and honored. The robe was not just acceptance. The robe was a symbol of transformation. The robe transformed everyone into being a member of this one special wedding event. Transformation is a key word in the early Christian church.
In the early church, conversion to Christianity occurred through Baptism. In the service the baptizand would stop at the side of the pool of water. They would strip off their old clothes and walk into the pool. The shedding of the old clothes meant leaving their old life behind. Then they would be baptized by immersion. Immersing the person under water also had meaning. It meant dying to one's old ways and rising to a new life in Christ. Then the baptizand would leave the pool and be dressed in a clean white linen robe. The robe symbolized transformation. The newly baptized person was leaving one's old self behind and living a new life in Christ. A Christian is someone who is transformed.
This parable was aimed at the disciples. The meaning would not have been lost on Matthew's readers. The meaning should not be lost on us. The wedding guest does not have on a robe. He wants all of the goodies at the party. He wants all of the great food. He wants the fine wine. He wants to be included with everyone else, but he wants to maintain his old ways. He does not wish to be transformed. So, when the king approaches him and asks about his attire, the man has no answer. As a result, the man is removed from the party. He did not want to be transformed. He wanted to stay exactly like he is.
We are like this man. Sometimes we want to be seen in the right places. Sometimes we want to be recognized by the right people. We want to be in the right clubs and organizations. We want the perks of this world, money, popularity, and not the rewards of heaven. We do not want to be transformed or like the man in the parable, we don't want to show we might be transformed. Let me ask a few questions of us: When was the last time we went somewhere and told somebody we were Christian? When was the last time we stood up for someone who was being unfairly treated? When was the last time we stopped to say a prayer in public before eating? Whether we know it or not we are called to be different in this world. We are called to show through action and deed that we wear a wedding garment. We cannot believe that because we claim membership in the church by word that we will go to heaven. We cannot claim that because we have a baptismal card, confirmation card or marriage certificate we will go to heaven.
The man in our parable was not willing to show he was transformed. How about us? Our words and actions to the community around us should represent Christ. We wear the garment not to separate us from each other, but to bind us together with the one holy and loving God and with each other. We wear the garment to make a difference in this world for God. We are called to wear it with true humility, true compassion and true love. Saying we are Christian is easy. Living as a Christian is intentional, not hard, intentional. Living as a Christian is recognizing that each morning we put on a wedding garment that others around us see. With that garment on us every action and every word is examined. The man in our parable wanted to be accepted as a Christian and live opposite of his calling. We have the same call. Jesus calls us all to the banquet. The question is how will we respond?