"My friend," He said, "how is it that you came in here not
properly dressed?" The man had nothing to say. The king then said to the
attendants, "Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the night to
wail and grind his teeth. The invited are many; the elected are few."
My friends, today we hear the parable of the king who gave a wedding
feast for his son. Each of the synoptic Gospels - Matthew, Mark and Luke
- contains this story and yet Matthew gives it a very different spin than
either Mark or Luke. First, it is a king that is doing all of this. Secondly,
Matthew adds a parable on top of a parable. He could have ended his parable
with all of the people who were brought into the wedding feast after the
others had refused to come, and everybody would have been happy. Instead,
Matthew added another little parable about the man who did not wear the
proper wedding attire.
Why is it that Matthew would write this rather harsh parable? Remember
that all of the Gospels were not written in a vacuum, but in the context
of the first century Church that was struggling for its own identity. This
Church was still not quite sure in what direction the Lord was leading
them. We might think that the Church after Pentecost had everything perfectly
in order. That really is not true. Read the Acts of the Apostles, and you
will read about one controversy after another that faced that primitive
Matthew wrote his Gospel around the year 85 A.D. A cataclysmic event
had happened some fifteen years before, hat event was the destruction of
Jerusalem by the Roman army. Not one stone was left upon another, just
as Jesus had predicted. The Jewish people had been scattered. The army
chased the remnant of the nation south from Jerusalem into the Judean hills.
Eventually, they dealt with them at a place called Masada, overlooking
the Dead Sea.
The Jewish nation was no more. The people who had been converts from
Judaism to Christianity knew this. They questioned what had happened; who
they were and what they were. Are they a branch of Judaism? A sect of Judaism?
Matthew is saying very simply, "No. We are something very special; something
The parable in today's Gospel addresses that very fact. It was a king
that gave a banquet for his son. He sent out his messengers and they were
ignored. God sent His prophets to Israel and they were ignored. He sent
others, says the parable, and they were killed. God sent other prophets
to Israel and they were murdered. The king, according to the parable, became
angry and sent an army and destroyed their city and scattered them. That
had a real bite to a people who had seen their beloved Israel destroyed
by the armies of Rome.
They were different. They were the people that had been gathered from
the highways and hedges. They were the Gentiles to whom the Church had
turned now to bring into this community of believers. They brought in,
says St. Matthew, all kinds of people both good and bad. The parable would
have us understand that within the Church there is an invitation to which
many people respond, but respond for a variety of reasons.
Not all of those reasons are pristine. Some of those reasons are quite
selfish. It's the place to be. "I am a member of the Church because they
give good parties. The food is good there." "I am a member of this community
because I am enamored of brick and mortar." "They have excellent bridge
clubs in that church." All kinds of reasons why people would be gathered
together in a community. They're not bad, but they're woefully incomplete.
The wrong reasons can change individuals into thinking that as long as
they are members, everything is perfectly all right.
Sometimes, church members can be terribly petty. This does not mean
that the laity alone are petty. Sometimes it's the clergy. Sometimes, God
forbid, it's even the bishops, who can espouse all kinds of crazy, nonsensical
teachings. Some want it to be an exclusive, pristine club. We saw that
even in our own traditional Anglican Church within the past few years.
Squabbles and fights broke out within our church that were absolutely not
of God, squabbles and fights that had nothing to do with the spread of
the Gospel. There are individual bishops who have their own little fiefdoms
and can be big frogs in little ponds. The parable warns us of this.
Part two of today's parable dealt with the individual without a proper
wedding garment. In the anteroom to the great hall, they could put on a
wedding garment. It was available, hanging there for them to put on. But
this individual preferred to come in dressed in jeans and tennis shoes.
Mere attendance, says Jesus, wasn't enough.
Something else had to happen to that individual and that was the transformation
of his life in order for him to be a welcome guest. As a Christian people,
you and I realize that first and foremost the Church is about salvation.
You and I stand in need of God's saving grace for us personally, individually.
It is necessary that you and I receive this grace and be grateful for what
God has done for us; inviting us to the banquet of life. If we would say,
"Well, my mere presence is enough," that second parable within the parable
today should be fair warning. There has to be conversion, a change of heart,
a turning away from sin to God and only to God.
If there is any problem that the Church faces these days, it is a problem
of identity as a people; a people in need of God's grace; a people who
would be grateful for that grace. A people who would acknowledge their
sinfulness before God and reject it in order to embrace God. To put on
that wedding garment is to put on salvation. I means to accept Jesus Christ
as personal Lord and Savior. There is no other way. This morning when we
gather for Eucharist there cannot be a more perfect way in which we express
who and what we are as a people. It was in this way that the Church of
the first century knew who it was. "One bread," says St. Paul, "makes us
one body in Christ." As we receive Eucharist this morning, it is a sign
of our unity in Christ. It is a sign of our being "Church" and it brings
about that unity wondrously and mysteriously.
This is the wedding banquet of the Lord to which He has invited each
and every one of us. How are we dressed? With gratefulness? With an acknowledgment
that we need the grace of God? Or are we dressed merely by saying, "I'm
here and God should be very grateful that I am here?" In a beautiful prophecy
in the Book of Isaiah, we have a foretaste of what this Messianic banquet
truly is, what Jesus was talking about in the parable. In the 25th chapter
we read this:
On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will provide for all peoples a feast
of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure choice wines.
On this mountain He will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web
that is woven over all nations. He will destroy death forever. The Lord
God will wipe away the tears from all faces. The reproach of His people
He will remove from the whole earth. For the Lord has spoken. On that day
it will be said, "Behold our God to whom we look to save us. This is the
Lord for whom we looked. Let us be rejoice and be glad that He has saved
Let us celebrate Eucharist in that light. This is the God who has saved
us. Clothed in the garment of salvation, we celebrate Jesus' victory over
death, over everything that is not of God.
Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation.
If you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please
credit St. Dunstanís Church and Fr. Sisterman.