Pr. Michelle Sevig
October 14/15, 2017
Invited, Dressed, and Ready
I’ll be honest, sometimes I feel like ending the reading in the center of the aisle with a question instead of a proclamation, “The gospel of the Lord?” And this is certainly one of those times. Even Martin Luther, famed preacher and reformer 500 years ago, is rumored to have said he didn’t like preaching on this gospel text, so I feel like I’m in good company. But Luther also once said about difficult passages that we “must squeeze them until the good news drips out.”
So here we go… today’s scripture readings (three of them) show us the reign of God—the kingdom of God—as a party. In Isaiah, a feast of rich food and well aged wines. In Psalm 23, a table spread before us in the presence of our enemies. And in Matthew, a wedding banquet thrown by the father for his son, a meal to which all are invited, both the good and the bad.
Now partying and feasting, that’s something I can relate to. I love a good party, especially when there is plentiful food and drink, and I rarely turn down an invitation to gather with friends when there is something to celebrate. But I am an extrovert. I also know how disappointing it can be to know there is a party going on, but I wasn’t invited. I might end up feeling ignored or forgotten, not valued or included in the inner circle.
Jesus tells a parable where a king throws an extravagant party and the initial invitations are rejected. That’s odd. Can you imagine saying no to a royal invitation? A second invitation sweetens the deal with descriptions of elaborate preparations—it’s going to be delicious! But those invited are unimpressed and go back to business as usual. The invitation goes out again, and this time everyone is invited—the good and the bad—people who aren’t usually invited to royal celebrations.
Maybe the point is, that in Jesus, God flings wide the doors and everyone is an invited guest to a royal party. Not in some distant future afterlife, but here and now. The Holy One invites us all to be honored guests. It’s not just something we say here at Holy Trinity, “whoever you are, wherever you’re from, whoever you love and marry, whatever the color of your skin you’re welcome here.” God’s invitation isn’t just to come to church. God’s invitation for all is into fullness of life. God’s got a party going on right now, here on earth and we are all invited to throw on our party clothes and get on the dance floor.
Sometimes life doesn’t feel like much of a party. Pity party, maybe; but no celebration. There’s so much to be anxious about-too many people losing their homes and livelihood due to hurricanes, fires and war, literally dying while the party’s going on. There are too many loved ones who are suffering in body or mind, who can’t join in on the celebration right now. There’s so much to be angry about too, and plenty of people who I’d prefer were not invited or present at the party at all. Remember, I like to party with my friends, not my enemies. But the Lord prepares a table (a party) for us in the presence of our enemies and everyone is invited. Everyone.
The apostle Paul’s advice as he writes from prison in the midst of his own suffering is, “Rejoice in the Lord always. And let your gentleness be made known to everyone. Because God is near.” Even in the midst of his own persecution, Paul rejoices in the one who gives abundant life. The feast is going on whether you accept the invitation or not to live fully into God’s promises.
So what will we wear for the festivities? Let’s draw our attention back to the parable where we learn there is one guest not dressed appropriately for the feast. The wedding robes were garments given to each guest as they walked in. The host fully prepares everyone to be dressed in the expected attire. But one guest hasn’t put on the proper wedding robe.
Of course this isn’t about actual clothes, as in an episode of “What not to wear,” but a symbol of what God has done to fully prepare us for the feast of life. The good news is that God has given us all exactly what we need to fully and faithfully participate in the feast of life God has prepared. At baptism we say to the newly baptized, “You have put on Christ, in him you have been baptized.” The new white robe is a symbol of being clothed in Christ and called into service with Christ and the community of faith.
· Dressed in Christ’s love and joy, we take in all the wonders of life and open our hearts to the goodness that surrounds us.
· Dressed in Christ’s mercy and compassion, we live lives of generosity toward the most vulnerable and are present for others who are in pain.
· Dressed in Christ’s forgiveness and grace, we put aside hatred and narrow-mindedness, and seek to understand those with whom we disagree.
· Dressed in Christ’s justice and peace, we live as faithful partners with God who is always, always with those who are poor, those who are hurting, those who are usually excluded instead of invited.
Yes, you have put on Christ. You are dressed and ready for the ongoing feast of life. God does not enforce this dress code or punish us as the king in today’s parable. Instead, God invites us over and over again to be present, to share in joy with others, to be engaged in the abundant life God offers in the kindom.
When God is the host, the food is rich beyond our imagination or understanding. Sometimes it appears to be quite simple – like bread and wine – yet we can be profoundly moved and transformed by this feast. When God is the host, we are nourished not just for this one hour on Sunday morning, but for always. And when God is the host, everyone gets the same gift: undeserved and inexhaustible love and grace.
Now I can proclaim with confidence, “The gospel of Lord!” And we can all go out from this place and invite others to join in on the party, that together we may know God’s life abundant for all.