Sermon: Put On Love
This sermon was preached at Cobleskill United Methodist Church on October 11, 2020.
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 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.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 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.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 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.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
How do you typically decide what you’re going to wear? If you’re like me you have a process. First, I look at the weather report. This makes the biggest difference. My 93-year-old grandmother, in her infinite wisdom, says, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing.” If it’s a day like yesterday, I had to dig out my shorts again to be happy. If it’s a day like today, I was back long sleeves and even a scarf! The next thing I might consider, when deciding what to wear is what day of the week it is and what kinds of things are going on that day. Saturday trip to the farm, maybe jeans. Monday my day off when I do laundry, definitely sweat pants. Sunday when I stand in front of all of you leading worship trying to look presentable, probably not jeans or sweat pants. And then the final touch, and perhaps the most exciting question I ask myself, is what is my mood? Am I in a colorful mood? Or an earth-tone mood? Or is it one of those days that feels like black head to toe is the only appropriate option?
Okay, okay, okay, so maybe you don’t have a three-step check-list before you open your closet. But I think we can all admit that wearing clothes is important, and that there are times when we’ve made the wrong choice.
Wardrobe choices are the topic of our Gospel reading today. Jesus tells us a parable about a time when a guest to a party wore the wrong clothes. But, like last week, the story we hear from the Gospel is allegorical. In the story Jesus uses a situation that is relatable to teach them about a bigger more difficult lesson related to God and our faith. Let’s find out what wardrobe decisions have to do with our relationship with God.
In this parable there’s a king, perhaps resembling God, who is throwing a huge party, a wedding banquet for his son. To make a long story short, all of the VIPs the king invited found other things to be doing on the day of and didn’t show up. So the king decided to open the invitation up to anyone, anyone, from the street who would come in and enjoy the spectacular party he had just paid a lot of money to put on. After invited in, all of these street people come and begin to partake. All is going well except one person has come in his street clothes instead of changing into his wedding clothes. Now, you may be thinking, ok, so what? He had, after all, just been invited off the street to come to this fancy party. How could you expect him to have changed into something fancy? But the backstory about wedding feasts in those days was that the host provided wedding clothes to any guest who attended. There was no need to buy or rent your fancy black-tie wedding guest clothes. The host gave them out for free when you got to the venue. Pretty nice, right? It was, then, even more striking that when given such a generous invitation to even attend the party, and offered the right attire at the door, one guest refused to change and thought it would be okay to enjoy the party in his regular old street clothes.
Okay, so what’s the connection to us? What is the party that God is inviting us to and how can we make sure we show up ready and appropriately dressed? Hang with me for just a second, ok. What if I told you the “party” God is inviting you and me to is actually right here and right now, right in front of us, but in a parallel reality. What?! What I’m talking about is the Kingdom of God. The realm of our Divine Creator in which Love rules. A realm that is always possible right in front of us, but not always the realm in which we actually live. The Kingdom of God is often compared in the Bible to a glorious feast, be it a wedding or just a fancy banquet in which the table is really long and the food is exquisite and everyone, even those who think they are undeserving are invited.
This is the incredible news in this entire story: right now, right here, God is inviting us to step into a world in which Love rules everything. A new life. A life transformed where God offers us unconditional acceptance and forgives all of our past short-fallings.
But, this is what you need to know. There is more to this new life of faith than just showing up. Yes, showing up is the first step. But if showing up is all you do, if you make no effort to really want to be there, then you have missed the point. When you come to God’s party God expects you to come prepared, wearing the beautiful clothes God has set out for you: love, compassion, patience, kindness and humility. Because if you aren’t wearing those “garments” then you’re probably wearing the opposite: a short temper, anxiety, judgment, greed, idolatry and self-centeredness. (If you hear echoes of last week’s parable this week, then you’re beginning to understand what Jesus was saying.)
If you RSVP to the Kingdom of God; if you say you follow Jesus, then you also must understand that you will be expected to rise to the occasion and change some things about your life. Yes, the invitation has been given to you and it’s a standing invitation, but are you coming in your street-clothes? Are you wearing the same old self-centeredness, greed, quick temper, and self-righteous judgment that you wear every other day of your life when God. Why would you wear those things when God has generously given you a pile of crisp new clothes that fit you much better? Put on Love. It looks good on you.
It is a very, very old custom for someone to be baptized wearing white. This is no coincidence. In fact, when the earliest members of the church were first getting baptized, back in the first and second century, the men and women would literally take off their old clothes, be baptized and then put on a white gown as a way to say: I have accepted your invitation, God, I have come and I am ready to live the life you desire for me. The old stuff of my life – the anger, the bitterness, the need to always be right—I’m leaving that in a pile by the door. You’ve got something better for me and I’m choosing to put that on instead.