Summary: This sermon seeks to explore what it means to wear the wedding garments, and how choosing to wear them requires commitment regardless of what is happening in our lives.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Over the past few weeks, we have been working through a number of challenging parables in Matthews Gospel, and we are again faced with another this morning.
There are definitely two parts to this parable, the first mirrors the concepts of our faith which we have been thinking about through the vineyard parables, but then the second part throws something new into the mix, the king has invited everyone into the great banquet, but then throws one of the new guests out with only a cryptic explanation that he isn’t properly attired!
There is much more going on than meets the eye, although it’s not clear what that is.
I gave some thought as to how to best explain this, and I want to use the plot from a film. In this particular film, there has been a disastrous incident where a whole race is in danger of extinction, and so envoys are sent to escort representatives to a meeting to discuss how they can be helped.
All seems to be going well, and the escort and the delegates share a meal together, but in the meantime, assassins are dispatched to kill the head of the delegation. What then follows is a whodunnit type storyline, and as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that some of those who sat at the meal together purporting to be on their way to find solutions, were actually there to sabotage the entire thing and ensure that it failed.
In the end the perpetrators, the imposters were all exposed, and their plans failed, allowing for trust to be built and the offer of help and assistance to follow.
Theologians tell us that in 1st century Israel, there would have been an expectation that the guests would have been clothed in an appropriate way, and it would have been up to the host to supply these, however, this man had chosen not to wear them, and was exposed as an imposter, and thus thrown out of the Kings presence.
The underlying aspect of this parable is about our intentions, what is within our heart. Those who were invited initially made excuse after excuse, and decided that what was being offered wasn’t important to them, again, we come back to the officials who rejected Christ in favour of remaining comfortable with all that they had.
The one who didn’t wear the wedding robe was the imposter, the one who used surreptitious means to deceive the king, hoping he could enjoy all that was being offered without committing himself.
The rest of the guests were the ones who were open to receiving all that was being offered with joy and gratitude. Note that Matthew takes time to highlight that there were people both good and bad. When the king saw them he didn’t single any of them out, he accepted them into the wedding hall, because they were open to him, and offered respect by ensuring that they were clothed appropriately.
This parable highlights the choice that each of us make, it reminds us that whilst the invitation is always there, it has to be our choice whether or not to accept it.
The parable also doesn’t come with caveats, there are no expectations on any of us at the beginning of our journey to have led a good and spotless life. The expectations come at the point when we accept the garments.
The garments are a metaphor for our willingness to offer repentance, and once we put them on they demonstrate that we are prepared to confess those things which debilitate and hinder us in having a relationship with God, and through that they give us that opportunity to receive forgiveness
For many who are listening to this sermon, then it is likely that this has already happened in our lives, but that is just the start of our journey, because afterwards they remain a constant reminder to us that we must strive to live the best life that we can, having faith is not just a once and for all time event.
But what does that mean to us as we live our lives, for that we turn to our epistle. Paul says ‘Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any
excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’
Paul remains an excellent counsel to the church, and whilst he can at times be hard on the churches in his care, here however in the final chapter of his letter to the church in Philippi, he is completing his instructions to them, by reminding them to continue on, to not give up and to seek the joys that are theirs through faith.