Sermons 2005
The Wedding Banquet, Proper 23A, 9 October 2005, Matthew 22:1-14

Home | "The One who is coming after me", Advent 2B, 4 December 2005, Mark 1:1-8 | "Stay awake. Be alert" Advent 1B, 27 November 2005, Mark13:24-37 | "Black Hat vs White Hat" Proper 26A, 30 October 2005, Matthew 23:1-12 | "Sheep and Goats -- again!" Proper 29A, 20 November 2005, Matthew 25:31-46 | "The Greatest Commandment" Proper 25A, 23 October 2005 Matthew 22: 34-46 | God and Caesar, Proper 24A, 16 October 2005, Matthew 22:15-22 | The Wedding Banquet, Proper 23A, 9 October 2005, Matthew 22:1-14 | The Landlord and the Tenants, Proper 22A , 2 October 2005, Matthew 21:33-43 | "Who will go?" Proper 21A, 25 September 2005, Matthew 21:28-32 | "The Last shall be first", Proper 20A, 18 September 2005, Matthew 20:1-16 | "Forgiveness, grace, and mercy", Proper 19A, 11 September 2005, Matthew 18:21-35 | "But who do YOU say that I am?" Proper 16A, 21 August 2005, Matthew 16:13-20 | "O God, how can we sing to you...." Katrina Relief, 4 September 2005 | "The kingdom of heaven is like...." Proper 12A, 24 July 2005, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-49a | "The wheat and the tares", Proper 11A, 17 July 2005, Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43 | "Ears to listen", Proper 10A, 10 July 2005, Matthew 15:1-9, 18-23 | "A cup of cold water", Proper 8A, 26 June 2005, Matthew 10:34-42 | "Heseth: lovingkindness, not sacrifice", Proper 5A , 5 June 2005, Matthew 9:9-13; Hosea 6:6 | Trinity: A Theological Exploration, 22 May 2005, Matthew 28:16-20 | The Baptism of Parker Benjamin Throckmorton, Pentecost Sunday, 15 May 2005 | "Receive the Holy Spirit" Pentecost , 15 May 2005, John 20: 19-23 | "Unity or schism?" Easter 7A, 8 May 2005, John 17:1-11 | "Abide in me", Easter 6A, 1 May 2005, John 15:1-8 | "The Way, the Truth, and the Life", Easter 5A , 24 April 2005, John 14:1-14 | "Saint Thomas the Doubter", Easter 2A, 3 April 2005, John 20:19-31 | "The Lord is Risen Indeed!", Easter A , 27 March 2005, Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-18 | "The Shadow of the Cross", Passion Sunday A, 20 March 2005, Matthew 26:36-27:66 | Raising of Lazarus", Lent 5A, 13 March 2005, Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-44 | "Who are the blind?" Lent 4A, 6 March 2005, John 9:1-38 | "Water and Living Water", Lent 3A, 27 February 2005, John 4:5-42 | Baptized and Born Again", Lent 2A, 20 February 2005, John 3:1-17 | Temptation and the Kingdom of God, Lent 1A, 13 February 2005, Matthew 4:1-11 | "'Tis good to be here, " Epiphany Last A, 6 February 2005, Matthew 17:1-9 | "Follow me!" Epiphany 3A, 23 January 2005, Matthew 4:12-23 | "Come and See!" Epiphany 2A, 16 January 2005, John 1:29-41 | The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours, Epiphany 1A, 9 January 2005, Matthew 3:13-17 | Christmas 2A: The Tsunami, God, and our Neighbor", Matthew 2, 2 January 2005 | Next Sunday to be posted soon

Proper 23A 2005 Mt 22:1-14
“And once more Jesus spoke to his questioners in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.”

Weddings are wonderful events in the lives of a couple and their families. Family and friends gather to celebrate. Weddings also involve a lot of work and effort and energy – and most of all, patience. In many cases weddings can bring out the worst in people. Sometimes, the tensions within a family erupt during wedding preparations and the wedding itself. Tensions simmering just below the surface, tensions that are coped with in normal times, can burst forth during the pressure of bringing a wedding into being. It wasn’t too long ago that the saga of the runaway bride was carried in the newspapers and channel news. She left on the eve of her 600 guest wedding.

One young woman decided to call off her wedding twelve days before the event and her parents knew they’d be stuck with the bill, so they decided to have a party anyway and invited the homeless. Residents of the Interfaith Family Shelter, housed in a former convent across from the church where the wedding had been scheduled, attended the bash thrown by the bride and her parents.

The shelter manager told the press afterward, “They had a DJ and really good music. It was a warm, friendly atmosphere. The food was delicious. I t was a nice break with people not worrying about anything for one night. Toward the end of the evening, they packed up all the leftover food and we got to bring it back to the shelter.”

One homeless woman got her son out of a wheelchair, “took that child out on the dance floor and picked him up and
danced with him. It was a beautiful sight.” (1)

No matter how carefully every detail of a wedding is planned, something unexpected inevitably happens. Perfection escapes us. In the Gospels, however, weddings seem plagued with more than their share of mishaps. At Cana the hosts run out of wine and Jesus had to make more. At the wedding with ten bridesmaids the bridegroom is delayed until midnight. And the wedding Jesus describes today certainly redefines “social disaster.” In the end, the feast goes on—not as the exclusive event of the season, but as a very different celebration. Anyone able to attend is more than welcome. But there was one exception to that welcome: the poor fellow who showed up without a wedding garment. He was not likely to make that mistake again.

It simply wasn’t fair. Nervous father of the groom or not, powerful king or not, he had no right to single out the one person who didn’t wear the right shirt to the wedding feast. The punishment certainly didn’t fit the offense. And what’s more, the invitation to the banquet came suddenly, without notice. The king’s servants appeared out of nowhere and demanded his presence. Who could have anticipated such an invitation? Who would have been foolish enough to refuse the king – no one of the lower classes dared say no to the king.

So the man stopped what he was doing and came to the banquet. But no sooner had he arrived than the king noticed his shirt and condemned him to the outer darkness.

It wasn’t fair. The poor man had stopped what he was doing to comply with the orders of the king – the king who had not even invited him in the first group. The poor man forgot about his plans and work for the day, ignored the fact that he was not a first choice, and immediately followed his king’s orders to come to the banquet. It wasn’t fair at all.

But the king looked at it differently. The problem was not that the man had no costly garments or rich robes to wear. The problem was that the man didn’t come in clean clothes as custom dictated for weddings. The man may not even have washed his face and hands or changed his dirty shirt for a clean one before he came. He may even have reeked of sweat and dirt. And so he was cast into the outer darkness.

We might have a little sympathy for the king is we consider our reaction if someone were to show up at the wedding of one of our children in bib overalls and reeking of cow manure or were covered with oil or grease. We might very well feel insulted. After all, we are people who dress up to come to church every Sunday, despite efforts to relax the dress code in summer. We may not consider ourselves sticklers about dress and appearance, but we would like to have some explanation for the bib overalls. But the poor man in the parable was speechless; he couldn’t or wouldn’t explain.

We can and do tolerate great diversity and wide varieties of styles and fashions – but we expect people at least to be clean. We expect people to do something to prepare themselves to come to the banquet. Anything less insults everyone else who is present.

This parable of the wedding banquet is not a lesson on etiquette or personal hygiene, however. Rather, it’s a parable about the spread of the kingdom of heaven. The parable makes the point that all of us are invited into a relationship with the God who loves us. The ministry and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross makes this relationship available to everyone. And the shirts we wear to do our part in this relationship are our metaphor.

We are like those guests gathered in from the main streets. We, both good and bad, have received gracious and open invitations to enter into this relationship, to come to the banquet. We might be smug about NOT being among those who have rejected the invitation – but we shouldn’t be. For God may ask us how clean our own shirts actually are, or even perhaps why they are so clean if the work he requires of us involves rolling up our sleeves and getting a little dirty and sweaty. He might ask us whether we have taken our presence here at the table for granted and too casually. While a relationship with the God who loves us is freely given and joyfully bestowed, we are expected to do something with it.

God’s call to a relationship with him and to be part of the life of a worshiping community is gracious and freely given. But that doesn’t give us license to come to the banquet without some preparation. At the very least we can put on the right shirt. The right shirts come in a variety of colors, sizes, and styles.

We take the right shirt from the closet when we tend to our private devotions and prayers during the week. We put on the right shirt when we give prayerful reflection to stewardship, financial and otherwise. We put on the right shirt when we accept offices and responsibilities because they provide opportunities for growth in our relationship with the Lord who loves us. Even putting on a brand new clean shirt for Sunday morning does not make us spotless or perfect – but it does indicate that we have taken our relationship with God seriously – that we have given some thought and preparation for our part in the worship.

And in a mysterious and grace filled way, putting on the right shirts help us through the full impact of the difficult times and events that don’t seem fair but come to all of us in one form or another.

There’s a story of a monastery on the top of a high mountain with a sheer drop on all sides. A large basket drawn up and down by a single rope provided the only access to this monastery. A visitor being taken up in the basket noticed that the rope looked frayed.

He asked the monk who was with him, “How often do you replace the rope?”

Replied the monk, “Every time it breaks.”

Far better to have the habit of wearing the right shirts at every moment of our lives rather than searching frantically for it when the rope breaks and we fall, battered and broken against the rocks of life’s tragedies.

In this parable Jesus tells us across the centuries that every one is invited to the banquet hall of faith, practice, and the worshiping community: those in the center of the communities’ life and service and those on the distant thoroughfares and dirt roads, both the good and the bad. Jesus tells us the invitation is free and grace filled. But free doesn’t mean that nothing is asked of us. We can at least recognize the honor and significance of being asked. We can at least put on the right shirt, roll up our sleeves, and get on with it.


1. Synthesis for Proper 23A 2005

Wicomico Parish Church, Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579