Friday, July 15, 2011

The Wedding Garment

[22:1] And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, [2] "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, [3] and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. [4] Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.' [5] But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, [6] while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. [7] The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. [8] Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. [9] Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.' [10] And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
[11] "But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. [12] And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. [13] Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' [14] For many are called, but few are chosen." Matthew 22:1-14 (ESV)

I suppose the temptation is to make this about proper attire for going to church. I’ll try to avoid that. But what is this wedding garment, the lack of which gets the man thrown into the outer darkness, which is just another term for hell by the way.
This is one that isn’t exactly the easiest to make heads or tails of. At least I haven’t found it all that easy. The only way it seems to make sense to me, is if he is here talking about the “outward association” of the kingdom of God, the church we call it, meaning the gathering on earth of God’s saints, where they gather around the wedding feast of the Lord’s Supper, which should be at every gathering of Christ’s saints. I do not get this ambivalence towards the supper that is so often found in congregation after congregation. And when Ihear an Altar guild complain that it is too much work, I’m tempted to tell them to stay home all together. IF you can’t find joy in preparing for the Lord’s Supper that other’s might benefit from the forgiveness of sins, and find it to be a chore to set out some wafers and wine, then perhaps this parable is talking about you. As with all these thing. That might be harsh, but what are you doing on the altar guild? If you find it a chore, don’t do it. Make room for someone else. Maybe it is time you just sat and enjoyed the service, there comes a time for that too. I do realize you can’t make one enjoy something by telling them to enjoy it.
But this is what the parable is getting at. The wedding feast. This isn’t the heavenly throne room, to which only those with faith, the garment to be clothed with, will go. This is church. And the warning here is almost moot. It seems to be, going to church isn’t enough, you need faith too.
What is odd, is so many people seem to have the idea everyone else in this story has. “I have faith, why do I need to go to church.” Pastors hear that sort way to often. It is never said that bluntly, but it is what is meant. The pastor is left asking, what kind of faith is this, that doesn’t want to be at the wedding feast? What kind of faith doesn’t want to be with Christ and his gifts on Sunday morning? I’ve never seen this work out well for the families involved. Mom’s moaning after the fact about their kids shacking up or joining cults, Well I can sympathize, but excuse me if I don’t find fault with previous pastors or myself. God has given God fearing parents responsibility for raising God fearing children. And yes he tends to hold father’s responsible for this, even if it seems that more often than not it’s the moms that work hardest at it.
But true enough, being a member of the institution is nothing if you do not have the wedding garment that is faith.
Or perhaps the other side of it is repentance, the hall mark of faith. One can’t have the one without the other. And perhaps that is the thing that needs to be pointed out more today than anything. As it seems today, people talk about faith and yet seem to have none. Faith seems to be synonymous with doubt in some circles. It’s the faith of Pharisees, worse than that of demons who at least recognize God is one. It is a haughty faith they speak of that depends on their own doing, and sees no place for the sacraments. Lord have mercy.

No comments: