Sermon based on – Philippians 4:1-9 and Matthew 22:1-14
So in our gospel reading Jesus using a parable to explain the Kingdom of God. Why might he do that? Well really there are no adequate words to describe the Kingdom only parables can speak to us of such hidden treasures. The biggest mistake we make is to think of this as a literal event yet people do….. Many people get really upset that the man with the wrong clothes got kicked out…some wonder at such harshness, maybe the man couldn’t afford the right clothes, or if they had come in off the street may be they didn’t have the right clothes to change into.
I repeat, this has nothing to do with what people were wearing on their bodies…..In parables we have to look for the symbolism.
Firstly The Wedding, whenever there is a wedding involved in such stories it often symbolises the inner mystic state of Christ drawing ever closer to the human soul towards union. The ultimate expression of this is a sense of oneness with God that we can experience for ourselves, and probably have fleetingly from time to time.
But Jesus lived in that blissful state…he tells us ‘I and the father are one’…and Jesus invites us to engage in that same oneness through Him. Without him it is not possible for us to draw close to God but in him that inner union is perfectly possible. The call to grow in Christ means precisely this…To draw ever nearer to reconciliation with God
The wedding is being hosted by the King…Who is the King in this Story?….. God
and it is his Son’s wedding – Who is the Son?…. The Christ
Who is the bride of Christ?….The Church, i.e. the body of believers (that means us)
So, we are not only invited to the wedding but we are invited to be a part, in Christ, in what is sometimes referred to as the Mystical union.. The direct experience of oneness with God. And we are all invited to partake in this wedding.
So the servants come with invitations for us to come and partake in the most profound, glorious, indescribably transforming change within our own soul, an invitation proffered in great humility and longing for us to just even register who it is who it is who calls us. But unfortunately we are too busy to accept…We have to attend to our church business, make sure our buildings are in order and the property schedules are done and that we have attended all the meetings we have to go to and then there’s the choir concert we have to rehearse for and … so on and on.
And that is precisely what is happening in the parable..The People make light of the invitation from God because they are too busy going about their mundane business. Now of course we all know we have to go about our business but the point that the parable makes is that those that were invited, those God assumed would want to come we might say, were so busy with their mundanities that they failed to recognise the significance of the ceremony that God had planned.
So anyway, not to let the banquet go to waste the king says to the servants…go and invite people off the streets to come no matter who they are, good or bad let them come to this feast. This is interesting because it’s is telling us that actually all people are invited to this wedding, all people can partake in this union!
And so the people come….bad and good and the wedding hall is full of guests. Then the king comes to see his guests as we might suppose he would but there was a man not wearing the right clothes.. The king is horrified and wants to know why the man has turned up in the wrong clothes but the man is speechless. But his lack of right clothes means that he is not able to stay at the wedding and he is banished. And immediately after this, we are told, in the last verse of the passage that ‘many are called but few are chosen’.
So we might surmise that the reason few are chose is because few actually wear the right clothes!
So the next question then is, supposing that we really want to go to this wedding…(because in truth the invitation is always on the table)…What are the right clothes to wear?
Well, if we turn to our reading from Philippians, which sits alongside the gospel reading i we will find the entire wardrobe of what we are supposed to wear if we want to partake in this ceremony.
So, here then is the required dress code;
- Rejoice in the Lord
- Let your gentleness be known to everyone
- Do not worry about anything
- Pray with thanksgiving
- Focus on what is just and right and pure and commendable and worthy of praise
- These are the clothes you should wear.
You see God wouldn’t mind too much if you turned up to the wedding in cut off Jeans, bovver boots and a knotted hanky on your head. Your outer clothes are of no concern. It is the state of your heart and mind that matters above all else. If you show up wearing
- Lack of forgiveness
- Lack of Kindness
- Judging others
You will find that you have precluded yourself from the wedding. It is not so much that God will throw you are simply not in the right inner state to be able to make it into the state of inner alignment with God that moves us towards union.
But the really important question now is this. When you get up in the morning…who decides what you will wear? The fact is, you do, and so it is with our inner lives, minute by minute we are responsible for deciding which attitudes we will wear when we encounter others.
Therefore if you really want to go to this ceremony then 1). Clear your diary because nothing in your mundane life is more important than this and 2). Observe the dress code in your dealings with others and before long you will realise that the invitation was there all along.