Stephentown Federated Church




Pastor's Sermons


First of all, I must admit that I don’t like this parable. It doesn’t sound like God, and it doesn’t sound like Jesus to preach about a God who would violently punish someone for not dressing well.

Sometimes it takes wrestling with the Scripture to find inspiration!

It is the parable about a king who throws a wedding feast for his son; none of those invited show up. The king then invites everyone… the poor, the lost, the blind and the lame, and they come. Easy enough; this supports Jesus’ message that ALL are welcome to the feast of God’s love, not just the Chosen People.

What happens next is a quandary. The king encounters someone without a proper wedding garment and orders that he be bound hand and foot and thrown into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth! Nice. If I had a nickel for every time someone showed up at my dinner table in low-slung jeans or blue hair…… Besides, this poor guy accepted the invitation at the last minute and was poor!

I will digress a bit for context. This encounter between Jesus and the Temple leaders happens after Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and after he has thrown the money changers out of the temple.

The Temple Elders have challenged his authority to do so, and this is part of his conversation which follows. Last week we heard about the tenants who wanted to own the harvest, and this parable continues the story.

The Pharisees are terrified. They see their role as protecting and enforcing the Law, and Jesus presents a radical shift in everything they believe. Moreover, they are afraid of how the Romans will react to Jesus’ assertion that all are equal and all are free.

It is easy to demonize the Pharisees, to make them into the “bad guys,” but they are shaken to their core. We have 2,000 years of hindsight; they did not.

So…… back to the Parable.

If the King represents God, then those who do not accept the invitation are missing out. The busyness of their lives leaves little time to respond to the joy and nourishment available in God’s realm.

Of course, we all want to think that we HAVE accepted the invitation; we are here in church, right? Isn’t that enough?

Hmmmm…. Maybe not.

The next part of the story would indicate that simply showing up is not enough. Perhaps it is not enough to read and know the Scriptures by heart, not enough to “be good” according to the law, not enough to see ourselves as the “in crowd.” We must also be clothed properly.

Yet, how could the poor, the lost, the blind and the lame be expected to be properly garbed? And on short notice, for crying out loud?

According to some, Jesus’ message is not about couture. (Of course it isn’t; this is a parable, remember?) It is about transformation. We do not pick out clothes to wear to the party. The party causes us to look different. The transformation comes from within; we are changed by the joy and nourishment of being in God’s realm. We must allow that transformation to occur, or we will be caught wearing sneakers at the ball.

We can be present in church and call ourselves Christians yet still be elitist, judgmental and self - righteous, thinking we are the “in crowd.” We can get so hung up in our dogma and doctrine – not to mention arrogance - that we become no better than the Pharisees, and perhaps worse, because we DO have 20-plus centuries of hindsight. And we see plenty of that among Christians today; people judging one another, questioning who is REALLY a Christian? Who is not?

Accepting the invitation presents a huge commitment; by saying, “Yes,” we are placing ourselves in the position of allowing change to our minds and hearts. We are saying that we will give up our prejudices, our stereotypes, our assumptions, judgments and exclusion of others. We are expected to “Put on Christ,” and clothe ourselves in compassion, love and righteousness. We are expected to allow ourselves to be transformed in such a way that our love for the world and its people will shine through whatever we might be wearing on the outside.

We are already at the party. Are we willing to let the party change us?