Sermon: Sunday, October 15, 2017

Combien?

Matthew 22:1-14
The Rev. Lisa Smith Fry

The parable this morning is one of Jesus’ best known parables. It’s one of those parables that people begin to listen to—then kind of nod off because they know how it will go.

The king invites all the nobles and royalty, the well-known and the moneyed to his son’s wedding banquet. But they are too busy on their farms and in their businesses and they blow him off. And they beat and KILL the King’s slaves—wait—WHAT? That kind of wakes us up for a bit, because we don’t really remember that part…

Then we hear that that the king sends out other slaves to the highways and byways—to get those who aren’t known at all, have no money,  are no one special—oh yes—we know this part. Isn’t that nice of the King (wink wink–we all know it’s God!) yup – we’ve heard this before…

But the King discovers one guest without the proper garment, so he sends him into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth—wait—WHAT??

Why is God—the “KING”– sorry– being so mean?

Maybe the poor man couldn’t afford a wedding garment. Maybe he just wasn’t paying attention and didn’t put it on… this isn’t the King—let’s be honest—this isn’t the GOD we’re used to.

What IS this garment anyway? And why is it so important?

We have echoes of it even today– when my daughter was 12 and visiting Italy with a singing group, the group was told to bring head coverings and shawls to cover their heads and bare shoulders in the churches there. If you weren’t dressed appropriately, you were not let in.

Or—an even better example– have many of you ever attended a synagogue? In the ones I have attended – in the back of the room there is a container filled with prayer shawls, and head coverings. People who come in without them are asked to avail themselves of what they need. It’s respectful.

In the time of Christ, wedding garments were outer robes put on to cover everyday clothes for something as special as a wedding. In a King’s court—if someone didn’t have one, they were graciously given one at the entrance to the banquet hall. There was NO reason why any guest at the wedding in this parable would not be NOT wearing one—except through deliberate rudeness.

It was as if the guest was saying—I really am loving this free food, the crowd, the booze and the fun—I want all that—I just don’t want to have to wear the stupid robe. It’s as if someone today said, “I like the going to heaven part, the being seen as a Christian in my town part, but this following Christ part– ??.”

This is a parable about the cost of discipleship.

Let’s pretend you are planning on making a trip to another country, one where the native language isn’t English.  What’s the phrase you are most likely to learn? Well—after “Where is the bathroom?”

The phrase most people are likely to learn is: How much does it cost? I know how to say it several different languages: Combien?  Wie viel? Cuanto?  Du Do Chien? Literally all of these mean “How much?”  But in real terms they mean “What is the cost?”

We want to know how much things will cost us before we are willing to commit.

And it’s not just when we are buying something in a foreign country that we ask this question. We want to know what it will cost us- in terms of physical exertion, and time, and effort–to train for a marathon. We want to know what it will cost us– in terms of our reputation or our ability to stay in control–to admit we made a mistake. And we should certainly want to know what it will cost us—to follow this Jesus, to be a part of the kingdom of God.

Because, if we really follow Jesus, it WILL cost us.

So what does being a follower of Jesus cost us?

It costs us our prejudices. We can’t be prejudiced—to think someone else is worth less than we are—and love them, too.

It costs us rules.  The only rule is love.

It costs us our pet “beliefs” if they don’t pass the test of love. When someone threw rules—or traditions—or common practices—in his face, Jesus responded with love: to all people and in all places. To those society cast out, to those that society judged as unworthy, to those his faith deemed unclean—Jesus demands we love them all.

Following Jesus costs us our judging nature. We all have it—somewhere or other. We may feel justified when we judge others, we may think they are supported by scripture or tradition or good taste, but if they don’t pass the love test?

It’s as if Jesus hands us a wedding garment– asks us to clothe ourselves in love—but some of us choose not to put the robe on. But we still want the Kingdom.

Think of how differently we would interact with the world if we concentrated less on all the ways God made people different, and instead just enjoyed the party, everybody clothed in the same robe of love. And think of how the world would change if that was the only garment we put on.

So let’s walk into the banquet of the kingdom of God, first putting on the garment of love.

Amen.