This sermon was delivered on Sunday 15th October at 6pm by The Reverend Canon Nick Ralph:
Proper 23, Yr A, Is 25, Mt 22.1-14
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We have just heard the most fascinating gospel reading. It seems quite harsh in some respects but understanding the context will help us to understand better what it means. Jesus was telling the parable on what was only his second day in Jerusalem. In other words, this was the day after his triumphal entry into the city on a donkey and a few days before his arrest and crucifixion. He was in the temple and it was all just beginning to come to a head. In the verse immediately preceding the ones that we just had read, we heard how the chief priests and Pharisees were unhappy with Jesus and already wanted to arrest him, but they didn’t dare because they feared the crowd and the crowd regarded Jesus as a prophet. That is actually what we were told at the end of last week’s gospel reading.
At this point, Jesus was continuing to speak directly to the chief priests and Pharisees, and conducting what you might call some badly needed in-service training. In the parable, the invited guests refused to come, and we were told, made light of it. They didn’t take the invitation seriously even though it was from a king, and some even killed the messenger slaves. The meal was ready, in other words it was ready now for serving, hot so speak - so there was a sense of urgency, but still they wouldn’t come. To refuse such a meal from a king was to cause grave offence, and they suffered the consequences of their actions in judgement.
The invitation then switched to everyone the slaves could find and, you’ll note, both good and bad. Who, though, were the bad? In the context, the bad were people whom the chief priests and Pharisees considered bad - people like tax collectors, publicans, and prostitutes. Jesus said that they were invited too. The slaves were to go out and invite anyone and everyone they found. There was no discrimination here according to ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality or even belief. There was no test as to whether they believed the right things – they simply had to do the right thing which was to accept the invitation and show up.
And then there was that final bit about someone not wearing the right clothes. In the New Testament, clothing is often a metaphor for spiritual change. St Paul talks in Romans about us ‘clothing ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ’. In Colossians he says, ‘clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience’. In the first letter of Peter we are told, ‘All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another’. Being clothed is a consistent New Testament expression for holiness and righteousness but the old clothes, the old ways, have to come off to allow the new ones to be put on. To put on new clothes is to change completely.
In the parable, there seems to be someone who wanted to be at the banquet but without the new clothes, without the necessary change. To accept the invitation was to accept the need for change.
In the Church, we usually refer to this as repentance. So, the message is that in God’s kingdom, all are invited both good and bad, everyone without any exception whatsoever.