I'm bothered this morning. Actually not so much bothered, more perplexed, I guess. I have to take my smart aleck hat off and put my theologian hat on for a few minutes today.
I love to take my wife out for dinner, especially to some place where we need reservations. But we only do that once or twice a year. We just can't afford it, but that's ok, because I'm one heck of a cook. I also love entertaining folks in our home. We don't do that very often either...a limited budget stinks sometimes. There have been times when Steph and I were in the mood to have folks over for dinner, started making phone calls, and couldn't find anyone available to come over. Here we've gotten the desire to host a cook out, or play cards, or whatever, and no one could come.
That was always frustrating, and I don't know why. I mean, there's nothing wrong with a quiet dinner... with just the family. We don't get to do that very often because of meetings or whatever. But still, there was this sense of disappointment about not being able to find another couple to share table with.
The table is a place to celebrate, and that's what we have in today's text. Matthew 22 talks about some dinner plans. On the surface, it's just a wedding reception (Our wedding reception wasn't like this, we did the cake and punch thing). But here, this king has prepared a huge feast for his son's wedding. The invitations had been sent out early, plans were made, now the day had come, so the reminders went out...none of those invited showed up.
I don't have to imagine how frustrating that is. When that group couldn't come, a second group was invited in. This time, folks were just brought in off the street. It didn't matter if he knew them, what their social status was, where they lived, or if they were slave or free. Everybody had a good time, scripture says "the wedding hall was filled with guests," and if the story ended there, it would end well. But it doesn't, and this next part is the part that perplexes me.
The last couple weeks I have hit on inclusion more than once, possibly even to the shagrin of some of those reading, or listening on Sunday morning. Here, we see something that throws a wrench in that. I'm perplexed for two reasons: one...every one of the last minute guests, the folks off of the street, seem to have had wedding attire to wear and already had it on; two...one guest does not, and is tied up and thrown outside.
Here is where we have to lay our realism down and pick up theological meaning. Much of this story is not realistic, go back and read it again. But all of it is theological, especially if we get inside Matthew's head for a minute. The first servants were the ancient prophets sent to Israel. Israel accepted God's invitation originally but was unfaithful to it. The second group of servants were the early Christian missionaries, who were sent and killed by those refusing to hear their words.
The last invitation is leading up to the Great Commission, "go into all the world," it doesn't matter who they are, invite them in. But what about the one who forgot to change clothes? Also not realistic, but theological. In the early church, a newly baptized believer was given a new set of clothes, perhaps a new robe, and it symbolized giving up the old life and accepting the new. Evidently this one guest was not wearing his new clothes by taking care of the least, last, and lost, nor did he have any excuses. He was speechless.
For Matthew, this is representing the last judgment. Now, this has nothing to do with works righteousness, even for Matthew. But as an invited guest of the king, I, or we, take care of others as a response to that invitation, not to earn it. We clothe ourselves with acts of charity, worship, and devotion.
So, I apologize that the usually jovial, smart aleck Jamie has gone and got all serious this morning, but sometimes even I can do that. I don't really like to because it's all...serious...but sometimes it doesn't hurt.
The next time you're invited to dinner somewhere, think about the other banquet we have been invited to and ask yourself if you're dressed for dinner.