The Right Dress Code

9th October 2011 Trinity 16 Year A

We have recently had a Royal Wedding and we know what a great occasion and celebration it was. As far as I know none of us here, went or had an invitation. The nearest Sue and I got was through two of our Sisters, who act as lay Chaplains at the Abbey, who were sitting on the right side of the bride and groom, just by sitting in their normal places.

The invitations were very special to all those who received them so we can imagine in todayʼs parable how special it was to be invited to the wedding of the Kingʼs son. It even moves up a notch in middle East society were a huge emphasis is placed on the giving and receiving of hospitality. Weddings were and are amongst the most important events in the community, the celebrations going on for at least a week.

In this case the invitations would have gone out ahead of time and now everything is ready and those who have accepted the invitation are summoned to the wedding. The response of those invited ranges from, “Sorry I canʼt be bothered, my everyday work and business is more important” to attacking, abusing and even killing the Kingʼs servants. The King sends in the army and destroys them and their city.

While this is going on he sends out the servants to invite all those they find on the streets to come in, those who would never have expected to find themselves at a royal wedding, the good, the bad and the indifferent. Then we have this strange account of the king coming in and finding one of the guests without a wedding garment and the person canʼt answer why he hasnʼt accepted and worn one. He gets thrown out.

It is the symbolism of this last scene, the man without a wedding garment being thrown out into the darkness, that I would like to take a moment to look at. It is thought that there was this custom of providing wedding guests with robes as they came in. This man had refused the offer of the outfit. The overall meaning of the parable was that the people of Israel, Godʼs chosen people were the first invited guests, to come into the fullness of the kingdom, then when they refused, God invited the Gentiles, the outcast, us, to his feast, into the kingdom.

The providing of the wedding garment is a symbol of Godʼs gift to each of us, the free gift of his grace. There is nothing automatic about Godʼs kingdom, Godʼs realm. God invites us each one of us, but if we are going to join the feast, experience the kingdom then it requires a response on our part. We canʼt experience the kingdom here and now. We canʼt live the life God calls us to now. We canʼt become the full and true selves that God calls us to be, without Godʼs help, Godʼs gift of grace. God wants to give us all the help and support we need, but we have to be proactive and ask for it, be willing to act, be willing to move, not just believing that we can do it all, in our own strength.

There is part in each of us that really wants to live life to the full, to be the means of bringing Godʼs love and care to others now. We are called to be clothed inwardly, with Godʼs Spirit, to know our true selves, the positive as well as the negative. We need God to flood our very being, a scary thought as we would much rather have things under our own tight control of how we think things should be. We would rather be in charge of our own life rather than being prepared to do what God may be calling us to.

When Sue and I were away we were shown a DVD, entitled “Celebrate what is right with the world”, made by Dewitt Jones, who was a photojournalist for the National Geographic and it struck me as providing a key to help us work with Godʼs grace in the situations we find ourselves. Dewitt challenges us to look at what is good, what is right in the situations we find ourselves in. So often our tendency is to get bogged down in the negative, in the what is wrong, that we donʼt see the potential, what is creative, what can bring new life. He asks are we open to see the potential, in our lives, in our situations? Can we see the potential, the possibilities that with Godʼs help means we could be the means of bringing in more love, care and respect for others in all those places where we find ourselves. He challenges us to open our eyes and not to be so self obsessed that we canʼt see the beauty before us, in people and places. We are called to be present in the now, to risk and explore possibilities for new life. To be our best our true self, not for ourselves, but for our world, to bring in the kingdom.

In our reading from Philippians we have Paul saying the same thing. “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.” Earlier in the passage he has called us to Rejoice in the Lord always, to be gentle and not anxious, to make our needs known to God, with thanksgiving. We are promised the gift of Godʼs peace, a peace, which passes all understanding. Two of the members of that community, were not at peace and they were asked to come to agree with each other. Celebrate what is right with the world, work to resolve the differences, find the meeting place, where you can agree. Being present in the now, means being real about the difficulties but as members of the kingdom we are called to do what we can to resolve them.

In the Isaiah passage we have God preparing a feast for all peoples, a feast of rich food, a banquet of aged wine, the best of meats and the finest of wines. God who calls us to this banquet will destroy death and wipe away the tears. God calls us, invites us to the feast in his kingdom.( He invites us here in this Eucharist to his table.) God gives himself to each one of us. He longs to give us all the help all the grace we need. We ask that we may respond and rejoicing in God and his gifts we may live in the spirit of thanksgiving, celebrating all that is right in the world, resolving to play our part of bringing in Godʼs kingdom of love and justice for all and to come to know ourselves that deep peace of God in ourselves.

Sister Anita CSC

All Saints' Clevedon