The Wedding Garment
Jesus tells the story of a wedding but it is not like any wedding that you or I have ever been to. To me it sounds as if, after having been invited to a royal wedding, I find riot police on my doorstep because I preferred to watch the cup final! Then down and outs, homeless, Big Issue sellers are dragged off the streets, dressed up and compelled to go to the reception. Finally, some poor bloke who has sneaked in for a free meal gets booted out because he is not wearing a good suit.
To us it is all very strange, but some of the ideas would have rung bells with Jesus’ audience. It is not unthinkable that, in those days, an Arab sheikh would invite the whole tribe to his wedding or that he might wreak terrible vengeance on a large number of people if he thought that they had insulted him.
The people to whom Jesus told the parable would have heard such stories about neighbouring rulers. They would have listened with interest for in those days a good storyteller was much sought after. A good parable had a point to it. It was getting at somebody. They remembered how King David had been trapped by a parable into recognizing his own sin. ‘You are the Man!’ says Nathan the Prophet. ‘You are the guests!’ Jesus says to his listeners. ‘You refused God’s generosity, you refuse to be good, you are more interested in making profit, or in food, or sensuality than in justice and truth. More than that, you haven’t listened to good men like the prophets and John the Baptist even though you have all the benefits of true religion. This will end in tears. God will not wait for you forever. He will go after those who you despise and draw them into the kingdom of his love.’
Jesus is talking about judgment – and he speaks to us, just as clearly as he spoke to the Jews of his day. We too have all the benefits of true religion. We have the scriptures and the sacraments. We have been baptized and confirmed, we have the means of grace and the hope of glory. What then if we are not too bothered about the things of God? What if we don’t pray? What if we harbour hatred or jealousy? What if we are unforgiving? What if we ignore the needs of others? God has called us to share the life of his Son, to be like Jesus. ‘Come for all things are now ready! Have we still something better to do with our time?
What God wants
Now what about the poor guy who gets booted out? This man has claimed his place at the wedding table, he has mingled with the guests, he pretends to be one of them but he refuses the manners and customs appropriate to his status. Here you have the person who enjoys religious life, likes the services, the hymns, the colour, likes wearing a hat or a cotta, on the surface is a respectable Christian. They have all that they want from their religious practices, but they haven’t all that God wants. ‘You are the man/you are the woman.’ ‘I am the man.’ All Christians stand under judgment.. We have not given what God wants. He wants our hearts. He wants our commitment. We of all people should know the message of salvation, of how Jesus gave everything that he had to win the world for God. That is the love that we are called to. Remember that the parable is not about what will happen but what might happen. God wants all of us to share his kingdom. He wants us however to wear the wedding garment of sincerity. He wants us to live up to his call of love. He wants us to burn with love for Jesus Christ and he wants us to love his world.
So this strange and even bloodthirsty story is Good News. It is the promise of salvation. It is God coaxing us, telling us how much he wants us to receive his love, warning us that we can’t do without that love. Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation. Brothers, sisters, let us take him at his word.
John Gribben is Novice Master in the Community of the Resurrection