Matthew 22:1-14 begins with a party.
That sounds great. Who doesn’t like a party? Especially a wedding party - there is going to be cake. Cake makes everything better! When the invitations are sent, those on the guest list begin to make light of the gracious invitation and offer excuses and then abusing and killing those issuing the invitations.
Jesus’ audience may/may not have known his veiled reference to the people who rejected him, but the benefit of hindsight allows us to know who they are. They are the ordinary people of faith of the time, people like you and me.
Unfortunately, throughout history there have always been those who make light of God’s opportunities. During this election week the way our national government, for example, makes light of the gospel when it uses Christian rhetoric but actually denies the gospel message by pandering to those able to donate large sums of money to election campaigns while overlooking the lifelong homemaker who is not even subsisting on the reduced Social Security survivor’s benefit.
When the Judeo-Christian ethic is perverted to serve partisan politics we make light of God’s gracious invitation to be a beacon while overlooking justice and compassion for others according to the Very Reverend John Payne. We Disciples, wanting to fit into a secular culture, are often tempted to trivialize our commitment to the gospel and the church. Instead of being a beacon to the world, we make light of our responsibility as a baptized Christian. Faithfulness becomes optional. We sometimes fail to put our money with our professed belief.
Ari Goldman was a religion writer for the New York Times in the ‘80s. The Albany bureau chief invited him to attend the Legislative Correspondents Association dinner where the press pokes fun at politicians. He accepted. He realized a conflict as the date fell on a Friday evening, the start of the Sabbath. Great professional opportunity but at the price of exercising faith.
Discussing with a Methodist pastor friend, Ken, he stated the career forward move with powerful men and women came at the expense of the importance of the Sabbath in his life and with his family. When asking Ken’s opinion, “Ari, how can you compare the two things.”
Goldman called back and politely declined. How many of us are willing to give absolute priority to worship? How many of us obligate our time to observe Advent, Lent, Holy Week and not allow events, or the chance to rub elbows with the well connected, to interfere with expressions of the core meaning of our faith? How many accept God’s invitation to be faithful with stewardship over that which God provides? We can be grateful many do. But many also make light of the invitation.
Let’s not overlook the most amazing detail, the surprise ending that snaps its literary fingers and demands attention. One of the guests is discovered to have come to the party without the proper garment. Far from being a fashion oversight, something important was completely breached.
The garment has been interpreted to be the soul. There are many definitions of the soul. Our soul can be understand as the whole fabric of our lives, composed of patterns that God has given us - patterns of justice, forgiveness, compassion, generosity and peace.
The soul as core of our essential self formed and shaped by God’s grace when allowed. The soul must be taken care of and not to be lost, as it were, so that we will have something to wear to God’s party.
Recalling what Jesus said, “What good does it do you to gain the whole world and lose your soul.”