What is this about?! It appears that guests who were invited by the king did not accept the invitation to his son’s wedding feast. They “refused to come.” In the subsequent group of apparently replacement quests, “…some ignored the invitation and went away…” Seemingly desperate to fill the banquet hall, the king invited “whomever (his servants could) find. The servants …gathered …bad and good alike and the hall was filled with guests.” One would think the King would be pleased. But no, the king on entering “saw a man not dressed in a wedding garment.” Addressing him as “My friend” he confronted him and reduced him to silence. The king had him cast out into the darkness. If the king was so desperate for guests, why throw one out just because of his attire, or lack thereof?
Recently we celebrated the wedding of our son. We invited extended family members as well as close and dear friends. We were delighted by those who were able to travel the great distance to be with us. We were disappointed, but understanding of those who were not able to join us. They however sent their blessings. It was a joyous celebration of two families welcoming each other’s child and families. All had a great time being together.
We were graciously welcomed not only by the bride’s family, but by the entire small Montana town. We were immediately recognized as ‘wedding guests!’
As the mother of the groom, I was overwhelmed by gracious hospitality. The wedding ceremony took place in a lovely little chapel high in the mountains. There were many more guests than originally invited. The wedding party could be identified by our wedding attire – fancier than our usual Sunday best. Some of the guests were in their Sunday best, others more casually dressed and one or two wearing, as they said, “their cleanest pair of dirty jeans.” All were welcome. I noted that the last couple to arrive crossed paths with the first couple to leave. I noticed and wondered.
The reception followed. Most of the guests joined the bride and groom and their families in a delicious meal overlaid in celebratory conversation and merriment lasting well into the night.
Invitation, vulnerability and participation go hand in hand. Our God of hospitality and graciousness invites us all, - poor, rich, good, bad, sick or healthy - to be God’s guests at the banquet. I gratefully respond or decline the invitation. To show up is not enough; to accept is only the beginning. I must participate. I must be recognizable as a wedding guest. In order to fully participate, I must come face to face with my own vulnerabilities and continue to follow the invitation, as difficult as that may appear. There can be no rejoicing, no camaraderie, no getting the job done, no bringing about the kingdom if I hold back. It is not acceptable to be a mere spectator. Wedding guests have a continuing role to support, comfort and counsel the couple in the years to come. The Lord’s banquet invitation is likewise ongoing and I, if not to be reduced to the silence of shame, must follow the invitation.
This reading is not about the clothes I wear. It is about the defenses I use to shield my vulnerability, to protect my soft underbelly, and to hide my hardened heart. What are my defenses? How do they impede my full participation in the coming of the Kingdom?
“My Friend” …
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