- Church of the Ascension
- October 15, 2017
The Rev. Robert P. Travis
19th Sunday after Pentecost Sermon –5pm, 8am and 10:00am Church of the Ascension
Proper 23 RCL Year A 10/15/2017
Last week I went to the Wakefield Village Association’s
Oktoberfest, and enjoyed the music and festivity.
But I was surprised at how while the bands
Played very danceable music,
Most of the time the only people dancing
Were little children.
The youngest of children seemed to really
Get into a mood of celebration,
While the grown ups seemed to just like
To sit passively and watch.
As I was considering the parable we have just heard,
I came across this thought from the great
20th century theologian Abraham Heschel,
That seems to address what I observed
At that party,
“People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state,
an act of expressing reverence or appreciation.
To be entertained is a passive state –
it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle…
Celebration is a confrontation giving attention
to the transcendant meaning of one’s actions.”
For some reason, children get celebration,
And perhaps that is what Jesus had in mind
When he noted that we must become like children
To enter the kingdom of heaven.
The parable today describes the kingdom
As a celebration, a banquet
That all are invited to join,
But we must be clothed in the celebration to take part.
If there is one thing my girls Eva Jane and Annalise
Taught me from a young age,
it was how to dress for a party,
or in their case, a Ball.
When they were just two and three years old,
I came home from work,
and Eva Jane and Annalise ran out to me,
across the front yard,
saying those beloved words “Daddy, Daddy!”
They were wearing their ball gowns,
Eva Jane in the light blue of Cinderella,
Annalise in the yellow and blue of Snow White.
“We’re going to a Ball, do you want to come and dance with us?”
Any prince would have been honored to dance with them.
Their clothes showed them as ready for the grandest of parties.
The person at the end of Jesus’ parable
on the other hand
was not wearing a wedding garment,
when the king came to meet his guests.
And he was thrown out at the King’s command.
This part of the parable was shocking to me,
and I imagine to many of you.
As we think about the graciousness of God,
and we are perhaps surprised that He
requires anything of his guests,
much less that he would throw out one
who was found not to be wearing the appropriate clothes.
What is going on here?
The first part of the parable makes the point
That the King wants everyone
To participate in his celebration,
And he doesn’t like being refused.
But the refusals of some just
Prompt a more wide ranging
And gracious invitation to the feast.
Finally, when his servants gather everyone,
Good and bad off the streets
The wedding hall is filled with guests.
These people were not prepared for the banquet.
but the fact that when the King comes and sees the guests
he notices one who is not wearing a wedding robe
indicates that the King provided appropriate attire
for his new guests from his own wardrobe.
The King’s graciousness and generosity
is emphasized not just by his invitation of everyone,
but his preparing them
for the banquet they were otherwise not ready to attend.
Being found without a wedding garment
indicated that that person
was rejecting the King’s graciousness,
behaving much like those who were
originally invited, but did not attend the banquet.
It was like he was saying,
“I’m here but I’m not celebrating with you.”
The King accepted both the good and the bad
as guests at the banquet in honor of his son,
but he provided clothing to all, to make them
equally worthy for his royal affair.
The person found not wearing the garment he was given
showed his unwillingness
to be celebrate with the rest of the party.
In a sense, the attitude of the guest is more important
than the original invitation.
For Eva Jane and Annalise, it is not so much
the fact that they put on their ball gowns,
though they would say it is,
but that they act out celebration in them
that made them wear those clothes when they wanted
to have a ball.
If we are the people who God our King
has called to this wedding feast for his Son,
gathering us in from the streets of our distracted lives,
even though we might not originally
have been part of the chosen people,
what are these wedding clothes?
How can we make sure we are properly attired
for this grand ball?
How can we engage our lives in such a way that we
feel like guests at a royal ball?
That’s where the apostle Paul is helpful.
Indeed, Paul tells us in Galatians to put on Christ
as if Christ were the garment.
He describes this putting on of Christ,
as being that which erases the distinctions between us,
“there is neither Jew nor Greek,
Male nor Female.”
Invited party goer, or street person gathered to the banquet.
“All are one in Christ Jesus.”
That is part of why the wedding garment
Is important, as it makes us all one.
But how do we make sure we are clothed in Christ?
Paul gives us some very helpful ideas
in his letter to the Philippians.
Which we heard today.
The garment of the banquet is characterized by Peace,
The peace of God, which passes all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
You know you are on the right track about your life
when you feel peace about it.
When you can stand before God, clothed with His peace
you know you are ready for his banquet.
But how does one attain that peace?
Paul repeats Jesus’ command, not to worry about anything,
and he adds, that whenever anything concerns you
by prayer, and supplication with thanksgiving
make your requests known to God.
That should be sufficient to ensure that you
will be clothed with God’s garment of peace.
But if that is not enough, strive to think about
those things which are true, honorable,
just, pure, pleasing, and commendable.
If there is any excellence and if there is anything
worthy of praise.
Think about those things.
These days it is hard to wear the garment of peace.
There are so many things to worry about,
It seems the news cycle moves us from crisis to crisis.
It is easy to be mired in worry,
to be clothed in anxiety.
Really, deep struggles have always been there.
Certainly Paul’s time was fraught with uncertainty,
and there were many things to be worried about.
Paul was imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked,
certain that he was facing inevitable execution.
Yet Paul came to understand, and recommend
that we not allow ourselves to be distracted
from the Peace of God, by thinking
about the things which cause us anxiety.
Rather, he teaches us that by thinking
about the true, and the good,
the just and the pure,
we can be enveloped in the peace of God.
It reminds me of Jesus telling us that we
must become like children,
to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Children know how to do it,
When they find reason to celebrate,
They engage actively in the celebration.
They lose themselves in thinking about good things,
to forget their worries and struggles,
by deciding it is time to don party clothes and dance.
They view the world in wonder,
and take it all in, each new day a gift from God.
I think Paul was getting to that point,
and understanding where it came from,
that intentionally thinking about the pure,
the true, the noble and praiseworthy,
would lead to that sense of wonder in all things,
even if life seems headed down a dark path.
When we struggle to think about those things
because our worries distract us
we should lift up those worries to God in prayer,
and give thanks to Him for the blessings we have already received.
God has given us the ability to focus on good things,
to turn to Him in prayer
when we are distracted
from enjoying the peace he has given us.
He wants us to honor his invitation to this banquet
by clothing ourselves in the garment of peace
He has provided for us.
And this banquet is not just to be enjoyed in the next life,
We get to taste it now.
And everyone is invited.
So if you find yourself worried or despairing these days,
turn those worries over to God in prayer,
that’s the essential active part,
in engaging in the celebration,
rather than simply waiting to be passively entertained.
Don’t dwell on the troubles but pray about everything, and see how that helps you strive to
think about noble and praiseworthy things. That’s how you put on the party clothes that God has provided for your heart and mind.
Participate fully in the banquet you have been called to,
and ask your daddy to dance.
You’ve been given the gown,
you’re ready for the banquet.
All you have to do is get dressed.
Clothe your mind and heart with his peace.