Dressing for the Celebration with God

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

 

Scripture Text:

Isaiah 25:1-9

Psalm 23

Philippians 4:1-9

Matthew 22:1-14

Sermon Text:

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.

 

Amen

The Rev. Robert P. Travis

Father Rob goes by Father so that he remembers his duty to the people of God whom he serves. He’s been ordained since 2006, serving in Florida and Tennessee and before that served as a youth minister in Long Island, NY. More details