A sermon given by the Rev. Clare L. Hickman on October 15, 2017
Texts: Exodus 32:1-14; Phil 4:4-13; Matthew 22:1-14
Clare L. Hickman
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
October 15, 2017—Proper 23A
Exod 32:1-14; Phil 4:4-13; Matt 22:1-14
It can be really difficult to decide what to wear. I mean, it’s not normally “cast into the outer darkness” kind of difficult, but I might confess to some wailing and gnashing of teeth if you plied me with bourbon or maybe some baklava. Because deciding what to wear brings a whole host of considerations with it. Not only do you need to consider what suits you; what makes you feel comfortable; what enables you to “look good, feel good, do good;” but you have to be sure to consider the context.
Where are you going? What’s the occasion? Is this an event that calls for the dressiest item in your closet, or does it actually need those jeans and a kicky pair of sneaks? It matters. If you’ve volunteered to help clean up after a hurricane, showing up in white pants and some cute flats makes it clear that you’re not actually there to pitch in. And if you roll into your boss’ funeral looking like you thought you were heading to Home Depot, that might also send a particular kind of message.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m aware of the classist pitfalls of what I’m saying; I’m aware that this idea has been used to tell people that they don’t belong if they can’t afford designer labels, or that they obviously don’t love God if they don’t dress up in their Sunday best. So let me be clear: Clothes do not actually make the man. But they can be used to send a message about how you feel about an occasion. And they make a marvelous metaphor for whether you are actually “All In” on that occasion or not.
“Who are you wearing?” is a question aimed at actresses on the red carpet all the time. And sure, it’s a trivializing question if it’s the only thing that female actors are ever asked, while their male counterparts get asked about more substantial things. But it’s not actually uninteresting, given that a major point of red carpets is to showcase designers. You look great: who is that? You look ridiculous: seriously, who made that?
Which brings us to the wedding banquet, and the question of who it was that poor cast-out wedding guest was wearing. Who are you wearing, dude? Because it was supposed to be Jesus. This is the wedding banquet for my Son; this is the celebration of the coming of the Kingdom of God; you were invited because my Son threw open the doors to every last person on earth. Why are you not decked out in Christ from head to toe? Who on earth are you wearing?
Now there are arguments that this character actually represents Judas: the special guest, the member of the inner circle who nonetheless betrays Jesus and ends up broken and destroyed by that betrayal. That’s a workable theory. But … no, And, there’s always more. There’s always the ways in which any of us might hear the invitation to the wedding feast … and then show up … but demonstrate that we really didn’t understand, or accept, or care what it really meant.
We’ve been invited to a feast. A wedding feast. A celebration. It is the wedding of the King’s Son to his beloved, which means it is about the future life and health of the kingdom. It is the wedding of Jesus and the Church, which means it is about the future life and health of the Kingdom of God on earth! It is a feast. It is a celebration. Which tells you something about the nature of the Kingdom, and suggests what might be appropriate attire with which to deck yourselves.
Let’s look to Paul, and this passage from Philippians that highlights the work of two of the women who were so crucial to the life and growth of the early church: Euodia and Syntyche. And as he praises them, he speaks of the importance of joy. Rejoice, he urges us. Rejoice in the Lord.
The church at Philippi does not seem to be beset by problems, so he doesn’t need to spend chapter after chapter preaching against division, or pride, or quarreling. What he’s left with, then, is to remind them to rest in the good. To take hold of rejoicing and thanksgiving, and all that is honorable and just and pleasing.
Rejoice, my brothers and sisters, and dress appropriately for the feast. Put on your glad rags and your sparkle. Put on your comfy shoes, because there’s gonna be dancing. It’s a wedding, so bring a gift. Heck, bring all your gifts (because Emily Post says that’s the rule, if you’ve been invited to a wedding).
And be ready to give speeches, telling all the best stories about the guest of honor … funny stories, touching stories, stories about how they made you want to be a better man. And try not to be surprised if someone gets up and starts telling the same kind of stories about you; because remember, the Church is the bride at this party! Be ready to bang your fork against your glass, not knowing what expression of love and affection it might bring.
You’ve been invited to a party. The whole world has been invited to a party … to a celebration … to a wedding.
And you? You are an honored guest. You are family. You are the featured speaker. And you are the bride! So show up looking like you know that. Show up looking like you mean it. May it be so. Amen.