Clothes make the person
19 A Pentecost.
Clothes make the man, or woman, it seems. If you went for a job inter-view how would you dress? Likely you would wear a suit and jacket and if you were a man you would not think of showing up without a tie. I used to have a wool gabardine suit that I loved. It was well made, looked "sharp" and, with a tailored broadcloth blouse, was all I needed to handle the toughest interview. In the military showing up for inspec-tion with everything in perfect place on your uniform and all the extra equipment cleaned and polished was considered essential to good or-der. Although styles may have changed, people still spend a great deal of time choosing what they will wear for a wedding and, I dare say, spend a great deal of money on clothes that are too be worn once. Men may still rent a tux, but it seems women have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on just the right outfit.
As a priest I have my own uniform: when I am officially in my role as a priest I wear a clerical collar. Ironically the original collars may have been soft material worn to prevent the neck of a tunic from rubbing on the neck, but now it is a stiff and rather difficult piece of attire to at-tach and detach. When I serve at the alter I wear garb that dates back to the Roman and Byzantine empires!! Not only that but it is color cod-ed and If I wore blue in June or green on Pentecost you would immedi-ately know I was not dressed for the occasion. I was almost tempted to do something just like that for today's homily!!
It would seem that proper dress is all important to God. At least that appears to be the big take a way point of today's Gospel. Now I had always figured that one dressed for the occasion in earthly life but as far as God was concerned, clothes did not matter. It would seem to-day's Gospel tells me I am all wrong about God; the correct dress is all important. If I am not dressed to God's standards I am in more trouble than it would seem a human being could be in. That is a very scary thought indeed. I really don't want to be cast into the outer darkness, but how do I know if I am dressed for the wedding? The parable is frightening. Am I improperly dressed because I am gay? Is my attire wrong because I do not believe the Bible is literally true and because I believe there are many ways to find the Holy, not just Jerry Falwell's or Billy Grahm's? Is this what the parable is saying? Is God that insistent on orthodoxy, right belief?
This parable is one of five in a row from Matthew, all trying to tell us what the kingdom of God is all about. None of them bring peace of mind: a king angrily settling accounts with his slaves who took care of his wealth while he was gone, an employer who ignored fair labor prac-tices in what he paid his employees, a father with two annoying sons, a landlord bent on revenge and today the host of a wedding with uncon-trolled anger. These are not the sort of parables that make me sit back and relax and enjoy the ride. It helps a little, but only a little, to know that Jesus was directing these parables to the priests and the Pharisees who completely failed to understand him and who were bent on destroying him. In fact, today's story takes place one week before Jesus was killed. It also helps to know that Matthew was writing on be-half of Jewish Christians who were on the losing side of right doctrine; they were in fact being expelled from the synagogues and needed des-perately to understand that they still had a place and that they were correct in following the Way.
God has invited everyone to the wedding feast, the kingdom of heaven. Or rather God first invites those who would be most familiar with the bridegroom, the Son Jesus. But those who should understand do not and go their own way. Why would someone turn down a free meal and a great feast? They just don't see it as such. They would rather stay home and watch TV. But look what God does: God invites everyone. Everyone!! All are now welcome to come to the wedding feast. The good and the bad are all invited and they come. That seems to be good news. For those of us who were, and are, often cast as outsid-ers, people not welcome in the church, this is good news indeed. The invitation is coming from God and it goes out to all. I have no say as to who may be invited; you have no say.
But we have one poor soul who was not dressed correctly. It seems he did not have his tux or interview suit or whatever the uniform was. It seemed unfair. Maybe he was poor and couldn't afford the right clothes.
It is not about the clothes; it is all about our character. We are all invit-ed and called, but Matthew is clear that people who are called are to live their lives a certain way. In only five weeks we will hear the proc-lamation of Matthew 25 about just who are the sheep and who are the goats. Bingo!! The wedding guest was a goat. He disrespected God and manipulated religion for his own ends. Many, if not most, of our current political leaders may not be wearing the proper wedding gowns. Our failure to act on gun control, excluding the poor and middle class from access to health care, denying women access to reproductive health services, ignoring climate change, putting profit before people are all signs of not wearing the proper wedding gown.
If you came today to ask forgiveness for your wrongdoings, praise and thank God for all the good things, and to resolve to live the kind of life Matthew envisions, you are in the right place. We should be here for love of God, love of one another, and love of the world. No exceptions. God welcomes you to this place, but more importantly to the Kingdom.
The feast awaits. Let us put on our wedding robes and join in the cele-bration.