Friday of Pentecost 20 – Matthew 22:1-14

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

My first parish was a small place in a very LDS community in Utah. We were not a large group, but we were close to one another. In the parish was an elderly widower. He was something of a character, much beloved by the members. Hard of hearing and fond of big-band music, one always knew he was coming to church long before his massive blue Lincoln Continental slalomed around the corner into the parking lot. You could hear the music playing from a block away.

We were at a gathering at Kay’s house one night when our friend seemed morose. Kay was one of the pillars of the congregation, a wise woman who was steeped in the Gospel. My wife, always perceptive to such things, asked the widower if he was OK. He admitted that he was sad. It was the anniversary of his dear Mary’s death. My wife was heartbroken for him and said something to Kay after our friend left that night. Kay gave her the look. “Don’t feel too badly, Stephanie. Mary was wife #5.” It was our first introduction to the fact that our friend had not always been the faithful church-going type who was an usher on Sunday mornings. As he declined, I would call on him and often he was going through some of his memorabilia. He had been stationed overseas, working for one of the U. S. government intelligence branches. We never knew quite what he did. He showed me an album of pictures from his time overseas, pictures of his younger self with a bevy of attractive secretaries. The pictures had all been slashed. He said to me, “My second wife did that.” I think I know why.

Jesus tells a parable of a king who throws a wedding feast for his son, but the expected guests do not come. So, he sends his servants out to compel the least likely of people into the kingdom, the good and the bad. In the ancient world, the guests at a wedding were given a new garment to wear. It was a little like a party favor. The master’s indignation at the man without the garment is not anger at the fellow’s failure to dress up. It is anger at the rejection of the gift.

At the resurrection of the dead, I look forward to seeing many beloved people who have died. I will no longer have to shout to be heard by this old friend. Together we will rejoice in our new clothes. Maybe we will laugh together about his blue Continental and questionable driving skills. God opens his kingdom wide and invites all sorts of folks to his Son’s wedding. He even invited you and me.

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