That Guy in Matthew 22:8-14

abc_ann_royal_wedding_110222_wg

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”   Mt 22:8-14 NIV

_______

           When the king came to visit his guests he saw everyone was wearing wedding clothes but one guy.  So he asked him, “How did you get in here without wedding clothes?”

    There is some debate about these wedding clothes.  Some say that they represent the good works of those who keep Jesus teaching.  They are robes of righteousness that we create for ourselves by our good lives.  Do you think that is possible?

One of the first things Jesus taught was “blessed are the poor in spirit.”  He did not teach that we can be righteous, but he did teach that we must be made righteous. No, it is not possible to weave for ourselves wedding garments by doing good works.

There is another way of looking at this.  This garment indicates the change God has made in us.  It is probably taking it too far to say that the robes in this verse refer to Justification by Faith – because Matthew does not speak of that. But what Justification by faith means is that a person is not made right before God by actions.  That right-ness is a gift.  It is the work God does for us.

So the man in the wedding without wedding clothes represents those who are inside the community of believers, but who do not belong there.  He is in a place that he does not belong because he is not a believer himself.  Jesus said that in this age the wheat and the weeds will grow up together and in the last day they will be sorted out.  He also said that God will cast his net, and will separate the good fish from the bad fish.  So there is to be a sorting out. (Matthew 13)

If a person comes in who is bad that is not a problem because of verse 10.  If a person comes in who appear good, that is not a problem.  But if a person comes in and has not been robed by the work of God, that is a problem.

The king asked him where his clothes were and the man was speechless. And so he was thrown out.  This last part, the only guy who was inside out, is a warning.  Do not think that location is salvation.  Do not think that because you are in church or have become a member or have been baptized or have taken communion that you belong.

Only those who have had the work of God in them can stay.  Here is how this is described in Isaiah 61:10

I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

The Insiders are out

You do not want to be one of these, who think they are chosen but who refuse the real invitation.

The Outsiders are in

You do want to be one of these, who knows that they do not belong, but who have accepted the invitation.

And One Guy is inside out.

You do not want to be this guy, who presumes that location is not salvation.  

Advertisements

Who shall we blame?

we.type

There was a shooting in my neighborhood last week.  A young man is dead.  Blame and accusation lay close by.  Lots of citizens have worked hard to speak truthfully while maintaining peace.  All the same, I can feel sides taking shape.  Who shall we blame?  There is a state-run investigation and we all will have to wait for the full evidence of what happened to become public record.

I was thinking of an entirely different situation in the scriptures.  But when Nehemiah heard of the broken down walls of Jerusalem, although he lived safely in the far distance, he was captured by the need to pray and lament the condition of his people, the people of Abraham.  After some days of lamenting, he prayed. I have only highlighted words to show who Nehemiah blamed.

“O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants,confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord,let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”                                                                Nehemiah 1:5-11

Meditation is like walking around in circles

spirograph

I am thinking this week about the events of “palm Sunday” as recorded in Matthew 21.  What stands out in my mind is the strange incident of Jesus cursing a tree.  It is strange because why would Jesus get mad at a poor little tree?

So the first circle is to think about that tree and see that it is not about a tree, but it is a symbol. It did not have fruit and for that was cursed.  So Jesus came to the center of the nation of the people of Abraham, of those called to be a great nation and a blessing to the world, and he looked there for fruit.

Circling around again, we see that there was a lot of apparent fruit at the arrival – a parade and shouts of hosanna.  Yet we know from Holy Week activities that Palm Sunday is followed in 5 days by Good Friday.  Jesus went from being a Popular Hero to Condemned and Abandoned faster than could be imagined.

There are those who come in faith and are welcomed by Jesus and there are those who are angry and reject Jesus.

Jesus circles past the temple, the place that is a living enactment of his ministry – a place for worship where one gets close to God via the priesthood and the sacrifices given there.  Jesus is proclaimed as the sacrifice and the High Priest what brings God close to us in his incarnation and us close to God by paying the ransom that was required to make peace with God.

He sees it and turns it over as a place that has missed it’s calling. There is a lot of business and there are many people. It is like one of those churches that has become adept at putting Bottoms in the pews and Bucks in the offering.  Yet, it had missed its purpose – to be a house of prayer. This overturning of the temple is another circle.

So the fig tree exists to produce fruit.  The Temple existed to produce prayer.  when they failed in their mission they were judged.

What is it then, as we come full circle, What is it that the Lord looks for in us? what is the fruit we are to produce?

Circling back in Matthew there is John’s call to repent and produce fruit in chapter 3.  Jesus twice spoke of good and bad trees that either produce good or bad fruit – chapter 7 and 12.  The parable of the sower is about how the seed and produce fruit that multiplies to up to 100 fold.

Is this fruit numerical?  we should see hundreds not a few followers?  Is the fruit spiritual – we think of the fruit of the spirit mentioned in Galatians. Is it as simple as faith and love, which are the two evidences of faith that Paul cites at the start of his various letters to the churches.

Like the icon on my computer which indicates a process and a search ongoing, I am circling around this question of fruit.

Attention Span for Preachers

isaiah-scroll-l

I know lots of preachers divide any and all topics into 6 parts of less.  I have been in and out of Matthew for parts of two years. I deal with the attentions span issue by taking a recess.  Now I am wondering if the other approach is better for our time.

In Calvin’s Geneva, he preached all the way through Job.  That is something from another era.

So how best to be connected to the Biblical story in its own context?