Pastor Jim's past sermons:
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Exodus 32: 1-14
Matthew 22: 1-14
Links to past sermons can be found at the bottom of this page.
That certainly doesn’t seem fair. The man gets invited to the wedding feast and then gets thrown out for wearing the wrong clothing. It’s not like he wasn’t expecting to be invited in the first place. He wasn’t an A-list celebrity. He wasn’t part of the in-crowd. He was just a poor man living on the streets with nothing more than a ragged old t-shirt and worn out jeans. His shoes had holes in them and his hair hadn’t been washed in weeks. So, imagine his surprise when one of the King’s servants comes up to him and says, “You there. The King is throwing a wedding banquet for his son, and you are invited. Head on up to the palace.” Well, you didn’t have to tell this man twice. He took off running for the palace. If there is a wedding banquet that meant that there is food. So, there he is, chomping down on some roast beef and carrots when suddenly the King enters the room and walks right up to the man. “How did you get in here without any wedding clothes?” The man doesn’t know what to say. So, the King turns to his servant. “Tie this man up and throw him out.” And, just like that, the party is over for this poor guy.
What happened to that guy just doesn’t seem fair. And if this were a report on the evening news, or a made for TV special based on true events, then, yeah, we would have good reason for shaking our heads with disgust at how this man was treated. Yet, what we have here is a parable, and a parable is not just a story meant to recount certain pieces of information. A parable is a story meant to teach certain truths. And, the truth that Jesus wants to teach is truth about the Kingdom of God. From the very first day of his ministry, Jesus has been teaching the people about God’s Kingdom. “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” Jesus said on that first day. And, what Jesus was teaching them was that God had arrived in the person of Jesus and through Jesus, the authority and reign of God was being established on earth, once and for all. All those stories that Jesus told about the Kingdom of God, were Jesus’ ways of saying, “This is what life is like when God is in charge.” The prodigal is welcomed home. The poor are blessed. People from all four corners of the world will come and find their place at God’s table, and all will find themselves born anew. All these things and so much more take place when God is in charge because the Kingdom of God is not just a place, it is a living reality in our present lives. So, in today’s parable, what is Jesus trying to teach us about God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is like a wedding banquet. It’s a party and God is sending out the invitations. Of course, not everyone wants to be bothered with God’s party. They would rather just go on with their own lives, on their own terms. Instead of enjoying the blessings and hope that can only be found with God, they reject it all together, as Jesus will soon find out as he continues on his journey to Jerusalem in order to take up the cross. Yet, what the rejecters do not realize is that the party will still go on without them and they will miss out to their own detriment, as the people of Israel will soon discover when the Roman’s finally come in and destroy the Temple. The party will still go on and the invitations will still go out. In other words, the Kingdom of God is still being established and it is open to anyone who wishes to be part of it. You don’t have to be from a certain family, nor do you have to have your life all together. The good news is that the Kingdom of God is a come as you are Kingdom. Notice what it says in the parable. The servants were told, “Bring in anyone you can find, both good and bad.” It doesn’t matter who they are, just bring them in. When the church proclaims God’s Kingdom, we all sing Just as I Am. We want anyone and everyone to come into God’s Kingdom just as they are. But, here is the important thing to keep in mind. God doesn’t want to leave us just as we are.
Our cat Stormy was abandoned in a snow storm back in February of 2012. We just happened to be at the pet store that day when she was brought in out of the cold. But, the person who worked at the pet store couldn’t take Stormy in. So, we took the Stormy with us. When we took Stormy to the vet the next day, we found out that she was malnourished, she had some frost bite on the pads of her feet and she also had lung worms. But, we didn’t just leave her that way. We took care of Stormy. We fed her; we gave her the medicine that she needed for the lung worms, and we carefully attended to her frost bitten paws. Stormy came to us just as she was, but we didn’t leave her that way. And, that is how it is with God.
God brings us into his Kingdom just as we are, but God doesn’t want to leave us just as we are. God wants to transform our lives. God wants to heal our lives. God wants to lead us out of our lives of sin and into lives of righteousness. God wants us to leave that raggedy old t-shirt and worn out jeans behind and put on the wedding clothes. God wants our lives to be a living demonstration that we are part of God’s Kingdom, that we are living our lives as if God was in charge.
There is a Christian musician by the name of Randy Stonehill and he wrote a wonderful song called, Old Clothes. In the chorus Stonehill sings:
I’m packing up my old clothes with my old and foolish ways. They just don’t seem to fit me anymore. I see the light of morning with different eyes today. And I’m giving my tomorrows to the Lord. Stonehill sings of the transformation that God wants for all of us. Again, God welcomes us just as we are, but he wants to lead us to a place where we can be who we were created to be, children of God who reflect his glory into all the world. God wants us to be children of God who embody in their own lives the grace, mercy, and peace of God. This is the transformation that takes place as we allow the Holy Spirit to be at work in our lives. Another way to say this is to say that the Holy Spirit is the one who help us change into our wedding clothes. But, suppose we don’t want to wear our wedding clothes? What if we choose not to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, if we just want to come as we are and stay as we are? Maybe we are happy with our raggedy old t-shirt and worn out jeans. Maybe we don’t want to leave behind our sin ridden lives. We want to come to the party, but we to keep on dancing to our own tune. In other words, we want to come into the Kingdom, but we don’t want to live our lives as if we belonged in the Kingdom. If that is what we want, then God will let us have what we want. But, here is the thing, if that is what we want then we will soon find ourselves on the outside of what God is doing in our midst. The Kingdom of God will move on without us. When Denise and I were living in Springfield, VA, there was a popular activity that people in the church liked to do, called, a “Progressive Dinner.” It’s where you gather four families together to share a meal. Except that instead of all four families eating at one house, they would move from house to house. So, at the first house, the first family would serve the appetizers. At the second house, the second family would have the soup and salad course. At the third house would be the entre and then you would finish up at the last house with dessert and coffee. The understanding was the joining the dinner meant a willingness to participate in the whole dinner. If you joined the dinner but all you wanted was the appetizer well then the dinner was just going to move on without you. The Kingdom of God is on the move. God is at work in our midst, seeking to bring healing and transformation into the lives of all people. If we want to be part of that Kingdom, to lives our lives as if God is the one in charge, well then we need to allow the Spirit to transform us so that we can discard our old raggedy t-shirt and worn out jeans, and put on our wedding clothes. If that is not what we want then God is not going to force the issue, but we will find ourselves on the outside looking in. The Kingdom of God is a party and the invitation has gone out for anyone and everyone to come and join the party. You can come just as you are, but don’t plan to stay that way, at least not if plan to stay at the party. God wants to help us pack away our old clothes so that we can see the light of morning with different eyes, so that we can give our tomorrows to the Lord.