Our Gospel lesson is among the most difficult to interpret of all the teachings of Jesus. If we admit this up front, maybe we have some hope of gleaning something of value from a complex and confusing story.
Context helps. It’s the day after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It’s also the time when the religious leaders are laying trap after trap to justify their plan to eliminate him. In every respect, the chips are down. Jesus’ teachings are more pointed than ever and aimed at those who use religion as a cover-up for all sorts of hypocrisy and sin. Today’s reading is the second of two parables linked together (the first being Matthew 21:33-46) to show that the people of God can get it wrong through presumption—in this case, by trying to convince people they should attend the party when, in fact, they have not properly dressed for the occasion.
The story has nothing to do with actual clothing but rather with giving an appearance that doesn’t exist. The man in the story has an invitation; otherwise, he would not have gotten inside the door. But he uses his invitation as an excuse for not taking the occasion or his condition seriously. He thinks having an invitation is enough. The religious leaders know Jesus is talking about them (see Matthew 21:45), and they know he is condemning their presumption. Stripped of their outward appearance (represented in the parable by a wedding robe), their hypocrisy is revealed.
The people of God get it wrong whenever we show up alleging to be “clothed” when we are not. Others may be fooled, but God is not. If faith means anything at all, it must be genuine.
Dear God, deliver me from appearing to be someone I am not. Keep me from using my faith as a way to make impressions that are not genuine. Save me from presumption. Amen.
The texts this week remind us of how quickly we can turn away from God. Even while Moses is on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments—the first of which is not to worship any other gods—the people fashion an idol and begin to worship it. The psalmist refers to this story as evidence of how often the Israelites have gone astray, and yet God repeatedly has restored them. The parable in Matthew speaks of many who are invited to a banquet, yet they reject the invitation of the king. It is often read as a warning about turning our backs on God’s gracious invitation. Paul encourages the Philippians to seek God with confidence in difficult situations and to focus their thoughts in ways that lead them closer to God.
Read Exodus 32:1-14. When have you or your faith community gotten it wrong? When have you interceded with God on others’ behalf?
Read Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23. How has forgetting that you can be wrong hurt you or your faith community? How has admitting that you were wrong strengthened you or your faith community?
Read Philippians 4:1-9. What issue or conflict has divided your faith community? How might Paul’s urging to “be of the same mind in the Lord” help you work toward peace?
Read Matthew 22:1-14. What work might you need to do to open your heart so you can resolve a conflict?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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