Pentecost 20, 2023

Jesus tells us the parable of the King who invited all sorts of people to his son’s wedding but then ends up rather arbitrarily kicking one fellow out into the darkness over his clothes. You are probably several steps ahead of me at this point and already pointing out some of the first century cultural realities in which a guest was provided with festival garments. This man’s refusal to wear his gift was a rejection of that gift. Since we all know that we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, this churl surely does deserve to be cast out for rejecting the love of God in Christ.

But before you bring to bear the artillery of the doctrine of justification, give the poor parishioner a bit of credit. This story does appear to be rather arbitrary and the king does seem a little odd, don’t you think? And this is important for the preacher because that parishioner may well be coming pre-loaded to think this. The world today is deep into the post-modern cynicism with its deep suspicion that there is any good or any truth. The king in this story will be judged before you come into the pulpit. He is a cruel host who judges people on their clothes. Now, mind you, the irony of the hearer judging the character in this parable which Jesus has just told without asking any questions about what is going on is very real. But it will be lost on the person sitting in the pew.

The preacher’s best choice in this situation is to hook his hearer, agree with them and take them on the journey back to the Gospel through the sometimes-difficult paths of self-reflection and honesty. In truth, the king in this parable has every right to do what he does. God is not arbitrary in his meting out of justice, except that He is gracious. He has given the festal garments to all the guests. Won’t you put yours on, my friend?

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