Monday, October 10, 2011
Don't Be "That Guy"
Matthew 22: 1-14
A few years ago, I was invited to a wedding, two of my friends from the undergraduate Wesley Foundation I was a member of were getting married, and I had flown all the way back to DE from Texas to attend. But I had packed badly. I had forgotten a tie, and an undershirt, and the dress shirt I had at that time depended on an undershirt to not be rather see-thru. I had had a wonderful time with the group the night before, a regular mini-reunion, but when it came time for the wedding, I found myself ill-prepared for such an event. Because I couldn’t wear the dress shirt by itself, and there was no store near to the hotel to grab such items last minute, I ended up wearing a red plaid button-down shirt with an open collar.
I felt really self-conscious the whole time, especially around all the men who were wearing high class suits and women who were dressed to the nines. I would try to explain myself to everyone I met, because I felt so out of place. Yes, I was one of “those” guys. I’m sure I had sweat rings under my arms, my hair was too long and not brushed, and I had food in my teeth, and yet I spoke too loudly and laughed too loudly. If I didn’t literally do all that, that’s how out of place I felt. I did not have the proper wedding attire on, and I am thankful to this day that they did not cast me into the outer darkness of a hotel parking lot in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
There was a time in which God’s call to the world was heard in very separated ways. The Israelites were called to be God’s people, over and against the tribes that surrounded them. When Israel fell, first the north to the Assyrians and then the south to the Babylonians, it was seen as divine punishment for untold generations’ failure to follow the laws that God had send down on Sinai by Moses. And yet God kept relationship with them in their exile, and eventually Persia conquered both Assyria and Babylonia, and sent Israel back home.
So Israel tried to put things back together, and to be God’s people again in the land that God had given them. But it didn’t work, and God’s laws again became misused-over thought out, this time, which perhaps was understandable; perhaps in a response against making the same mistakes twice, disappointing god again. The laws soon had laws and they had laws, and once again, the people of God lost the thread.
So God sent Jesus, to give the laws flesh and blood. And the invitation to be in relationship with God was made to all, not just to those who had the law.
This is the meaning of the metaphor. That those who are so richly invited will sometimes take it for granted, and sometimes, even when everyone is invited, there are still going to be a few who don’t get it. They will do nothing with it, and it’s like they are dressed inappropriately for the poshest of wedding banquets.
There are dangers when you send out an invitation to everyone. You never know who you’re going to get. This last week, during the new documentary about prohibition by Ken Burns on PBS, they make mention of the fact that the hours after President Andrew Jackson was inaugurated in 1833, there were so many drunk people in the White House messing up the place (access was a lot freer then) that they booted everyone out of the house and onto the lawn, “so the furniture wouldn’t get messed up”.
But the invitation to relationship with God is addressed to all. The invitation is sent far and wide, both to people who know what to do with it, and those who don’t.
The thing is, we are invitees to the banquet. We are not the bouncers. We are not the doormen who run, as they say in the club scene, “the velvet rope”. We are just invited to come and be at the party, and to celebrate.
Think about a relationship with God. What would you want? How would you want to conduct that relationship? What would you do to be the best at it you could be? In other words, how would you dress?
Hopefully not in a red plaid shirt when everyone else is wearing suits.
God does not want our rules, our style, our politics, our opinions. God is not a Republican or a Democrat. God is somewhere both in the Occupy Wall Street folks and in the Tea Party.
God wants us to know God.
To learn about God by reading the Bible and talking about it with others.
To be in a community.
Each time we seek God in fellowship, or prayer, or in mission and charity, we are learning about how to treat the rest of God’s people, and it is then that we are putting on the proper wedding clothes. The guy who didn’t wear the right clothes, didn’t pack his suitcase properly, even knowing he was going to a wedding for people he loved, in the posh part of town? He’s the guy who says he’s a believer in God, but doesn’t do anything about it, doesn’t work on it, doesn’t try to grow and learn. He’s “that guy.”
I invite you to not be “that guy.” Work on your relationship with God. Identify for yourself what your prayers, presents, gifts, service and witness are and do them to the best of your ability. Read your Bible and find ways to talk about what you read.
Put on the wedding clothes, so that you may enjoy the party without being self-conscious!