Pastor Wilbert Miller’s Sermon
“What Are You Wearing to the Wedding?”
(Matthew 24: 1-14)
October 15, 2017 (19th Sunday after Pentecost)
The moment the parents receive the news, “We are getting married,” they immediately make their own announcement, “Let the wedding planning begin.”
I know this from experience. The church is the first place parents call, well actually, shortly after they contact grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, siblings, bridal shop, ballroom, limo service, photographer, cosmetician, nail salon, and honeymoon resort.
The out-of-breath parents, both on the phone, blurt out, “Pastor, Susie Marie is getting married to Bradley Joe. How does November 30 look on Holy Trinity’s calendar?” Not thinking carefully enough, I ask, “Don’t you think that’s rushing it a bit? November 30 is a month away and it falls on a Thursday.”
“Oh,” says the electrified mother, “silly me, not this year, Pastor, we’re talking 2019. We were afraid the date might get booked if we didn’t call immediately.”
To show the parents how much I care, I probe a bit, “How many people do you expect at this extravaganza?”
“We are thinking small, 50 or 60,” says the father, mindful that his retirement account may soon dip lower than it did during the 2008 financial debacle.
Once the date is established, the planning begins in earnest. The guest list soars from 53 to 315, not counting Great Uncle Rodney from Wyoming who detests New York’s honking taxis and the over-paid Yankees.
As the big day approaches, invitations are created, “damask cream white” with satin silver bows; when you open them, the couple-to-be pops up in a Central Park horse drawn carriage. These, by the way, cost mom and pop a paltry $4038.
You understand the investment though. The king and queen have anticipated this day since their little princess was born. They began rehearsing when she was three, dressing her in the stunning “Wrinkled Bedsheet Collection” and teaching her to hold her head high, keep her back straight, and smile to the left and right as she processed through the living room.
Once the invitations are sent out, with hand-calligraphed addresses in silver ink, the mother runs to the mail box daily, precisely at 2:15 p.m., awaiting the RSVPs. And, every day, she makes the sad walk back to the house, crestfallen that only sixteen people have responded, including surprisingly, Uncle Ernie and Aunt Henrietta from Cheyenne. There are few days without tears. The parents’ disappointment intensifies to misery and rage. What was supposed to be a joyful celebration is spinning into a gloomy fiasco.
One wonders why no one responds. This is the wedding of the century after all. You would respond and I have to. I have been to such weddings, one where The Drifters of “Under the Boardwalk” fame sang and the bridesmaids were models from the Ford agency here in New York and the groomsmen included a congressman, a former NBA player, and a smattering of corporate execs; another where I performed the marriage of General Colin and Alma Powell’s son. Who would miss those affairs?
This is precisely when Jesus’ parable begins to make us edgy. The banquet is ready, the oxen and calves slaughtered, the caviar on crushed ice, the string quartet tuned, and no one showing up at the club. The king and queen blow gaskets and send out their slaves to investigate where everyone is. Apparently, the A-Listers have more important things to do. The parents’ fury knoweth no bounds; they order the ungratefuls murdered and, for good measure, their city burnt to ashes.
If this isn’t disturbing enough, the royal family then sends out the slaves to invite the homeless folks who sleep in the bushes near the gated club and a few others whose hideous shopping carts line the church steps only hours before the wedding. These neglected outcasts will certainly come, don’t you think? And yet there is another problem. The king continues to bristle, this time because the B-Listers don’t appear at the wedding in Chanel dresses and Armani suits. They certainly don’t have the money for such extravagance and, even if they did, it’s a tad late to expect them to head off to Madison Avenue to purchase swanky nuptial attire.
Let me add a disclaimer right now: I am not making this up; this is Jesus’ story not mine. In case you haven’t quite picked up on the royals’ rage, they have the ill-clad B-Listers “bound hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness” where, as far as the king and queen are concerned, they can weep and gnash their teeth for ages unto ages.
I have learned from experience: never mess with the parents of the bride and groom!
Increasingly these days, people don’t seem to be showing up for this feast on Sunday whether here at Holy Trinity or Cheyenne. Our attendance is growing but, still, there seem to be more pressing priorities—Jet’s game, fall foliage jaunts, brunch at who knows where, and brushing up on the crossword puzzle in the Time’s Sunday Magazine…So much to do, so little time.
I get the busyness but apparently, like the parents of the newlyweds, God is not amused.
I have no way of knowing for certain but I have a hunch Jesus told this parable so that when we receive our invitation to the Feast of the Lamb, we will realize how much God yearns for our presence. God has prepared the finest meal imaginable for us this morning, overflowing with the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation. God has been making plans for this day for a long time, actually forever.
Really, can you believe you made it on the guest list? Jesus is here! Perhaps the only remaining question at this point is, “What are you wearing to the wedding?” Well, actually, that apparently doesn’t matter because God has invited you and you are here this morning.
God is so glad you have come today, so enjoy, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.