October 15, 2017

19th Sunday after Pentecost, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling

Matthew 22:1-14 

For audio, click on microphone above right.

I had to re-write my sermon yesterday afternoon.  As the rain gently fell, I sat in the rocking chair to edit the sermon.  (You’ll be happy to know that I’m always trying to keep them as short as possible.)  I love the rocking chair because I can see the bird feeder.  I had just filled it and was delighting in the two chickadees and one baby cardinal that came and went.

Then one English sparrow arrived.  You know them.  They’re not from around here.  They came from another country, snuck in here on some boat, and have taken over.  The one sparrow became two, and then three and then ten, shoveling the seed out on ground, chasing away my special friends.  I ran outside with a broom, whacking the bush so that they couldn’t hide.  They were gone for about two minutes.  I ran outside, again and again, flailing away with the broom handle like a mad man, probably giving a show for the whole intersection of Park Avenue and 42nd Street. Who knows what kind of devastation I was really trying to rid my world of, probably not just a feeder with English sparrows.

As I sat down for a tenth time to edit my sermon on the expansive nature of God’s invitation, the wide welcome to the feast, it hit me.  I was the guy at the party without the robe.  I was the one standing in the corner being grumpy.  I might not have been weeping, but I was gnashing me teeth, grinding them at the travesty of these immigrant birds stealing my safflower seed, binding myself in tighter and tighter anxiety and anger. Who needed an outer darkness when I could create one so well on my own?

Perhaps that is exactly what this parable is intended to do.  It’s an intervention.  Are we going to come to the party that God has set out for the whole creation and continue to live small, to live like there’s not enough, to live like only the right friends are the ones that I prefer, to live only for ourselves, to pile up resentments and lists of grievances as if they are the fuel that will keep us alive, to live in darkness, even though Christ has clothed us with light?

Te has vestido en Jesu Christo.  Eres una creación nueva. You have put on Christ.  You are a new creation.We have been given new clothes, wrapped in love that can’t be shaken, washed in water that sweeps away our past and scrubs the future, provided a feast that is extravagant in its abundance, given talents that grace the whole world.

The host sets out a whole rack of clothes at the door of the party and said, “Pick anything out that you want.”  There are pants of kindness and gentleness; dresses accented with peace and justice; vests of joy and delight; foundational garments of gratitude and thanksgiving.  Belts of forgiveness; necklaces of love, rings of hope.  There’s even underwear that wicks away shame and sin–all of it for you to try on so that you can be fashioned into an icon of Christ. You are a fashion icon because you have been baptized sealed with the Holy Spirit, and marked with the cross of Christ forever.

Yet so many of us just wear the same old torn and faded stuff because it’s what we know.  We don’t want to bother with change.  We focus on what we don’t have; or what others have; or what we wish we could have some day.  We count up our blessings like their points, and we resent those who seem to be doing better.  We grumble that we’re the only one doing all the work or taking the faith seriously.

This parable really says that if you’re going to be at the party, be at the party.  Wear the robe of love.  Clothes make the person right.  It’s true you can dress your way into a new mood, or choose a uniform that makes you part of the team, or an accessory that brings out a part of you that is often hidden.

Church:  Live like you’ve been raised from the dead.  Reach into the future, pull out one of the Easter outfits, and put it on right now, even though in this present darkness there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This world needs an intervention right now.  It needs a few designers.  Many are called, of course, but a few of us are chosen to be the models, not to be some inside, closed group but to model the Easter line, with its hope, with its witness that death and cruelty and smallness cannot prevail, its tenacious commitment to bring peace and equality, justice and forbearance, a people clothed in Christ. Let’s call it the “new creation line.”

So here’s an idea.  Today, we come forward to offer our gifts.  Maybe it’s a pledge.  Maybe it’s an offering.  Maybe it’s just your old self.  Maybe it’s hope that God will take what we bring and do a new thing.  Either way, when you come down the aisle, be the beautiful fashion model that you are.  This isn’t the sanctuary.  It’s the party.  This is no regular aisle.  It’s a runway. So you better work it!