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Archive for October, 2008

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Seeing and not crossing over


 

I.        Way In

A.      MLK speech

1.      declamation assignment in Public Speaking class, UAB

a.      subject of my choice

b.      first thought:  what am I going to learn from memorizing a speech?

c.       chose a selection of a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

i.        Sanitation Workers in Memphis, TN

ii.      delivered on April 3, 1968

iii.    The  “I have been to the mountaintop” speech

2.      As I have read DT this week

a.      I have heard Dr. King’s speech

b.      thinking about Moses atop Mt. Nebo

i.        … seeing the Promised Land

… and knowing that he would not go there with the people, Israel

c.       I thought about Dr. King speaking to the Sanitation Workers in Memphis

i.        Dr. King knew there were people after him

·         he knew there were angry white people who would just as soon see him dead

·         he knew that he may not live to see “The Promised Land”

·         the Beloved Community he described

·         But I don’t think Dr. King knew that, on the very next day after this speech in Memphis – April 4, 1968

·         that he would be assassinated outside of his hotel room

·         at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis

d.      Dr. King talked about the “Drum Major Instinct” of leadership, it’s not the kind of leader that’s always out front gathering all the glory, he taught about the leadership the gospel describes

“everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.

 You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.

You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.

You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.

 You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve.

 You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace,

 a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”

i.        Somebody thought that the march to freedom would stop if they stopped the “drum major”

ii.      and I wonder if anybody thought, in 1968 that in 2008 one of America’s major political parties would elect a black man as their candidate for President of the United States of America

B.      Get back to my original question.  What could I learn from memorizing a speech?

1.      Prof. must have been trying to teach us something about:

a.      delivery

b.      learning from an accomplished public speaker

2.      as I prepared to “deliver” Dr. King’s speech, I studied the text,

a.      listened to recording and watched video

3.      I don’t know if this is what my professor was after

a.      but through this exercise, as an adult college student, I felt a connection to a great man

b.      a man I heard on TV as a 9 year old boy

i.        a man that I heard grown-ups cuss

ii.      and that confuse me

4.      But as I memorized Dr. King’s speech 25 or 26 years later …

a.      as I spoke his words from memory

i.        without being encumbered by reading from a page

ii.      I felt some sense of Dr. King’s conviction to Civil Rights

·         do you know what I mean?

·         when your soul is stirred when you hear someone speak with conviction?

·         and as I spoke his words, I felt like a captured a moment of that spark

·         that baritone preaching voice of his

·         I saw the nods and heard the shouts from his “Amen corner”

b.      Even if Dr. King’s speech had not drawn us back to Deuteronomy,

i.         with his reference to Moses being on the mountaintop,

ii.      how could we miss the Moses connection as Dr. King concluded his address,

iii.     and how can we –

·         knowing what happened the very next day at the Lorraine Motel,

·          not be amazed at his ominous words as he concludes with these words

 

We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now.

 Because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

 And I don’t mind.

 Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.

 Longevity has its place.

 But I’m not concerned about that now.

 I just want to do God’s will

 And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain.

 And I’ve looked over.

 And I’ve seen the promised land.

 I may not get there with you.

 But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.

 And I’m happy, tonight.

 I’m not worried about anything.

 I’m not fearing any man.

 Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord

II.      Tell the Story

A.      Listen again to the description of Moses

a.      Note: although we know the Torah, 1st 5 books, as the books of Moses

i.        this is the place where we see evidence that Moses didn’t write the whole Torah

ii.      especially not this part

·         first, it’s posthumous

·         Moses couldn’t write about the location of his previously undisclosed burial site

·         second, the narrative does not match

·         the praise of Moses we read here is inconsistent

·         Nowhere else will you find Moses speaking so highly of himself

b.      Moses, the servant of the Lord.

i.        120 years old at the time of his death

ii.      sight was unimpaired

iii.    vigor was unabated

iv.     a prophet like no other

v.       he knew the Lord face-to-face

vi.     unequaled for the signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do before Pharaoh

vii.   unequaled for the mighty deeds and displays of power

B.      A little context

1.      in earlier chapters of Deut., 1, 3, 4; we read that God is angry with Moses

a.      unspecified reason

b.      Moses would not be permitted to enter the land with Israel

The Lord was angry with me because of you, and he vowed that I should not cross the Jordan and that I should not enter the good land that the Lord your God is giving for your possession. (4:21)

 

III.    So What?

A.      Moses didn’t get to see the Promised Land

1.      So was he successful?

2.      He didn’t get to walk with Israel into the land that God promised them

3.      He brought them all that way, yet never made into the land

B.      The fulfillment of the covenant was vital to the life of Israel

1.      Moses had a significant role

2.      and Moses stands today as the great prophet of the Judeo-Christian heritage

C.      Why is Moses revered as such a great prophet?

1.      He wasn’t perfect

a.      not “Employee of the Month” every month

b.      or “Prophet of the Month”

c.       In fact, remember back in Genesis, he tried to talk God out of calling him

i.        “You can do better than me, God.  I’m not your man; I’m not even a good speaker.”

·         Moses stuttered or something that made his speech  not always plain

ii.      but he was the one God called – warts and all, perfect or not

d.      Then, somewhere early in Deuteronomy, Moses really messed up

i.        we’re not sure what it was,

·          but in Deut. 1, Moses told the people /Israel/ that God was mad at him and would not allow him to see the PL

e.      God got mad at Moses,

i.        surely wished he had done better,

ii.      but God stayed with Moses, and the people

iii.    God neither abandoned nor rejected him

·         maybe Moses learned his lesson at that point

2.      Just remember what the Bible says, the inspired Word of God – not Moses’ words about himself

a.      His sight was unimpaired, and his vigor unabated

b.      like no other in the things he did – signs and wonders

D.     Israel’s time under Moses’ leadership was a time of preparation

1.      In the 4th chapter, Deut. says

a.      “follow the statutes and ordinances I am teaching you so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord is giving you … observe them diligently for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the people” (vv. 3,5)

2.      Israel had a long time of preparation

a.      40 years

b.      to break the habits and thinking after generations of being enslaved in Egypt

c.       to learn to rely on God for everything

d.      and to follow the leadership God provided

e.      not losing sight of the vision

·         which was God’s promise to provide

·         and make of them a people

E.      Moses, their leader

1.      was charged with keeping the vision of the PL ahead of the people

2.      and not to mistake his authority as the god of the people

a.      Moses: the leader

b.      his call was to lead the people

i.        prepare them

ii.      teach and learn as they were on the journey of preparation

3.      the plan/the life in the PL was in God’s hand

a.      Moses was called to prepare and lead

b.      Moses was not the promise

c.        the ultimate realization of God’s covenant was to live in the land as the community of God’s people

4.      On the journey of promise

a.       there was no guarantee, or need, for Moses to enter the land with Israel

b.      because God can be counted on as being faithful

F.       Dr. King’s address to the people in Memphis shows that he understood prophetic leadership

1.      his speech that night was a witness to:

a.      the struggle of the people over generations

b.      the power of God’s response to their cries

2.      Dr. King’s assurance and hope

a.      was not in his power as leader

b.      but in his ability to

i.        follow God’s teaching and authority

ii.      to inspire the people with the vision of justice

c.       that’s why he said he wasn’t afraid

i.        and the reason that he wasn’t discouraged with small victories

ii.      because he had seen the promised land

·         and he trusted in God to keep his promises

·         and he checked his ego

·         so that the important thing was the continuing of the journey

·         keeping their eyes on the prize

·         even if he never saw the fruits of the seeds he was sowing

G.     So it is with our journey together

1.      God has called us together as a community

2.      and is providing leadership

a.      as I am listening and learning of my new home

i.        and discerning God’s call in this part of your journey – the part we are travelling together

b.      I pray for the grace to remain open to God’s promise to make of us a community of faith and witness

i.        guided by his commandments

·         as we find God’s rule for life

·         in the witness of scripture

·         and seen in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, our Lord

c.       I pray for the wisdom to keep my eyes open

i.        to the vision God is showing us

ii.      and for opportunities to respond in faith as God’s people

·         as his witnesses, in our neighborhood, nation, and even the world

3.      My hope, then, is not to worry so much about seeing the completion or perfection of our mission

a.      for that is – a journey

b.      I pray that we will remain faithful on the journey

i.        learning from God’s word

ii.      following God’s rule for our life

iii.    and keeping our eyes on the vision of being community/church together

c.       that – our eyes will see the glory of the coming of the Lord

i.        so may it be with us.   Amen.

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Matthew 22: 15-22

Imago Dei


 

I.        Way In

A.      Tell you about 2 things that belong to me

1.      Property at 309 Scottholm Terrace, Syracuse NY

a.      really, deed is in Kazy’s name

b.      we bought the house in July 2007

c.       still own it

i.        know anybody looking for a house in Syracuse?

d.      documents are on file

i.        prove we (Kazy) own(s) the house

ii.      have the unencumbered right to sell it

e.      I have a copy of the title abstract

i.        most current, the person we bought it from

ii.      goes back to a time just after 1783

·         when title was made to the property

·         to Lt. George Leaycraft from “the people of the state of NY, pursuant to acts of Congress … among soldiers of the Revolutionary War

iii.    the lot changed hands again in 1793

·         Johan Gros paid 173 pounds, 1 shilling

iv.      it was 1810 before the first sale recorded in US$, $105

·         rest assured that nearly 200 years later, we paid many times that figure

f.        The current abstract and deed prove that Kazy owns the property

i.        and grants her the legal right and privilege to sell the property

ii.      everything here is legal as per all standard current conventions

iii.    but a lot happened since

·         creation of the universe in Genesis many millennia ago

·         and Dutch colonization of what is now the state of NY in early 17th cent.

·         really, how did it work that NY actually owned this property to give it to Lt. Leaycraft?

·         based on something that happened in the last few years of 2 millennia of the Christian calendar, or in the  5769th  year by the Hebrew calendar

g.      I really wonder, in the eyes of the Creator, who actually owns this piece of property in Syracuse?

2.      So there’s something else we “own”

a.      in 2006, Pauly and I bought Kazy a birthday present

b.      for a little less than the property in Syracuse was worth in 1810

c.       we bought the naming rights to a star – that’s right, up in the sky

d.      Kazy has a beautiful framed certificate affirming that, on dd/mm/yy:

i.        a star has been named, “Kazy Morningstar”

ii.      the star is at (coordinates)

iii.    in the constellation Orion

iv.     she also received a star chart with her star circled in red

e.      maybe we’ll take a little trip out there one day

i.        to visit our other little piece of real estate

·         somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high

3.      really, in the sense of God’s creation

a.      to say that we actually “own” either of these properties is questionable

b.      outside of human conventions, even contracts, who really owns any plot of land, or star

B.      B ridge

II.      Tell The Story

A.      Today’s lection appears in MT, MK, and LK

B.      The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus

C.      partnered with the Herodians

1.      aligned with Herod

2.      Jewish people, too, but with official ties to Rome

D.     Pharisees and Roman officials

1.      probably never before agreed on anything

2.      but, they were in “bi-partisan” agreement in their strong opposition and contempt for Jesus of Nazareth

3.      and the Pharisees knew that if they wanted Jesus “out of the picture,” “really gone for good, this time”

a.      they had to get him in a Roman court

b.      for the Jewish leaders, the church people of the day, had no power of execution

i.        but Rome did

4.      so they went after him,

a.      unlikely partners, in a wicked scheme,  to trap Jesus

E.      Pharisees and Herodians constructed a trap that was sure to catch/entangle  Jesus

1.      they could see no way out

F.       They went to him full of mock sincerity

1.      called him teacher, “rabbi”

2.      really blowing smoke – laying it on heavy

a.      we know you are sincere, show no favoritism among people, but teach the way of God – with truth

3.      don’t you wonder if they knew that they weren’t fooling anybody with this false flattery

a.      surely they weren’t’ fooling Jesus

b.      with their slippery scheme

4.      maybe they didn’t even care whether he believed them

a.      I bet they just couldn’t wait to watch Jesus squirm once they got him in their “clever” trap

G.     The trap was in the question, “is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor”

1.      If Jesus answered, “No,” they had him on tax evasion

2.      If Jesus answered, “Yes,” they had him on blasphemy

H.     But their trap was nothing for Jesus, “bring me one of the coins”

1.      a denarius was the tax rate

a.      about a day’s wage for a laborer

2.      to begin with, Jesus carried no coin, he carried no purse

a.      and he taught the disciples to do the same

b.      God provided for them, not Caesar

3.      Jesus carried no coin, each one of which bore the graven image of the emperor

a.      remembering the 1st and  2nd  commandments , about no other gods and graven images

b.      really, it was blasphemy to carry the coin of the empire

4.      yet, when Jesus asked his interrogators, each of them a Jew

a.      even as they stood in the temple – the holy place

b.      Jesus carried no coin

c.       but the “good religious” Pharisees and Herodians all had pockets full of them

I.        As one of the “good religious people” who had set out to trap Jesus

1.      held out a graven image of a coin for Jesus

2.      Jesus asked,

J.        “Whose head is this and whose title?”

1.      the “head” or image on the coin was, of course, Caesar’s

a.      every coin bore his image

b.      it was a common coin in the empire

c.       everybody handled them (everybody but Jesus)

d.      it was a daily, tangible reminder to the people of who was in charge

e.      and to whom they owed their tribute

2.      the title

a.      The inscription on this coin reads “Ti[berivs] Caesar Divi Avg[vsti] F[ilivs] Avgvstvs” or “Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus.”

i.        blasphemous: the coin claims that Augustus was god

b.      for the empire, the emperor was “lord”

K.      Jesus’ answer really put the question back on them

1.      Caesar’s image is on the coin

a.      you should give to Caesar what belongs to him

b.      or “render” which implies to return

i.        or give back to Caesar whatever you have that belongs to him

2.      and give to God

a.      or “render” to God

b.      that which belongs to God

L.       When they heard this they were amazed, and they left him – went away

M.   Bridge

1.      Why did they give up?

2.      What did they do?

3.      Were the Pharisees and Herodians still united in their contempt for Jesus?

a.      did they go “back to the drawing room” together to  evaluate their plan

4.      what do we do with this question?

a.      how can we tell?

i.        how can we tell what belongs to Caesar?

ii.      more importantly, how can we tell what belongs to God?

III.    So What?

A.      Is it right to pay the tax?

1.      we don’t like to, do we?

a.      but we might as well be committed to paying the tax

b.      because, it will be collected

i.        one way or another

2.      but is it right?

a.      Jesus never says not to pay it

b.      He does show us the tension

i.        when he asked the Pharisees and Herodians to show him a coin …

·         they had no trouble coming up with one

·         they probably all had coins in their pockets

·         and one of them quickly held a coin out in his tight grip of a fist

·         “proudly” showing forth this graven image of Caesar

·         the one who called himself  “lord”

·         even as they stood in the holy temple

3.      we live in that same tension

a.      we are citizens, and we have an obligation to the civic authorities we elect

i.        Jesus never said not to pay the tax

ii.      but as we bear the “coin of the realm”

·         as we earn it, save it, use it,

·         even contribute a portion of it to the church

b.      Jesus calls us to keep in mind what belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar/the empire/the state

c.       he doesn’t tell us how we can tell the difference

i.        but Jesus knows that we know enough about his teachings to at least know where to begin the search

d.      The Bible says,

i.        “In the beginning, God” (Gen. 1:1)

·         “created the heavens and the earth”

ii.      “God created humankind in his image” (Gen. 1:27)

iii.     “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

B.      Paying tribute

1.      so Jesus says to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar

a.      maybe it’s easier to tell what belongs to the empire

b.      we can see what bears the image of the state

i.        roads and bridges

·         usually bear a sign or name that it was built by the government

ii.      other seals and images – imprints

·         currency

·         contracts

·         seals: municipal, county, state, federal

c.       Jesus never says to ignore or shirk rendering our portion to things like this

2.      But what belongs to God?  What bears God’s image?

a.      You do.  I do.  We do.

b.      “made in God’s image,” “the earth and everything in it”

3.      How do we pay it back?

a.      how do we render to Caesar?

i.        like we said before, we pay the tax

ii.      we can’t help but pay it

·         it comes right out of our check

·         or is added right onto things we buy

b.      so how do we render to God?

i.        render to God … what?

·         what belongs to God

ii.      so, what belongs to God?

·         we do.  you do.  I do

·         everything does – the world and everything in it

iii.    how do we give it?]

·         we make our offerings, we make our pledge

·         we give ourselves, in worship and service

·         give ourselves, to God and to each other

c.       looking for the coin of the realm among the common currency of culture …

i.        I love reading from the book, “Get Up Off Your Knees”

·         collection of sermons and other writings

·         based in the scriptures

·         shared through reflections on lyrics from

·         U2, an Irish band whose music is quite spiritual when you give it a proper listen

ii.      Sarah Dylan Breuer is a major contributor to this book

·         I appreciate how she deals with the tension I mentioned

iii.    even when we find ourselves among those who

·         proudly, pull the coin of the realm out

·         even as we are standing on holy ground before the living God

·         to keep it in perspective

·         “and when worldy powers who would be lord, whether it’s the flag of a nation, a cause that we hold dearer than the Spirit’s (God’s) guidance and the fruit of following it … or (even) a person who wants to take God’s place as lord of our lives, get up off your knees.  They have no rightful claim on you at all.”

d.      So we pay tribute to God

i.        by giving ourselves to God

·         in worship, service, and fellowship

ii.      and by getting up off our knees

·         before those things that the evil one throws before us

·         greed, jealousy, even hate

iii.    then we need not walk away dismayed like the Pharisees and Herodians

iv.     rather we can lift up our hearts before the Living God

·         giving ourselves to him and others from the abundant and restored  life we know in the transformational love of Jesus Christ

·         so may it be with us.  Amen

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Matthew 22:1-14

Dress for success, or at least to keep from getting thrown out.”

 

I.        Way In

A.      First I have to tell you, I think this is a strange parable

1.      What did Jesus want us to get from this lesson?

2.      I don’t think he means that there is a dress code in heaven

a.      There are some requirements

i.        But it’s not,  “No shirt, no shoes, no service.”

B.      But, there are some expectations for our being received into heaven

1.      It’s not so much how we’re dressed, in the literal sense

2.      But the parable is a useful lesson about our spiritual appearance

C.      Do you know what it’s like to wonder if you are dressed right?

1.      There are times when you don’t have to wonder

a.      Growing up in southern MS, my father used to take me to NOLA

i.        To watch the NO Saints play football, early 1970s

ii.      We usually went with some of his friends

b.      After the game we went the French Quarter to eat

i.        Usually very casual places

·         Oyster bars like Felix’s or the Acme for poor-boy sandwiches and oysters on the half-shell

ii.      Sometimes we went to fancy places

·         Like Galatoire’s or Broussard’s

·         Where men (and teen-age boys) had to wear ties and jackets

c.       We didn’t always have on the required jacket or tie

i.        And we weren’t the only ones

ii.      G and B had racks near the maitre d’ stand full of jackets and ties

·         For their improperly attired patrons

d.      So we would find a jacket and tie that bore some resemblance of a match to the rest of what we were wearing

i.        The match was never complete

ii.      And the outfit never looked like anything somebody would wear on purpose

e.      But I was wearing the required and proper attire

f.        And had the privilege of eating some of the finest seafood in the known world

i.        Even if I was wearing borrowed clothes

2.      Other times, you’re not sure whether your dressed right

a.      Last weekend we went to Dayton with friends

b.      I knew we were going, but I understood it was an Oktoberfest Street Fair

i.        I wore jeans and a plain shirt

c.       Arrived in Dayton and met our friends

i.        My friend had on slacks, turtleneck, and a sport coat

ii.      I learned it was a benefit for the Dayton Art Institute

·         With food and libations in the Oktoberfest theme

·         On the grounds of the DAI

iii.    Approaching the event we also encountered:

·         Men in full lederhosen (looked like the Von Trapp family took a wrong turn out of the Alps)

·         Couples in evening attire

d.      I won’t say that I was embarrassed

i.        Just interested in knowing how I was going to fit in

ii.      Relieved as I encountered more people dressed like me

iii.    And as I entered the grounds of the DAI,

·         I could quickly see that things were very relaxed

·         And I would fit in just fine

3.      That night Kazy told the story of a time when there was no question about being dressed appropriately …

a.      She was a teenager teaching children swimming at the YMCA in WPB, Florida

b.      In the pool with her class

c.       Like most Ys, there was an entrance directly out of the locker rooms to the pool area

d.      When A gentleman stepped out of the men’s locker room door …

i.        And on to the pool deck

ii.      Evidently he was new in town

·         Apparently came from an area where the Y had separate pools for men and women

·         And it was obviously customary, at least for the men, to swim naked

iii.    For there he stood, on the pool deck of the family YMCA in WPB, FL …

·         Stark naked.

·         Wearing nothing but a surprised look on his face

e.      Kazy said he didn’t seem to ashamed

i.        I expect there were other swimmers there who were embarrassed enough for him.

f.        And, at that YMCA, clothing, at least a bathing suit, was required in the pool area

i.        The gentleman returned to the men’s locker room

ii.      And you’ll have to ask Kazy whether he put on his bathing suit …

·         and returned for a swim

·         or not

D.     This puts my experience at Oktoberfest at the Dayton Art Institute in perspective

1.      I was nowhere near embarrassed about the way I was dressed

a.      At least I WAS DRESSED

II.      Tell The Story

A.      Recount the parable

1.       King hosts a celebration for his son’s wedding

2.      King sent his servants to follow-up invitations

a.      Guests decline invitations

b.      Mistreat or kill the slaves he sent

3.      The king is enraged

4.      King sent his troops and destroyed the ones on the guest list

5.      King makes more celebration plans

6.      King sends slaves into the streets

a.      “invite everybody you find”

b.      Good and bad

7.      Now guests fill the banquet hall

8.      King discovers a guest who is not dressed right

a.      “Friend, how did you get in without a wedding robe?”

b.      The guest was speechless

9.      King had this wedding guest bound hand and foot

a.      Thrown into outer darkness

b.      Weeping and gnashing of teeth

10.  “For many are called, but few are chosen”

B.      Describe

1.      Such a strange parable

a.      This is not long before Jesus’ arrest

b.      The religious officials are really getting agitated with him

2.      Harsh and violent

a.      I wonder about how Jesus introduces the parable

i.        “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.”

ii.      What follows could be a comparison by contrast

·         Comparing God with the king and kingdom full of violent unpredictable, and even maniacal behavior

b.      Still, we have to compare our context

i.        Really seems strange from 21st century perspective

·         To talk about a culture where:

·         slavery is an accepted part of the culture

·         life itself is more tenuous

·         people (slaves) are expendable messengers

·         “invited guests” are offended and kill the messenger

·         King turns that guest list into a hit list

·         Makes a new plan

·         Sends more slaves with more invitations

ii.      If we are able to suspend with judgment of the culture Jesus describes

·         And hear it more like his hearers would have, we realize

·         That this would not be a parable dealing with slavery or murder

·         That’s not what Jesus is teaching about here

·         He deals with those elsewhere, and we will, too

3.      I’m going to assume that the last phrase in the parable is the kicker

a.      Where Jesus says, “many are called, but few are chosen.”

i.        Remember, we are forgetting about how the invitees were called in the parable

·         Sending slaves with the invitations was not bizarre or even cruel for this culture

b.      The invitation first went to a selected few

i.        Then to “every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the street,” “every Joe Blow you meet”

c.       Then, those who responded were held to a standard

i.        One who was found not to be a full participant was thrown out

III.    So What?

A.      Many are called, but few are chosen

B.      We are invited/called

1.      To a great celebration

2.      Something we don’t deserve

a.      Second lesson about grace from Matt. in as many weeks

b.      Remember talking about how we can’t earn grace – we don’t deserve it

c.       God’s freely-given gift of love and reconciliation

C.      Remember, we are free to learn from the parable as Jesus’ hearers

1.      This isn’t a teaching about slavery and the value of human life, per se

2.      It’s about responding to the invitation of Jesus Christ with joy

D.     We are invited to a great feast – a celebration

1.      Our proper response is full and grateful participation

a.      Some scholars suggest that at such a wedding banquet as this king gave,

i.        Wedding gowns would have been made available by the host

ii.      Every guest would have the opportunity to dress properly

·         Even if you couldn’t afford a gown of your own, or forgot to bring it

·         Like me and the other travelers from MS

·         Enjoying fine dining in NOLA wearing borrowed clothes

2.      Our proper response is to:

a.      Clothe ourselves

i.        Carry ourselves

ii.      Present ourselves before God, our host

b.      … with the same grace and mercy that God has given so freely in Jesus Christ

E.      I hope you will allow me one more story about clothing …

1.      Recently, I was at a funeral

2.      A man walked by during the time for greeting…

a.      From where he stood and was seated, I presume that he was a grandson or nephew of the deceased

b.      Grown man in a dark suit, a man’s standard funeral attire

c.       I noticed a smudge on the right shoulder of his suit coat

3.      A light-colored stain

a.      I recognized right away, from Little Theater productions I’ve been in

b.      It was make-up, face make-up

c.       On his right shoulder

i.        Just where he would have been touched by someone

·         as he  had been hugging people,

·         and from where he had been hugged

4.      dark-colored clothing is regarded as appropriate for funeral guests to wear

a.      but this garment was beyond appropriate, it was complete

b.      there was a connection to what I was about to share in my reflection from 2 Corinthians (1:3, 4)  “Blessed be God, the Father of all mercies and the God of all consolation who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction”

5.      the make-up smudge was a sign of mutual consolation within that gathered community of mourners

a.      a reminder that no one was there alone

b.      God’s presence was known in the sharing of grace and mercy

i.        At an hour when loving connections were sorely needed

F.       In the parable, Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven

1.      God has invited all to the banquet – feast – the beloved community

2.      God expects those who respond to be full participants

a.      Fully clothed in the garment of grace

3.      Therefore as we receive this invitation

a.      Let us clothe ourselves in that same garment

b.      So that we may live lives that are marked by the same grace …

i.        Living lives of grateful response to God’s gift of reconciling love in Jesus Christ

c.       And that, dressed that way, we may be prepared and sent as witnesses for others

i.        In worship, fellowship, and service in his name and for his sake

·         So may it be with us.  Amen

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