We all have wedding stories. Some stories are about our own weddings, or our children’s weddings, or our parents, other family members, friends. Many of the stories are happy stories; a few are sad, some are poignant. When Lucy and I go to weddings, and we get to go to a lot, we come home with a deeper appreciation of our marriage.
Jesus spent much of his last week of earthly ministry in controversy with the official leaders of his people, people who misused their authority and power to lie about Jesus to the Romans who misused their power and authority to hang Jesus on a cross to die. But God his father raised Jesus from the dead, and gives us the authority and power to share in Jesus’ resurrected new life.
On Easter Day the church reads part of the passage from Isaiah we read today, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.”
A favorite image of heaven is the wedding feast, when the church as bride is united with the Lord the bridegroom. James Boswell in 1781 quoted the English writer Samuel Johnson, “marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.” It is always interesting to see at a wedding reception how two groups of extended families and friends begin by having in common only a relationship with one of the two people getting married and sometimes find groundsfor friendship and a continuing relationship.
In Jesus controversy story the invited guests refused their invitation to the wedding banquet. Those who heard Matthew’s gospel could see them as the leaders of the Jewish community; we might see them as leaders of our secular society. So the king’s servants brought in the street people, “both bad and good.” We know ourselves as both bad and good, but “street people” maybe not so much. Our churches tend appeal to middle class retired folks. But even middle class retired people need Jesus’ love and grace.
But in the parable one of the guests did not have a wedding garment, and the king ordered, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” That seems really unfair, doesn’t it? But what does “wedding garment” mean? And how does that fit with bringing in the street people?
Martin Luther began the 95 Theses, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
When we go to a wedding we focus on the bride and the groom and wish them all the happiness of married life. We try to leave our bad feelings at the door. We plan to be as gracious as we can to our fellow guests. So at the wedding feast of the church and her Lord we focus on the Lord. Our wedding garment includes repentance and faith.
In the early 19th century John Keble, an English parish priest, wrote a hymn:
“New every morning is the love, our wakening and uprising prove, through sleep and darkness safely brought, restored to life and power and thought.”
“New mercies, each returning day, hover around us as we pray; new perils past, new sins forgiven, new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.”
“If on our daily course our mind be set to hallow all we find, new treasures still, of countless price, God will provide for sacrifice.”
“The trivial round, the common task, will furnish all we need to ask, room to deny ourselves, a rod to bring us daily nearer God.”
Only, dear Lord, in thy dear love fit us for perfect rest above, and help us this and every day, to live more nearly as we pray.”
Our wedding garments of repentance include sacrifice and self-denial, “the trivial round, the common task” and we ask God, “help us this and every day, to live more nearly as we pray.”