A Fashion Statement

Could it be true that God cares about how you're dressed?

The Scripture

Matthew 22:1-14
as retold by Deborah

Jesus told another parable:

The heavenly kingdom is like a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He arranged for limousines to pick up all those who had been invited, but they came back empty. Everyone stayed away.

So he sent other staff members to tell the invitees: “The king wants you to know that the caterers have arrived, the food is prepared and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.”

But they blew it off and went about their business: one to work in his garden, another to his office, while the rest seized his employees and tortured and killed them.

The king was outraged. He sent his troops to destroy the murderers and burn down their homes.

Then he told his remaining staff, “The party is ready, but those invited were unworthy. So go out into the streets and highways, and invite everyone you see to come to the wedding feast.”

So the king’s servants went out into the streets and gathered whoever they could find; so the banquet hall was filled with guests.

But when the king came to greet the guests, he noticed a man there who wasn’t wearing dinner dress, and he asked him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a tuxedo?’

And the man had no answer.

Then the king said to the attendants, “Tie him hand and foot and fling him out into the dark, where there will be grief and rage.”

For many are called, but few are chosen.

Photo of a flower

Reflection by Deborah Beach Giordano
October 20, 2014

God the Fashionista?

Paris fashion showNow I like stylish clothes as well as the next person — better than some, to be sure. But not even in my wildest fantasies do I imagine that God is fashion-conscious. The Holy One is concerned with who we are inside, not with what covers our outsides.

So what is the purpose of this story that Jesus tells? Why does the king get so angry at the badly-dressed wedding guest — and then order his staff to dispose of the fellow like a Hefty bag full of trash? If the king stands for God (as we assume he does) who is the man supposed to be and what does his clothing have to do with anything?

The parable ends with the famous dictum: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” This phrase has been used, over the years, as proof that God’s grace is limited. Only a small percentage is going to make the heavenly grade; the rest of us had better learn to like barbecue….

Predestination

trash bagFurther, the divine choice is portrayed as purely arbitrary. It has nothing to do with who you are or what you’ve done: before you were born, God decided on the ultimate destiny of your soul, and no amount of good works or bad behavior can change the outcome. If the Holy One didn’t like your looks — away you go, off to eternal perdition. Poof! Gone. No discussion, no argument. Some to redemption, some to the rubbish heap.

Well, phooey, I say. The Designer of the Universe doesn’t make garbage; neither is God mean or miserly. The One I know — and whom Jesus preached about — is extravagantly generous, deeply compassionate and crazy-in-love with us.

Besides, this parable turns the idea of a scarcity of grace upside down. Of the whole teeming multitude that the king’s staff had swept up from every corner of the city, only one got tossed out on his ear. It appears that many are called to the feast and only a few are chosen to be sent away.

Rethinking

The parable of the wedding feast is a story about God’s generosity; it is a story about all those who are to be included in the heavenly kingdom. And that’s almost everybody. Almost.

There’s still that one fellow. What was wrong with him?

It had to do with the way he was dressed.

It had to do with appearances.

Appearances

Angelina Jolie meeting the QueenAppearances are important.

Recently, when Angelina Jolie attended an awards ceremony at Buckingham Palace, the actress wore a conservative gray suit. It was not the kind of outfit she would wear on the red carpet. At this very different sort of occasion her appearance conveyed a very different message from glamor and glitter: she was serious, dignified, respectful. She had come to meet the queen.

Our clothing speaks to the value we assign to an event: you don’t show up at a wedding in the clothes you’d wear to muck out the barn; you dress “nice,” to honor the occasion. What we wear has a practical application as well: you don’t don evening wear to change the oil in the car.

Expectations

The way we are dressed makes a statement about who we are and what we expect to do. You could say that it is “an outward sign of an inward attitude.” Are we going to be attending a meeting, or going to work in a coal mine, or teaching a kindergarten class? Each requires a different sort of outfit, and we’ll want to be dressed accordingly.

People who have been invited to a wedding reception should come dressed for a party; they should be prepared to have fun. Their attitude should be relaxed, pleasant, cheerful. They should behave like people who have received some Good News.

Hmm. Perhaps that’s the problem with the misfit wedding guest: it isn’t his outfit so much as his attitude that’s wrong.

Party Guests

celebrate!Those who have been invited to share in the king’s banquet — through no merit of their own — ought to be joyful, festive, celebratory. They ought to be happy folks who are fun to be around, cheerfully sharing with others from what they have received. Does that describe most of the Christians you know? Does that describe any of the Christians you know?

Does it describe you?

Attitude is important. Our attitude is how we appear to the world; it shows others who we are and what we believe. Our attitude is the clothing of our soul.

Are our souls dressed like wedding guests? Can we be readily recognized as people who have heard the Good News? Are we enthusiastic, hopeful, and cheery? Would the king approve of our appearance?

The More the Merrier

The parable of the wedding feast does not celebrate the few who are “chosen,” but the festive many who aren’t the least bit special. It isn’t about exclusion, but inclusion.

center

In telling this story Jesus isn’t warning us about a scarcity of grace, but assuring us of God’s extraordinary generosity. And he is reminding us that the Good News is cause for rejoicing. Always.

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah

Suggested Spiritual Exercise

If our attitude is the clothing of our soul, what is your soul wearing?

From silly devotions and sour faced saints, Good Lord, deliver us!
    ~ St. Theresa of Avila