Because There is Jesus, Part 3:
The Robe of Respect
October 9, 2011
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
I am so grateful to my parents, my relatives, Pastors and sisters, all who surrounded me with love and encouragement in my faith as I grew up. I am also grateful to all of you and to all the lay people I have known in many churches who have encouraged me to stay close to the Lord. I hope that you have had people like that in your life also. Life is better because there is Jesus! And we all need each other to keep our faith strong and encouraged, don't we?
During the last weeks we have talked about the fact that because there is Jesus, there is light instead of darkness in our lives. Because there is Jesus, there is the sweetness of Godís love, sweet as the clusters of grapes on the vine. Jesus bought us a whole new concept of God - the Giver of Light and Love.
Today, let's talk about this idea: because there is Jesus, there is a unique respect for people. In todayís Gospel, Jesus is telling us a remarkable story about the Kingdom of God.
Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a wedding feast. It is like a party. He compares it to a king who was preparing a wedding feast for his son. The king took his best cattle, the choicest food and his most lavish entertainment and set up a huge feast. He did this because he was a generous Father. He wanted to share his love and joy. He invited all his friends, the religious leaders and other important people to come and celebrate in the feast. But one by one they declined. They just didnít allow time to celebrate with the king. They had many excuses, some of which actually sounded reasonable; but in any case, they decided to decline the generosity of the King.
The king decided to move on - his love needed a place to go. He sent his servants out to the main street and asked them to call anybody who was around to come and celebrate, to share in his love. The Gospel says that many came - the poor and the not so poor as well.
This story had a very clear meaning to the people who were listening to Jesus. Jesus was saying that there is room in the kingdom for everyone, gentiles and sinners as well as devout Jews alike. All are welcome to Godís feast.
In the next part of the story, the king notices that there is someone attending who doesnít have a wedding garment. The king seems astonished. He asks the person how he got in without wearing a wedding robe. You can practically feel the tension as the astonished king calls the man "Friend". The man was speechless. Here comes the perplexing part. The king then tells his servants to bind the man hand and foot and escort him out of the out of the building and away from the feast.
Isnít this puzzling? Donít you think that this was a bit harsh? Why did the king do this? We immediately wonder - why didn't the man have the proper garment? Was he too poor? Did he not understand the dress code? Wasn't this a terribly unreasonable way to deal with a person who, for some reason, couldn't wear the proper garment?
There is one more piece to this puzzle.
The best way to understand this story is to figure out what the people of the time understood as they were listening to Jesus. At the time and place that Jesus was talking, if a king was so wealthy and generous to throw a huge feast as this, the guests, as they came to the door, would be supplied with a special wedding robe to wear. A steward would be at the door handing out beautiful white wedding robes. The people would put on the robes because they were a gift from the king! This was wonderful because the people were very poor and over their soiled, tattered, torn garments they were able to put a beautiful white wedding robe. All the guests could have a wonderful time and not worry about how they looked. The king generously provided the wedding garments to all!
What a beautiful gesture of blessing! How wonderful the guests must have felt! No one more dazzling than another, no one of greater rank, all equally clothed in the garment of celebration.
What about the man in the story who didnít have the robe on? Apparently the man had refused to wear the robe that was offered to him at the door. When the king saw the man, he pulled him aside and asked how - or rather, why - he got in without the wedding robe. The man was speechless, he knew he should have taken the robe when it was offered.
Why didn't he take it?
Could it have been arrogance? "I don't need that. I'm fine without the king's blessing. There are so many people here, he won't even notice me."
Could it have been contempt? "I'm not like all those other guests. I'm better. I don't want to look like them."
Could it have been a rebellious spirit? "You won't catch me in one of those things."
We don't know. What we do know is that the king certainly did notice - big time. And there were consequences.
But isn't the gift of the robe a wonderful analogy for our life in Christ? We are all invited to put on the garment of Christ, the "robe of respect".
The robe that says you are more than your past.
We are better than the poor choices we have made in the past.
We can be appreciated for who we are, not for what we look like, or what our economic situation is.
We can be appreciated for who we are right now.
Jesus is saying that there is a robe for you in the kingdom.
Put on the robe of respect, so people can see the real you.
Here is the good news for you and for me. We all have the robe of respect in Godís kingdom. It doesnít matter what we look like or who we have been in the past or the mistakes we have made. God looks at us today and into the future with respectful eyes and he invites us to do the same for those around us. He invites us to see each other with the eyes of respect.
We put on the robe of respect and it gives us joy. Think of all the joy you have had from being connected to Christ through the years, through your church activities. The robe of respect helps us to be more tolerant of others and be kind and patient and loving. The robe of respect helps us to accept ourselves and be kind to ourselves and each other.
God has a robe of respect just for you, a garment of righteousness, thanks to the redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord has one for you, and there is one on all the people around you.
God's robe of respect.
Wear it proudly, and admire it on others.
It looks great on you.
God loves you; I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2011 Anthony J. Godlefski