It is Sunday afternoon on what was probably the hottest day of the year. I have not slept in 48 hours. I am dressed in my tuxedo, hair still dense with gel from the party the night before, and as I sat under the hot theater lights waiting for my turn. All I could think was “please don’t fall asleep. Please don’t fall asleep!” Last night was the first party to mark the end of my education, a dry grad party, while in a few short moments I am about to mark the beginning of a new chapter with my confirmation by the Bishop at our cathedral. I thought it was such a smart idea to cram as much into that weekend as possible, one-and-done. But was I actually present? I had been through all the courses and done the work, it was time to get “it” done. I showed up that day, but I remember nothing beyond the heat. I said the words as I was instructed, and in my heart I believed it, but I was not fully present. My body was there, but my mind was in my bed at home, where after the party’s finished, I retreated for three days afterwards. I showed up for the party God was inviting me too half dressed and ready for a journey I didn’t really understand. God called and I kind of showed up. I give thanks that for the 17 years between that day and today that God never called a perfect man to faith, rather God has continued to perfect this one that he’s called.
God doesn’t call the perfect, God perfects the called
In our readings this morning we hear from Matthew of a wedding party. A party which to many of us may seem illogical in how those who attend decide to show up and be seen at the party. When we get invited to parties, it’s not unusual for us to wear our nicer clothes, or if it’s a very special party we may go and purchase a new suit or dress - maybe that beautiful hat we’ve always wanted. Why? Why do we do that work? It’s expensive, and sometimes means we buy something we can’t wear again, I’m thinking of that teal dress from the 80’s or that black dress with sleeves so big we were wearing loofahs around our heads. We do it because we care. We care about the people who invited us, and we care about being part of something very special and unique. We care about returning the favor of an important invitation, from people we love and care about, who want us to share in their joy. We also, at some level, recognize that we are being invited to the start of something new, exciting, and challenging. We will meet new friends and find old ones, all of which will bring back memories of our own parties, and how it is we want to see ourselves in the world. Matthew is doing the same for us this morning. Matthew is most concerned about defining Jesus as the messiah, the one drawn from the live of David. His need to show and explain how Jesus is important is wrapped up in our Gospel this morning. Jesus, for Matthew, is focused on how it is we live, how we grow, and how we mature in our paths of life into the kingdom of God present among us. Jesus here, in our gospel this morning, is focused on discipleship in the kingdom of God which is already present, but the guests refuse the invitation of their king to show up. For the invited guests, their own status-quo was more important than attending the banquet. Their desire to not rock their boats, not grow, not see something new or change was more important that the very life the king was extending. Even among the street people, there is one man singled out as not prepared for the banquet, he isn’t wearing the right clothes and we see what happens when we wear the wrong thing! Why is clothing so important? What does it say about who we are? How does it inform our relationship with God?
Throughout the Hebrew scriptures we hear of the importance of clothing, of being “clothed in the garments of salvation” as Isaiah 61 says. The psalms are dripping with references to garments as light, splendor and Majesty as psalm 104 reminds us. These are sumptuous images. Light, splendor, Majesty, salvation. They are all words that evoke something beyond us, bigger, grander. They are for us windows into God’s Kingdom, windows present for us today. The vestments I wear are representations of that kingdom work. The alb, the white garment, represents for us the baptism to which we are all called when we are clothed in the celestial light of God’s love through Christ. The stole over my chasuble represents the authority to teach and preach, with the needs of the community ever on my heart in full awareness of the yolk of Christ whose lite burden I carry. The Chasuble represents for us the charity of Christ, a charity of love which is willing to give His life for the salvation of humanity. The symbols on the stole represent the nature of Christ closest to my heart. Christ with healing in his wings, seated in majesty is taken from the symbols of the society of St. John the evangelist, a monastic order close to my heart. Connecting the two sides are the nature of Christ as given to us by the prologue of John. On the other side is the silver cross from my seminary aflame with the rainbow, symbolizing the unquestioning acceptance of all God’s Children regardless of sexuality, and surrounded with maple leaves for my family, poppies for my grandparents, and a jellyfish for my ordination sponsor. Each of these symbols and the people they represent are windows into God’s grace, God’s kingdom and the necessity of being physically clothed in them has never left my mind. It’s not just silk and wool that I wear. I wear my life, my faith, my trust, and my hope.
The wedding robe in our gospel is a reminder, like my vestments, of the Grace of God, His favor, which we are invited to wear as beloved of God. It can be so easy to think that we are not worthy of God’s Grace, the free and unmerited favor of God. We do a lot in our world to stand against accepting God’s grace, indeed there are many times when the plenteous reality of grace poured forth in our scriptures can seem overwhelming. We may lie, we may misrepresent ourselves, we may cheat, or steal, or even more dangerously, we may ignore God’s vocation for our lives choosing our own more comfortable and known path over his more unknown and challenging one. However we are, week after week, invited to this most amazing banquet, where there is enough wine and enough bread for all. Where there is space for everyone. Where there is community and friends. Where there is god and god’s abundance breathing through into the world we live because we dare to show up. Daring to show up, as Brene Brown explores in her work on vulnerability, suggests that it is our ability to be fully present, fully invested, fully engaged with what it is we are doing in our lives. If we carry this theme of showing up into our lives today, as illuminated by the gospel this morning, Daring to show up means we are willing to put on the wedding robe of God’s grace regardless of if we feel worthy of it, not as an exercise of humility or attention seeking, but as a recognition of Gods incredible abundance and favor in our lives. We receive this favor not by works, but by presence and willingness to lean into God’s vision for our lives with everything we are and everything we have. We don’t hold back, we show up and we dare to jump in knowing our faults but trusting that god never called the perfect, rather god continues to perfect the called.
Each and everyone of us here this morning is called to change the world because of the wedding robe we dare to wear in our lives. From the smile and eye contact we give the homeless person, the authentic conversation with the Batista at Starbucks, our willingness to remove the ear-buds from our phones and talk to a friend on the bus. In recognizing the humanity of another person, we continue the work of transforming the world from scarcity to sumptuous banquet laden with enough food for everyone because we recognize the grace God has given us in our lives, a grace we are asked to put to use this morning. The work of God’s grace is already present in this community in the way we orient ourselves in love for one another. Holding each other in prayer and challenge, our community events, and our outreach, and there is a place for you in each of these- no previous experience is required! We have committed to a program of teaching and education in this parish for the next year which sees us meet with all the groups responsible for our common life together from greeting, to liturgy, from serving to pastoral visiting, in order to deepen the spirituality of what we are doing and why. We continue to gather in our life groups, exploring God’s grace in our lives through the fundamentals of our faith which are found in the creeds, scripture, and sacraments. Most importantly, we take this faith into the streets of our community in the Neighbourhood Ministry. In this ministry, we allow the wedding robe of God’s grace to fully envelop us, sustaining and empowering us to use the gifts God has given us to engage in his Kingdom present among us, found in the faces of those who call the streets home. We are called to fully engage the invitation of God boundless grace by daring to show up in everything we are- the joy and the mess, and leaning fully into the life God has called us too. A life which is constantly being perfected by the one who has called us to this banquet. God doesn’t call the perfect, God perfects the called
In our vulnerability, our ability to recognize our need for help through community and relationship, when we are fully ready to lean into our discomfort about daring to show up and be seen by others for who we really are, rather than what we want them to see, we fully own the wedding robe of God’s grace. We recognize the beauty of a robe which fits us not because we are perfect for it, but because God has made it perfectly for us in faith. When we see that the world is bigger than our own comforts that give us false senses of safety, we see the kingdom of God fully present in our midst, and our imperfectly perfect role in that kingdom. God doesn’t call the perfect indeed, and thanks be to God for that. God does continue to perfect you and I in our daily reshaping into the likeness of Christ, which is fed through our prayers, strengthened by our community, and grounded in the sacraments. You and I have all been invited to a wedding this morning, a wedding which has been taking place for generations, a wedding the world is thirsty for because it speaks to the deepest part of who we are- it speaks to what we are, a child of God’s grace. This is a wedding between God and humanity which has been celebrated throughout time in the promises God has made to us, promises the world desperately needs to hear. The table is set, the candles are lit, the music is playing, the best wine is poured, the most sumptuous robe is waiting for you, God is inviting you to embrace Him in his deepest joy, which is your trust in him to provide all things.
God is calling you into a deeper sense of yourself, fed through relationship with Christ and his sacramental church. How are you going dare to show up and put on the robe of His grace this week?