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Between Sundays for Week of October 16, 2023

The parable Jesus tells in Matthew 22:1-14 is a doozy. Please read it with a few reminders:

  • As Paul tells the Philippians, God is a God of peace. No matter what else might be true, God does not respond like the king in this parable. God does not resort to violence – or encourage us to use violence – in establishing God’s kingdom.
  • Jesus uses parables to make a point. A parable is not intended to be taken literally. It is not a straight allegory (meaning that the characters in the parable are not one-for-one stand-ins for God, or Jesus or disciples like you or me). And this parable in particular is hyperbolic: Jesus uses big, extreme, over-the-top descriptors to make his point.

With that in mind, this parable paints a glorious picture of the kingdom of heaven as a lavish, no-expense-spared, blatant display of generosity, celebration of love. And a disheartening – although perhaps realistic – picture of the ways that people respond by retreating to their corners, lashing out in anger and violence, taking what isn’t theirs, and rejecting all that is gracious and generous. These contrasting descriptions highlight the distinction between the joy and fullness of the kingdom of God and the kind of desolation that feels too familiar in this world.

So what is Jesus trying to tell us through this parable? Maybe part of Jesus’ point is this stark contrast between the kingdom of heaven and the world as we know it. Maybe they are so very different that we can’t even begin to fathom what it is to take part in the kingdom of heaven. And if we do show up, maybe we aren’t really prepared to take part in the celebration. We don’t even put on our party clothes. And that doesn’t fly because the celebration – the fullness of the kingdom of heaven – means that everyone who is there is all in.

Can you imagine showing up at the swimming pool without your swimsuit? Or a soccer game without shin guards and cleats? You might be there in body, but you aren’t truly ready to be in on the action.

Accepting the invitation to God’s party requires that we clothe ourselves in the garments that the occasion calls for. We can’t show up dressed in our same old clothes of boredom, gloom, fear, distraction, hopelessness, self-centeredness, self-consciousness or worry.

If the big lavish party is the kingdom of God, then our party clothes are compassion and kindness and justice and forgiveness and love. In other words, showing up to this party means being CLOTHED IN CHRIST.
When we are clothed in Christ – when we have put on love (see “ponderings” below!) – then God uses us to build God’s kingdom here on earth. We don’t yet experience it’s fullness but we glimpse that joyful, jubilant celebration here and now. Thanks be to God!

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More and more, our communities look like enclaves of people who think exactly the way we do. Our world continues to reveal the danger of this practice, because when our communities mirror us, it’s easy to lose sight of our shared humanity.

If you’re interested in going deeper into the writings referenced by Abby and Amy in this week’s podcast, check out Monica Guzman’s book or Kristin Johnson Largen’s blog.

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Being Clothed in Christ reminds me of this song (with credit and thanks to Ruth G. for teaching it to me and the kids who attend Worship for Kids!)

Put on love everyday

Never hide your love away

Don’t save love for a special day

Put on love everyday

Put on love everyday

Put on love with your sneakers

Put on love with your old blue jeans

Put on love with your special clothes

Put on love everyday

Put on love everyday

What will it look like for you to put on love today?