What are we wearing?

Gospel reading Matthew 22:1-14

A king throws a wedding banquet. The invited guests behave very badly – many send their
excuses, others abuse and murder the messengers. In exasperation, the King sends his
remaining slaves to gather in all kinds of people from the streets to the party. One of their
number is not dressed correctly so is thrown out into the outer darkness where there is
wailing and gnashing of teeth. A paraphrase of today’s gospel.

Can you imagine being that man – you’re gathered into a party you hadn’t planned to go to, only to find yourself thrown out in highly embarrassing fashion for being wrongly clothed? Of course, we live in a culture dominated by fashion. What we wear reveals who we are. What we wear can evoke unexpected reactions in others – it is worth pausing the remember the young Goth Sophie Lancaster, tragically beaten and killed not that far from here in Rossendale because of how she dressed and looked.

Back to the parable. And who do the people of the streets represent? Yes, us… the Gentiles. The invited guests were the people of God of old – the Jewish people. In their centuries old relationship with God, during which the prophets were given a hard time on the whole, God was faithful to the Jewish people and still is. But now the invitation is open to the Gentiles, or non-Jews, too.

So the big question is ‘what are we wearing?’. The new Testament is full of images of clothing – where it refers to the life of Christ which we ‘wear’ like a garment. Its like the white robe of Baptism symbolizing the new life we put on at Baptism – the life of Christ – we put on Christ like a dressing gown. It is also like the whole armour of God from Ephesians – the breastplate of salvation, the sword of truth and so on. Or it can be the clothing of love talked about in Colossians.

So, we ‘the street people’, have to make sure that we’re wearing the right kind of clothes
for God’s party. This parable is a warning to us – the outsiders – about the shape, the
content and the colour of our lives. To use another of Jesus’ clothing images, are we really like wolves dressed as lambs, or goats trying to pass themselves off as sheep? Or maybe we’re ‘Sunday best’ Christians – we look decent on Sundays but for the rest of the week anyone would be hard pressed to know we’re a Christian.  What we’re supposed to be dressed in is a garment of light – as people we are to draw others as we radiate the light, love and warmth of God. This is what happens as we live as Christians, ‘putting on Christ’ day by day – learning to walk with God, learning to love with God’s heart and to see with God’s eyes. This is what we wear to God’s party.

So, reflect… what are you wearing today? Having been gathered into the party, are you staying or will you be taken out into the darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth?

Rev’d Dr. Anne Morris

Vicar St. Oswald’s, Knuzden, Blackburn