This was the sermon I gave at Community of Grace yesterday.
“The Welcome Mat”
October 9, 2005
Community of Grace Christian Church
New Brighton, MN
Being that this is Minnesota, we have all at sometime been invited to a potluck. Now, I both love and hate these events. I love them because it’s fun to cook for others. But why I hate them weighs more heavily than why I love them. Let me tell you a story. Every year a Bible Study that I attend has a Thanksgiving meal. We all bring different parts of the meal and it’s always a good time. Well, five years ago, I decided to be creative and make bannana bread and my favorite, maccoroni and cheese. I spent a few hours making both items causing some problems with my back in the process. I took what I made to the potluck and....neither was hardly touched.
That, is why I hate potlucks. You spend time trying to make something people might like and it ends up not being eaten. After that time, I started not bringing such elaborate parts to this meal. One year I brought pop, last year cranberries, but I guess I still hold a bit of a grudge because I came home five years ago with a ton of bread and mac and cheese. I guess it still feels like a slap in the face.
Today’s sermon is about a king who feels somewhat like I did...or do. The king had prepared a banquet to celebrate the wedding of his son. You can imagine he had spent a lot of time planning things to make sure they were just right. We he finally sends his servants out to spread the good news and invite the guests, they refuse, in some cases violently. The king them asks his servants to bring in the poor and the lame and the servants do as they are told and invite them to the feast. Here is it was, people who had no business being in the king’s palace were no welcomed with open arms.....or so it seems.
The end of the parable is about one that had no wedding clothes on and was cast out into the darkness. It was a rather dark ending to what seems to be a wonderful story.
So what does this all mean? Well, first this is another one of Jesus’ parables about what the kingdom of God is like. Remember that parables are not moral tales, but instead of are insight into who God is and what God’s world is like. In this story, Jesus likens the kingdom to a king (in this case, God) who invites people who seem to know the king to a great banquet. Now, these people who were probably stand-ins for the religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew the king. They were personally invite to have dinner with the king. And yet, they refused. The king then asks his servants to bring in the poor and lame, the outcasts of that day. They come in, but one doesn’t have on wedding clothes.
Now a point of note is in order here. It was custom during Jesus’ time for guests to receive wedding clothes when they attended a wedding. The host would provide them with these clothes. So if you decided to not wear the clothes and keep wearing the clothes you wore on the street, you were not treating the host with must respect. This is why the guest was thrown out of the banquet.
This is a story about God. God invites all of us to commune with God. Some who know God refuse for whatever reason. They get busy with life and ignore the wonderous gift God has given us. Some react with hostility. Others who, are hungry for grace and for love come to God and are welcomed. Finally, there are some at the banquet who want to believe they made it there on their own with out God’s help. Of course, this is tantamount to coming to dinner party and eating food you prepared instead of the host’s meal.
So, where are we in this story? Have we become so busy with life that we have ignored God’s love? Are we trying to pretend we can get to God with no help from God? Or are we like the poor and lame who are starving for some attention and wanting to wear the clothes of grace God has given us?
This morning, I along with Eva, spoke at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka. It was Solidarity Sunday, a day that they celebrate GLBT persons and welcome them to their congregation. What I remember from our time together is something my host, Jeffrey Hatcher said: that we need to get our welcome mat from the stoop and out into the streets.
As Christians, we have been shown the radical love of God in the person of Jesus Christ. That is what this parable reminds us. There is nothing, nothing we can do to get into God’s good graces, that has already been done. We are welcomed into the banquet, where we can wear good clothes and eat a sumptous meal.
Because we have been shown grace, we then should live a life of gratitude. And that is what was wrong with the guest who didn’t wear his wedding clothes. He was an ingrate. As ones who have been shown such grace, we should also be welcoming to the outcasts who are among us.
Community of Grace is over a year old and our central message is that we welcome all to the table to sup together. In a time when religious leaders are telling gays and lesbians that they aren’t welcomed in God’s church and bound for hell, we dare to present another message.
As Christians, we are called to go into the highways and byways to share the good news of Christ with those who are starving for it. GLBT folk are dying to be told that they belong and we need to let them know they are loved by God and welcomed to come to the banquet.
By the way, some people do like my cooking. This past year, I made a Southern Favorite, Hoppin’ John, that was gobbled up by my friends. How graceful.