I’ve attended two weddings this summer and still have a couple more to enjoy in October.  Weddings are great fun, especially when you know both bride & groom as well as lots of guests.

So I was delighted to read Jesus’ likening the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast.  In his scenario, it’s the King who has invited people to celebrate a son’s wedding.  I can imagine how privileged the guests feel.  What if I we were invited to a royal wedding, to include a sumptuous reception (a sit-down dinner with all the courses) in elegant surroundings at Buckingham Palace?  The anticipation would be half the fun.  I would want to share my good fortune with all my friends, find the perfect dress, and set up hair and nail appointments.  Looking forward to this event would be enough to minimize daily frustrations or ‘sufferings’. I would be able to say, “Well, no matter, I still have the wedding to look forward to!”

So when Jesus says that being part of God’s family entails a personalized invitation with a luxurious feast to follow, that makes eternal life very tangible and appealing. Who doesn’t like weddings!

What is astonishing is that on the day of the wedding that Jesus describes, no one shows up!  The guests have all RSVPd according to etiquette.  But now they stand up the host.  Not only are they extremely rude, they show appalling ignorance by their willful refusal to attend. Don’t they know what they are missing?   Furthermore, some guests even kill the staff sent to escort them to the dinner.  It is difficult to understand how these guests, handpicked to witness a royal wedding, could react this way?   Had they lost their mind?

What is now frightening for the original guests is that their actions (some are indifferent, some are murderous) permanently seal their fates.  There will be no more chances to change their mind and attend after all.  The guest list suddenly shifts.  The ‘wrong crowd’ is now invited.  Surprisingly, they gratefully respond.  Jesus refers to them as a combination of ‘good and evil’ people who are totally unsuited to such a high-class celebration, but invited nonetheless.  Why they don’t even have a proper dress, or an elegant suit and they certainly haven’t bathed, or so the hoi-polloi would think.  But the King has everything covered.  He has his staff provide them each with a new outfit, certainly not one they would have been able to afford themselves.  (‘come buy wine and milk, without money and without cost’ – Isaiah 55:1)  Once they are dressed appropriately, they fit in perfectly to the royal surroundings.

The King finally arrives to survey the wedding hall. But there is a minor problem.  He immediately spots someone who evidently provided his own wedding clothes.  The King addresses him gently at first “Friend…how did you get in here with the wrong outfit?”  But the words are cutting.  This man is incredulous that his host would think he didn’t belong.  After all, he was wearing what he thought were appropriate wedding clothes.  Not only is he thrown out, but he is forcibly escorted to a horrid place.

Jesus’ parable has two main points as far as I can see.  Yes, there is a warning against thinking that we are worthy to attend the celebration.  We can’t come in our own clothes, trusting in our own worthiness.  But what I will take away, more than this reminder of my humble position, is how wonderful the reconciled life with God is.  Think of the best party you ever attended, the one that was better than you had anticipated.  Being a child of God is better than we can ‘ask or imagine’.  So be of good cheer.  Even when things at work or with our family don’t go according to our own particular plan, we can pull out our wedding invitation and do some anticipation.  Our spirits will lift and that will give us the courage and strength to carry on until the party is ready to begin!