God has a great party going on
St. John's United Church of Christ
Oct. 13, 2002
Gracie Allen, who was married to George Burns once said, "Never place a period where God has placed a comma." Never place a period where God has placed a comma. The wedding guest wearing the wrong clothes in the scripture today is an example of what happens when we put a period where God has placed a comma. Too bad for him! What is this story about, you might ask! Well, let's take a look.
The story is really an allegory of salvation history. It is a symbolic attempt to describe for us the salvation process. It is a picture of salvation. The wedding feast represents the age to come. It is eternity, heaven, eternal life. The king throwing the party—that's God. The party is for his Son—the Messiah, the one we call Jesus Christ.
There's an interesting passage in Revelation 19:7-9 that sheds some light on this messianic banquet. John writes: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Remember this for later. Then the angel said to me, 'Write: "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!"'"
Now, that means you and I are blessed. We are blessed because we have been invited to this wedding party. You and I have been invited to the eternal celebration. Matthew says in 22:14, "many are invited." I believe the word "many" really means "all." I believe that Jesus died for everyone. And If Jesus died for everyone, He is going to include us all on the invitation list for the eternal party. That is just logical. Why leave someone off the list whom you bled and died for?
Yep, we are all invited.
Jesus also says, "but few are chosen." This statement—"Many are invited, but few are chosen"—is not a prediction of the proportion of the saved to the damned. Matthew is not trying to frighten Christians with the thought that the statistical odds are against them. He is attempting to encourage us to make a vigorous effort to live the Christian life. He is prodding us not to be complacent in our walk with Christ. He is giving us a heads-up that we need to be careful we don't fool ourselves into thinking we have achieved spiritual perfection. He is encouraging us to keep growing. God says, "You are invited—comma." Look how many of the invited guests in this story don't even show up for God's party. Check out this bunch in verse 3 that was invited and flat refuse to show up—period. Then in verse 5 right in the face of the king some of them decided work was more important then the party—period. They decided that their livelihood was more important then their life. Seems what they were bringing in was more important than what they were giving out. They were more interested in protecting what they had than in using what they had to help someone else enjoy the party.
Our periods don't stop God
It gets worse in verse 6. This gang of thugs abuses the messengers. The prophets and missionaries who bring the invitation are laughed at, shouted down or dismissed because the invitation means the invitee is required to do something different then they had been used to doing—period.
Problem with our periods, though, is they don't stop God. Those periods only stop the ones who put the period where God has a comma. You see, God is not ready to stop moving. He won't use a period until the end of time. He is still moving. When we lay down a period in our spiritual journey we miss what God is doing next.
Anyway, back to the story. God invites some more folks and they respond to the invitation. In this invitation God invites all kinds of people—some good, some bad. This invitation goes out to some scary characters. He invites folks we wouldn't want in our house. Thieves are invited. Homeless folk, poor people living in trailers are invited. Immigrants from Arab countries get an invite along with people living with HIV and AIDS. God wants them all—us—at his party. So this mob of "undesirables" comes to the party. They come because they know God is better then anything else they could have in this life. They want the best, so they accept God's invitation to celebrate Jesus.
That is, except for one man. Now, this is important. In verse 11 the king notices a man not wearing wedding clothes. The poorly dressed man had heard the invitation—like we have heard it. The man had accepted the invitation—like we have accepted it. But, the man did not respond with a changed lifestyle. He put a period where God placed a comma. The required garment for this party is righteousness. Remember the passage from Revelation? "Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)" That means living in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Righteousness is easily explained in one sentence: it is the sentence that is Matthew 28:19—"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
Wow! Have you worn the garment of righteousness recently? Have you noticed it hanging in your closet lately? When do you remember seeing it last? Did you send it to the cleaners and forget to go get it back? Did it get packed away with the winter stuff? Have you gone and made a disciple lately? Have we been obeying everything Jesus has commanded us? Wow! Have we placed a period where God has only placed a comma?
Hearing the invitation to receive Jesus Christ isn't enough. If we stop there we are placing a period where God has placed a comma. Accepting the invitation to receive Jesus as your Savior isn't enough. If we stop there we are placing a period where God has placed a comma. We are called to put on the garment of righteousness, to obey everything Christ has commanded and make disciples of everyone. We are called to walk the walk, to talk the talk, to put our money where our mouth is, lead by example, carry the torch, beat the drum, tell the story, get our hands dirty, think outside the box, carry our cross, follow Jesus Christ.
If we chose to place a period anywhere in our spiritual journey as individuals or as a church we will be like the man who was thrown out of the eternal party. Today is a great day to erase the periods we have been using and replace them with God's commas. Hey, God has a great party going on and he wants us all in the celebration. Come on! Put on the garment of righteousness and join the party. It's not too late! God is still using commas because he hasn't reached the end of the sentence yet. For the rest of our lives, let's get dressed and go party with Jesus.