April 5, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“Therefore, put on the full armor of God. In so doing you will be able to stand your ground when the day of evil comes. After you have done everything you are able to in that day, you will be able to stand [before the throne of God with humble confidence.]” (Ephesians 6.13)
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.” (Matthew 22.11-12)
TODAY’S REFLECTION ON GOD’S WORD:
The imagery of a wedding is used in both the Old and New Testaments as an illustration of God’s relationship with His people. Israel was often called “The Bride.” We speak of the Church, especially in light of the teaching in the Book of Revelation, as the “Bride of Christ.” The ceremony which surrounds betrothal, preparation for the married life, the wedding attendants fidelity to their appointed tasks, the wedding itself, the wedding party and even the guest list speak of the significant place in the spiritual life which a wedding has in reminding the people of God’s love for them and their love for Him. The story we hear from Jesus during one of His holy week appearances in the Temple concerning a wedding of a prince is significant to our reflection on Ephesians 6.13. In that story, the invitation to attend the wedding banquet was extended. In Middle Eastern tradition, the guests always had to be “on the ready.” The wedding banquet was an “on call” event which depended on the groom’s father to make the final determination as to when. Even the groom had no idea “what time it would be.” Does that sound familiar? Remember when Jesus was asked for a sign as to when He would take authority over the earth and come into power? One of the things Jesus said was “No one but the Father knows the day nor the hour, not even the Son.” Be ready. Be prepared. Have the wedding clothes at hand because one never knows when the invitation of “Now is the time” would be extended. Oh, sure they knew they were on the guest list. But, it was more of an invitation of expectation. Everyone knew the rules of “engagement.” But, in this case, those to whom the invitation had been extended had “better things to do.” One went out to the field to farm. One went off to work. In another telling of a similar story, one went off to bury their dead. And adding insult to injury, some of the invited guests were so disturbed by the “sudden expectation of attendance” being that very moment that they seized the king’s messengers. They mistreated them (you can read “torture”) and eventually killed them. The king exacted justice for the murders which was swift and terrible. Then the king gave orders to go out and invite anyone and everyone to the wedding banquet. And Jesus was clear that the servants invited “just anyone” to the party. Regardless of who it was, the expectation of decorum was still in place.
This brings us to the point in our reflection where “being clothed” is vitally important. No, I do not mean that some people showed up naked. In truth, everyone who showed up, except for one man, had put on their best for the occasion. This was, after all, the wedding of a prince. It was undoubtedly held in the king’s hallowed hall. It does not mean that all the attendees were dressed as dignitaries, kings, queens, princes and princesses. It does mean they didn’t just show up (as I have seen some people do in some weddings). Don’t get me wrong, while some people cannot afford a suit or dress, they can clean up and be respectably presentable. But, one man did not. He stood out. He may have done so intentionally. He may have been truly destitute and was hoping for a “good meal.” He may have been lodging a protest. Whatever the reason, he was “out of place.” He soon found himself “out of the place.” He was not clothed to honor the bride and groom. He was clothed with the intention of honoring himself or excusing the lack of honor he had for himself. Suffice it to say…it was bad.
It reminds me of another “bad” story. This one spoke of a crazed mad man feared by the locals. He may have been judged to be criminally insane. He was taken to a seaside bend in the shore where the wind and waves had hollowed out the cliffs and made what could be called cells. It was there that such people were “made at home.” One dark and stormy night (Snoopy might have loved that beginning of the story), Jesus and the disciples ended up landing at that place. They were greeted, if you could call it that, by the madman of madmen. He had loosed his chains from their hold in the rock. He clothes were ragged shreds barely covering his filth ridden body. The disciples feared for their lives and wanted to set back to sail and land anywhere else. But, Jesus stepped from boat He was in and approached the man. After a brief conversation, Jesus brought the man to his senses. When the disciples finally believed it was safe, they stepped ashore. Perhaps they convinced each other they were to “rescue” Jesus. What they found was this man sitting next to Jesus by a fire. They were having dinner. The man was cleaned up and clothed. He was in his right mind and with a right spirit. The story was recounted by the disciples later with particular attention paid to the fact that “he was clothed.” Nakedness spoke of shame. Adam and Eve became aware of their sin conscience due to disobedience to the Lord’s invitation to stay prepared. They saw they were naked and were ashamed. They tried to clothe themselves with coverings of leaves. It was inappropriate and insufficient. What God did, in His forgiveness but in exacting justice, was to sacrifice an animal (I assume a lamb or two) and made coverings for them. God the spiritual seamstress. Now, they were ready to meet the world and declare the judgment and mercy of God. Their shame as “law breakers” was replaced with the claim of “God bearers of grace.” If God could forgive and make them presentable, He could do the same for others who would confess the truth about their lives.
Now, mighty ones of God, let us reflect on Paul’s writing to the community of faith in Ephesus. He urges them to be prepared with the invitation of expectation. They were to “put on the full armor of God.” They were to be dressed for the occasion as befits those who were of the King. Following the pace of Revelation, we ourselves are headed for a final wedding party where the Church, the Bride of Christ, and the Christ Himself, the Groom, will be united forever. The invitation is extended at the Father’s command. He is none other than Yahweh Elohim. This is no ordinary wedding party. This is an eternal celebration established in the midst of our enemies (thank you King David for that image.) We need to be prepared with our “prayer warrior” clothes. We need to stand at the ready or suffer the consequences of being left out or cast out. Just ask Lucifer…”How’s that working for you?” I think you get my meaning.
A PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Father, Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. We are prepared and ready to meet and greet the opportunity presented daily to stand ready to rebuke the enemy and bring glory to God as did and does His Son. AMEN.