Make It Work, Designers
#MakeItWorkDesigners is the podcast for October 15, 2017. Are people really cast into hell for wearing the wrong garment? Or, is there a type of garment that is talked about in the parable something else? It is something else and here it is. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Brothers #DressforSuccess #Matthew22 #Garment #Disposition #IntimacyWithGod
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For The Church of Saint Raphael the Archangel, Munster, IN and My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/15/2017 The 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 22:1-14.
In some way, shape, or form, I admire each one of my siblings. Today, I want to talk about one particular brother of mine. He has always been someone I have looked up to. When his wife was dying of cancer, we talked once per week. When we were kids, he took me with him and his friends when he really didn’t want to and treated me well. He has always been funny, extremely dry sense of humor funny. I can say that I love him with all my heart, of course. I looked up to him at some particular points in my life that left a lasting impact on me.
When he was at college, I was in high school. He was starting to look for jobs as he was entering the workforce and the book Dress for Success had just come out. Although some of the rules for matching patterns of design for shirts, ties, and jackets no longer apply, there are certain things that the book impressed upon me that I will never forget. The first of which is that people judge you by your appearance. I know that there is a huge movement to break the norms of what is acceptable and what is not, there is still a judgment made by the very people who are breaking the norms “to get rid of judgment.” I am judged by the clothes I wear, the tattoos that I do not have, the facial hair that I wear.
What you wear usually is a statement about who you are. How you wear what you wear also says something. The book is pretty insightful as a sociological tool. In fact, I know that I am operating within the book’s parameters of how to “dress for success” when people will make assumptions about me or my background that could not be farther from the truth. When people meet me, they do not think “welfare childhood, nine kids, alcoholism in family.” I have even had people say things like, “well, your family probably didn’t experience that”.
I do not want you to get the wrong impression, I am not trying to flim flam anyone. I am dressing in a way that I think says a lot about who I am. I am accomplished in my own right, whether others think I am or not. I am worthy of respect because God made me, whether others think I am or not. I am beautiful because God made me, whether others think I am or not. I am intelligent because God made me intelligent, whether my family wants to recognize that or not. (Did you catch that?). I want to present myself in ways that speak loudly to the world that this is what I believe. Part of the way that I do that is in the garments that I wear.
It is tough to read that some will be thrown out of heaven because of the garments that they wear. Well, at least at first blush that’s what this passage looks like. This is the third week that we find Jesus still going at it with the leaders of the Temple in the Temple. It says that he taught them a parable, but what we find is an in your face allegory. Again, it is an allegory of the way in which the very leaders of the people of God, who are supposed to know God and want very much to do his will, how they reject God, the representatives of God, and are now rejecting his very Son.
In the midst of this allegory, we are told that the Gentiles, that is us, will be invited in, but those who aren’t wearing a “garment” will not be allowed to stay. What is going on with this “garment”? If this is an allegory, what could the garment be?
It may be helpful for us to notice that in this story that Jesus tells, he talks about the bridegroom, but he doesn’t talk about the bride. The bride in this story is the one for whom the bridegroom will come, marry, celebrate the wedding feast and then attend to forever and ever. The bride in the story are those who come to the wedding. We are the bride.
This may be a little disconcerting for some because it would seem strange to talk about our relationship with Christ as a wedding. Yet, St. Paul does so in Ephesians 5. As I have mentioned over and over about 1 Corinthians 13, brides have chosen this passage about the love we ought to have for Christ and one another to represent what they think marriage ought to be. If anywhere, it is in our marriages that we should expect and hope that we would find unconditional love and commitment.
Our marriage partner should be our number one fan. They should have our back toward the outside world. If there is a side to be taken, they should take our side, as we take theirs. We should be the same for them as we expect them to be for us. The point is that a wedding is the perfect symbol of a relationship with God because a relationship with God should be passionate, tender, intense, fun, affirming, challenging, and transformational on both sides.
One of the failures of religion is to portray the dynamic between the Father, the Holy Spirit, and mostly Jesus, as rule bearers and enforcers. That is not what it means to have a relationship with God. It is much more dynamic than that. Jesus Christ is a respecter of persons. There is a back and forth that happens between us and Jesus. He will not force himself upon us. It is a tender relationship in that way.
It would be false that Jesus is not assertive. He does send us out to do incredible things and teach that there is a way of the Lord and a way that leads away from the Lord. Yes, indeed, I do not want us to lose sight of the renewing transformative vision and mission Jesus has for us. Indeed, that mission and community, called the Church, is the wedding feast. We are sent out into the market place to gather people to come to the Church and feast at the Lord’s table in a wedding celebration.
We do not do that in any “garment.” We dress for success. We let our outward actions show the relationship that we have with our Bridegroom. We are to wear garments of intense love of Jesus. We are to wear garments of justice, goodness, kindness and love. We are to apologize when we fail. We are to seek truth and an empathetic way of life for all, especially the outcast and the poor. But see, again, as a preacher of the Gospel, I fall into the ways we should act toward others, but what I should really be talking about is the way that we interact with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is to him that we are wed as a people.
The “garment” is the disposition of devotion, intimacy, and mission we have with Jesus. It is this garment we are to wear to the wedding feast as we present ourselves to Jesus Christ. It is a disposition that opens us up for trust, trusting that He loves us enough not to shaft us, or desert us, or be cruel to us. In fact, I have found in my own life as well, that it is Jesus who stays with us when all the humans have lost need of us or are worn out by us. This intimacy and pact of blood oath and steely protective determination is the relationship that we are to have with Christ. Those who share that relationship with Jesus are those with whom we ought to be able to share the same blood oath and steely protective determination.
The relationship with Christ, like a wedding, is a promise of fidelity by Jesus to us. It is a promise that we return in our fidelity to him.
What garment are you wearing? Is it the wedding garment and are you at the wedding feast? If not, the feast is ready and the bridegroom has come. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2017.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian