When I was younger, I would really give myself a hard time for doing anything wrong or foolish. I wanted to get it right all the time, and I would beat myself up mercilessly when I didn’t. I wanted to belong. I wanted to be loved. And I was pretty certain that this would never happen. My core beliefs made me judgmental of others and terribly fearful that what little I had would be taken away.
The parable in today’s reading from Matthew might have been fashioned just for me. Jesus begins with the image of a wedding feast. In the language of the Soul, a wedding symbolizes the dawning of a new consciousness, new understanding that changes forever how we imagine the world to be. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is exactly this, a brand-new comprehension.
The invited guests are not interested. This is not surprising. Who needs a new point of view when the old one seems to be working pretty well? If you are getting what you need from your life, why change? It is the people on the streets — the rabble, the adventurers, the malcontents – those for whom life isn’t working or those who feel a deep longing for something more – who answer the invitation.
Now we come to Jesus’ image of the man at the wedding who is not wearing a wedding garment. The invitation to see things differently draws us into the space in which celebration is happening. But we have to actually get into the celebration ourselves in order to experience the transformation the wedding offers.
I have been a Christian since I was baptized at 6 months of age. But it has taken me decades just to come to the threshold of understanding of the upside-down reality that is the kingdom of heaven. I was at the wedding, but I was not wearing a wedding garment. I thought that wrong or foolish actions could cast me into the realm of darkness and gnashing of teeth – and so I made sure to put myself there, binding my own arms and legs, creating my own suffering. I thought that love belonged to the “beautiful people”, and so I didn’t even see most of the ways in which it was being offered to me day after day.
Self examination, study, fellowship with other frank and vulnerable people in a caring faith community, and prayer open us to perceive the startling perspective of God. To really understand grace, forgiveness, and holy love we have to start at the beginning. (In a way we are always at the beginning, fresh off the streets.) We have to take off the clothing we have come in with – our attitudes, values and assumptions about the world and about God – so that we can put on that which allows us to celebrate the mind-boggling, boundless love and belonging that are God’s true kingdom.
Yesterday we celebrated Independence Day. As we contemplate our freedoms we would do well to meditate on the ways in which we voluntarily give them away out of fear and misunderstanding. How have you bound your own arms and legs and cast yourself into the outer darkness? What allows you to get free? When do you find that you clothe yourself in the wedding garment and celebrate the baffling reality of the kingdom of heaven?