excommunicating ourselves

Sunday’s Gospel lectionary reading was the story about the king who sends out invitations to a wedding banquet for his son. Everyone has more important things to do so they don’t bother to show up. The king has them all killed and their towns burned, and then has his servants go “into the main streets, and invite everyone [they] find to the wedding banquet.” When the king finds one guest not dressed in the appropriate attire he tells his servants to “bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

That’s Matthew. Matthew 22:1-14, to be exact. I have issues with Matthew. You’ve seen me complain about the harshness of many passages in Matthew before. But, still, the text is there, so how do we deal with this passage?

As for the first part, suffice it to say that in the ancient Near East blowing off a king when invited to a wedding banquet is probably not an effective survival strategy. The end of the passage is more troubling to me, but we can make sense of it. Bishop Mary made the point three years ago when she preached during her visitation when I reaffirmed my baptismal vows and officially became part of St. John the Divine. Fr. Phil made the same point Sunday. At weddings in that culture and time the host handed out wedding garments to all of the guests. So this fellow obviously walked right past the guy handing out the wedding garments. Not wise.

We excommunicate ourselves. Fr. Phil said:

quoteGod does not excommunicate people from the divine kingdom; God can’t because it would mean that something would exist outside of God.  Only members of God’s creation can live in the illusion that they don’t live within God’s kingdom and hereby excommunicate themselves from God’s great world.

The irony is that I nearly excommunicated myself, at least for one day, on Sunday. I looked at the server schedule and saw the names of the two sisters signed up for acolytes. That meant that their dad would be there using his smart phone to video tape his daughters during the opening procession. That always annoys the heck out of me.  Dammit Jim, this is a worship service, not a Christmas pageant! I almost skipped church that day. In the end, the privilege of receiving the Bread and Wine outweighed the dad’s annoying, not disruptive I remind myself, but simply annoying, behavior.

Oh, and one other thing. Fr. Phil pointed out that the reason wedding garments were handed out was “to insure that all of the guests had the appearance of equal standing at the party. The wedding garments were like a uniform of equality indicating that all guests had equal standing in the eyes of the host.”

I don’t think I need to explain the obvious in terms of what that says about God’s relationship to me versus God’s relationship to that dad. Enough said.

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