Inappropriate Attire

And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Matthew 22:12

The wedding date for my youngest daughter grows ever nearer, and the tensions are starting to mount. I had to make a quick sojourn to the big city last night to be fitted for a tuxedo, and I am a creature of habit in that I try and save those sorts of trips for weekends. By the time I get home in the evenings after work, I’m tired and my recliner calls out to me. I’ll be fifty years old next month, and it’s generally understood to be the case when you reach my age. I guess.

Due to the importance of the upcoming event, however, I utilized minimal complaint and simply made the trip. My wife and daughter had covered all of the arrangements beforehand, including style and payment—all that was left for yours truly was to be fitted accordingly. It was a five-minute visit to the men’s store and I was on my way back home. Done deal, no problems, and no issues. Happily chagrinned at dropping three inches from what I thought I would be when the tale of the tape had been told. (Eating right and visiting the gym regularly at lunch will pay dividends, I tell ya!)

Anyway, my point is that everything had been set up for my visit and all I had to do was be there at a scheduled time. I had the appointment, the suit was pre-chosen, and the bill had been paid for (by) me. I will be perfectly attired to walk my youngest down the aisle in three weeks and all has been set in order for the event up to this point.

The only person who can mess it up is me.

What if I decide to forgo the tux and wear my overalls instead? They are much more comfortable, you know? Or maybe dress it up a little with a polo-shirt and a pair of blue jeans—yeah , that’s the ticket—after all, a tuxedo is just too formal, stuffy, and overbearing for a simple country boy from McNeill.

I’m being facetious, of course, and would never wish to ruin my daughter’s special day by being so fashionably callous and uncaring. Anything less than ‘just what she wants’ is not an option, because I love her and she means that much to me.

Jesus mentions another wedding in one of His parables and the story is told in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter twenty-two. You’ve probably heard this story a zillion times in both Sunday School and through various sermons, but I am seeing it in a much different light these days. Please allow me to explain—but let me warn you ahead of time—if you are a Sunday-morning-only-Christian, you may not want to read any further.

The king in the story—after being rejected by his originally invited guests—decides to throw open the banquet doors to anyone who will simply ‘come’ to his son’s wedding, and by Eastern tradition provides all the amenities including clothing for his guests. All they had to do was show up in their garments that he provided and attend the wedding, and the associated feast would be free of charge.

However, as the king walks through the crowd while they are preparing to enter the chamber, he notices one man still in his street clothes, and asks him why he did not have on the appropriate attire. The man has no answer—the verse I quoted above describes him as ‘speechless’. The king then sends his servants to bind the man and cast him out from the wedding; the invitation and amenities were thus cancelled for that particular invited attendee.

What a sad story! Everything had been taken care of for this miserable soul! He had received and accepted the invitation, and he had even been provided with nice clothing to wear for the wedding. It should have been a night to remember, but the last time we hear from him in the story he is in outer darkness, where he is weeping and gnashing his teeth.

Jesus closes the story with what may just be the scariest pronouncement you will find from Him in the New Testament gospels: For many are called, but few are chosen.

I’ve debated that quote for much of my life, but I think that through the preparations for Keagan and Justin’s wedding, my eyes have been opened. I am starting to understand it all a little better these days and in my heart I have found myself not quite up to par in my daily Spiritual walk.

There is a Great Judgment coming one day, and all of us (including me) will be there. This will be culminated by the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-10). Everything has been prepared ahead of time, including our attire, and all we have to do is accept the invitation and show up dressed accordingly. The new garments were provided to us when we accepted Jesus as our Savior: we were advised to ‘put on the new man’ by Paul, and be ‘clothed in white raiment’, as John recorded it in Revelation chapter 3, verse 5: He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

But I have to admit that there have been many times in my life where I have preferred, even as a born-again Christian, to don my own clothes—although they will never do for this ceremony. My self-righteous rags (Lord, remember that I time I drove the Youth through a thunderstorm in a van in the middle of the night?)(Remember all those times I led the singing?) will never pass inspection at the Final Marriage Supper of the Lamb. No, I need to cast those filthy garments of self-worth aside, lest I be counted among those spoken of by the prophet Zephaniah in his book. (That I will admit I have also seldom studied)

Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests. And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD's sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.    Zephaniah 1:7-8

Strange apparel versus the white raiment mentioned earlier? Guess I need to get dressed accordingly. Time is short. And I definitely want to be more than just called—I want to be chosen!

When he shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
Edward Mote, 1797-1874

A Dilemma Worth Examing

Young Adult Sunday School Lesson – September 9, 2012

Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. Esther 4:15-16

I’ve got a confession to make this week. I did the wrong thing. But it worked out.

OK, so I didn’t actually do the wrong thing; let’s just say I didn’t do things exactly by the book. But in the end it all worked out, further proving the old adage that the Lord takes care of fools and children—in that order. If you are thoroughly confused by this point, then join the club. So am I. With that being said, it’s best to start this off from the beginning…

I’m a veteran of the plague known in the medical field as kidney stones. I’ve passed this trait on to my youngest daughter as well. (You’re welcome, puddin’) There was a time when they seemed to occur in my body like clockwork, and I could pretty much pinpoint the time and date when they would hit me beforehand. I visited several very intelligent doctors and listened intently to all of their guidance, to the point of writing it all down and even (gasp!) following their advice. I gave up milk and salt and pepper. I made sure I stayed hydrated and drank two or three (almost) gallons of water a day!  I took some prescriptions and became a fanatic for Vitamin C and D. To the letter of the law, I was a convert, this despite the fact that a part of me distrusts doctors in general. In the end, they (the kidney stones) became less frequent and I was beginning to think I had turned the corner and life for me would be normal again.

As a result of my new-found health-arrogance, I became less obsessed with vitamins and prescriptions; and for old times’ sake I splurged with salt and pepper a little more often than usual. I began substituting tea for the generous helpings of water I was accustomed to—basically all the things medical law said to do, I stopped doing.

I got a kidney stone this week. It was painful. I didn’t enjoy it. No sir. Watn’t no fun.

But back to what I did that was wrong; I’m not talking about the preventative things of the medical law books, I mean, that’s a given that I dropped the ball there, right? There was other advice I did not mention from those sainted doctors, things that have to do with what you should do once you develop a kidney stone. Things like drink a lot more water to flush the stone, use a strainer (not going into details on that one), and visit your friendly emergency room at the nearest hospital, upon your earliest convenience.

Nah, I decided to tough this one out. I went to work, and I went to the gym at lunch, and I followed my normal routine and did what I wanted to do. It was tough. It was painful. There were a lot of strange looks as I did my Hunchback of Notre Dame impression on the elliptical machine in the gym. Later, on the way home from work, I stopped by my father-in-law’s house and climbed a ladder to repair some electrical wiring for him. Somewhere along the way—that evening to be precise—I must have passed the stone because I know it is no longer there. I don’t feel the pain anymore. Maybe I’m just getting used to them. Or I’m getting tougher in my old age. Or maybe G_d blessed me despite my going against what those professionals He provided for my well being—for such a time as this—told me to do. Hmm. Did I mention fools and children? Think about that before Sunday’s lesson. Everything (I’m convinced) happens for a reason. People come and go in your life, things happen, and it is no coincidence. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus Master’s plan in place.

In our study so far we have found the Jews living in Shushan, yet they had no business being there. Think about that. For 30 to 40 years the Jews of Daniel’s day had historically been returning to Jerusalem, on-schedule and on-time as promised. (And prophesied) So why do we find Esther, Mordecai, and others still living in Shushan, which I figure is about 300 miles from the Promised Land? Maybe it was wrong on their part, but as we have read so far, G_d was making His Will come to fruition despite this fact. And we get an even better glimpse of this by studying chapter four this week.

But something is missing here, and in studying this chapter the key is not what 'is' mentioned in the verse I copied above, but what 'is not' mentioned. Study this verse and tell me what you see—we will discuss it in depth on Sunday morning, bright and early. I’ll give you a hint here, and it revolves around the fact that I believe every Word of the Bible is important, and deeper and holier than we will ever comprehend while we inhabit this earth. We will see something within this chapter that should help us with how we deal with living daily in a lost and dying world, and how important it is on our part to truly transform and not merely conform to the world and what it supposedly offers us.

So study hard. I’d be sincerely blessed to see someone else unveil this gem through their own study of this chapter during the week.

It is the glory of G_d to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.      Proverbs 25:2