An invitation to leave our tattered rags at the door

I’ve been meaning to invite some friends around to my place for a long time now, but I never seem to be organised enough to have everything ready. When I am finally ready to invite them over I wonder who will be free to come.

Jesus tells two stories in the Bible about inviting people to a party.  I wrote about how the first story portrays God’s generous invitation to each of us here:

In the second story a King invites guests to a wedding banquet for his son. When the servants are sent to tell the guests everything is ready every single one of them refuse to come. Feeling deeply hurt by this rejection of his hospitality the King sends his servants out to invite anyone who would come – ‘the good and the bad alike’.

Once the banquet hall is full the King starts to mix and mingle with his guests. However, he discovers one guest who is not wearing suitable wedding clothes. Immediately the King has this guest thrown out.

At first I couldn’t make sense of the King’s reaction – he knew the guests had come at short notice; he knew they might not have the means to buy flash new wedding clothes; he knew they had come from the street corners. This harsh reaction didn’t fit with the generous invitation of the King, especially in a story Jesus told to show us what God is like.

But then I remembered being in India and Egypt where as a woman I had to cover myself with a scarf or a special garment in order to enter some sacred spaces. The garment represented a sacred transaction that allowed me to be fully acceptable in that space.

And I’ve discovered that back in Jesus’ day when a Persian King invited guests to a wedding he also ensured all wedding guests were gifted intricately embroidered white wedding garments. What a beautiful picture of the invitation God offers us. I love the idea that we are invited to leave our tattered rags at the door: rags of pain, shame and past mistakes. Yet to do so we must risk being seen as we really are. This is the step between letting go of our tattered rags and being clothed by the King.

Remember it’s not our past which excludes us from the banquet, but a refusal to accept all God offers. Unlike my intention to invite friends around God’s invitation is ready now. Dare we accept the invitation and allow ourselves to be wrapped in unconditional love and graciousness?

This story is found in the Bible in Matthew 22:1 – 14

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