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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Ordinary Sunday 28, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
October 15, 2017

Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14

‘Hold onto your hats’

One of Jacob’s favourite books tells a story about two turtles who find one hat (Jon Klassen, We Found a Hat, 2016). It’s a wonderful book because the words and the pictures work together to create a sense of wonder. The story leaves room for young readers to imagine what’s happening – what’s really going on. Will one of the turtles, at the expense of the other, claim the hat? Is the hat a symbol of their rivalry or friendship? Are the turtles awake or are they dreaming? You might like to ask Jacob a few questions about the book … God be with you

The parables of Jesus are story-pictures too. They can be entertaining, surprising, shocking. They leave room for us to imagine and to question.

The parable Jesus tells today is about a wedding reception, a wedding party. Food, music, fun. The Jewish people had often imagined themselves married to God – or engaged to be married to God. Does that sound strange? Can you think of some reasons they might imagine that? …

The parable sets the scene – the wedding guests first invited (we might imagine the A-list celebrities – the popular and powerful who think of themselves as important, intelligent, talented, and so on) do not want to come. They do not want to celebrate a wedding between God and God’s people. So the ruler (the king or queen in the story) sends out invitations to the ordinary people, the street people – inviting anyone at all who might like to come. And soon the party is in full swing – guests enjoying the fine food and drink, the dancing ... What else happens at a wedding reception? …

Perhaps we like the scene. This is the kindom we believe in – a kindom of street people.

It would be a simpler story if it ended there. But now, says Jesus, there is one wedding guest who is not wearing the right clothes. The outfit is thought to be improper or inadequate. We don’t know what this means. The poor (startled?) guest says nothing. Maybe the person didn’t have time or money to go shopping for a nice suit.

Does it seem fair to you that this person should have his or her hands and feet tied with rope? Does it seem fair to you that this person should then be thrown out of the party, into the night? …

The parable is about living and loving with God. The world imagined as a wedding and as a party, with plenty of food, music, dancing, fun – happiness. The first part of the story tells us who is invited: the street people, the ordinary people, you and me. Not because we’re more important, more intelligent, or more talented, but because we’re loved by God. You are lovable, just as you are. You are worthy of love. That’s the first part.

The second part, I think, asks us to look around and consider other people/creatures in the world. We don’t all dress the same. And the one we might be tempted to have thrown out (tied up and punished) is the one we might have befriended. The one we might push away and even hate may be God’s special one, even Jesus himself.

Two weeks ago we held a special service for our animal friends, and there were several dogs in attendance, as well as many photos of cats. There was a woman called Lesley who brought along her dog called Edgar Boo Boo. When I walked near to where Lesley and Edgar Boo Boo were sitting, Edgar growled and stared at me. He seemed very tense. Lesley explained that Edgar was a “rescue dog” who’d suffered a great deal at the hands of human owners. Before he was rescued and given a home with Lesley, he might have been yelled at, hit or kicked, locked up or tied up for long periods. Can you understand why Edgar Boo Boo might not trust humans and might even bark at other dogs? …

Lesley said: “Some people think that all dogs should be cute and fluffy and wag their tails. But Edgar is not cute. We know that. We love him anyway, because he deserves a chance. He deserves a safe place. We will keep trying.”

Later in the service we noticed that Edgar was very happy to be eating up all the bread crumbs on the carpet.

The parable Jesus tells invites us to imagine a world where ordinary people and ordinary creatures are given food and drink, time and space for celebration. And then he invites us to imagine a world where no one is rejected or denied basic rights or services. And then he imagines us, a new community gathered around the one most at risk of shame or exclusion – the poor and abused, the threatened species, the poisoned earth and air and water …

In the first part of the parable, God invites the street people to a party. In the second part, we the people decide whether or not to be violent, whether or not to kick God out.

In other words, is the contentious garment a symbol of rivalry (judgement/violence) or friendship (mercy/faith)? The kindom is coming, hold onto your hats! Amen.