We might be inclined to consider the key to the Gospel we have heard lies with the radical inclusivity demonstrated by the king. Not put off by the disinterest of some, – a disinterest which could have easily resulted in a reclusive despondency – he opens wide the doors of the palace, with even more enthusiastic invitation and hospitality. And certainly, the parable speaks of a wonderful largesse to demonstrate the hospitality of God which welcomes all.
However, I want to suggest that the real key to the parable lies in the very simple phrase hidden in the midst of the story: “When the king came in to look at the guests”
Given their genre, with every parable there is a line in the original telling that doesn’t make sense to the hearer, a line that stops them short, and impels them to consider the deepest meaning of the story. This phrase, “When the king came in to look at the guests” is the line in this parable. For in usual circumstances the king never came into the wedding hall of guests. The guests were always ushered into the royal hall, separate from the main hall, amidst great solemnity and with pronounced deference to the king. The king would never walk into the wedding hall. This was an action beyond imagination. To walk into the wedding hall is to identify with the guests, to become one of the guests, and this was simply not the royal thing to do.
It is not the royal thing to do, but it is the divine thing to do. For God has entered our hall, and in so doing, has surrendered his status, and identified with us. In Jesus, God has come into our hall, and has identified with us. However, the scandal does not stop here. The parable goes even further. For the wedding hall is filled with the good and the bad alike. God has thus identified with us in all of our paradox, our ambiguity and our contradictions, both our light and our darkness. God is in the midst of all that we experience, and nothing in our experience is excluded from God’s concern. We might be tempted to hide something from God, but God is never tempted to hide from anything of ours.
Our wedding garment is, therefore, our willingness to bring everything before this God who has so identified with us, to allow the love of this God to gather the fragments of our life, no matter how many pieces there seem to be, no matter how shattered our memories are, so that something of immense beauty might be created.
This is the promise of God’s identification with us: when we allow God to enter our hall, to touch all the fragments of our life, excluding none – the bad and good alike – we are being created anew by that love into a work of extraordinary beauty. We, ourselves, may not see that beauty for some time but we can trust that our transformation into something of eternal beauty is, nonetheless, being realised. All it takes is the wedding garment of our willingness not to leave anything aside. No matter how broken it might seem to us, it is part of what is being re-created: a re-creation that is possible because God has so identified with us where we are, rather than where God might be. God has come into our hall. We have not had to wait to be called into God’s hall. We do not have to search for where God is but God comes to meet us. Let us put on this wedding garment of such a receptivity that we may celebrate all to which we are invited.
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