Here are a few of the thoughts that I shared with our people over the weekend.
There is a song that we sing at liturgy that says: "Come to the feast of heaven and earth, come to the table of plenty; God will provide for all that we need, here at the table of plenty." The message of hope proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah of a banquet, a feast provided by the Lord for all on his holy mountain, is the primary message of God's love and the call that we have received to COME TO THE FEAST of heaven and earth.
That feast is celebrated in our moment of encounter with the living God when we respond to his invitation and live our lives rooted in him. It is most and best fleshed out in our worship of the Lord in the Sunday Eucharist. This is, after all, the source and summit of our life in Christ. It is the wedding feast of the Lamb that the Father invites us to, and we need to ask if our response is an unqualified YES! And we also need to ask ourselves if we are "dressed for the occasion"? That was the sermon title at one of local Lutheran churches in Irwin this weekend. I spoke of two ways of asking that question of ourselves.
Do we wear that wedding garment provided by the Lord of his grace and love, of our hunger and of his inspiration? What is our attitude and the spiritual desire of our hearts regarding our attendance at this feast? Questions to ask: Is my attendance rooted in the threat of mortal sin and hell if I miss, or the desire to enter into the mystery of God? Is the Mass that I attend based on what I can fit into my schedule, or is my schedule dictated by the Mass that best allows me to celebrate with my spiritual and human family? Do I arrive on time (or early to pray and prepare) or do I gage my arrival to get in early enough to "make it count" ... and do I stay until the conclusion or cut out to get to the next thing or avoid traffic? Do I fully and actively participate in the liturgy, or do I zone out or nap or read the bulletin or text or play games on my I phone? Do I prepare myself spiritually in order to receive Holy Communion? Do I want to be there? How we answer those questions says a great deal about whether we are "dressed for the occasion".
I also spoke of the other way of dressing for the occasion ... the complaint that I hear so often from people - people dress too casually for church. The questions here have to do with showing proper respect for where I am and who I have come to receive. Many businesses have signs: "No shirt ... no shoes ... no service."
That is the bare minimum. Thank God no one has come without shirt or shoes, but we are often very everyday in our attire. I for one like informality, but the man in the gospel story was asked to show respect by donning the provided wedding garment. Many of our older parishioners complain about the younger people, but really the number of older people attending in shorts or jeans or tennis shoes or T shirts to me is surprising. I mention the dress thing on occasion because people ask me to, but I am just glad that people have come to worship. Clothes don't make the person, but I would not think of going to The Lamont restaurant on Mount Washington in Pittsburgh (a great, classy restaurant with great food and a view of the city that is outstanding) wearing jeans or shorts or a T shirt. Why would I easily do so in church.
The FEAST has been prepared. The invitations and CALL has gone out. The wedding garment of God's GRACE has been provided. It is up to us to COME TO THE TABLE OF PLENTY.