Have you ever been inordinately annoyed by someone else's clothing? I have, and in my experience this is a classic indicator of what this week's Leviticus reading calls “hating someone in my heart.” When I'm repressing anger or frustration, I suddenly notice the hideously out-of-date belt my relative is wearing, or the way-too-short-in-every-inseam pantsuit my co-worker has on. The clothes are never the true offense, of course, but they send off alarms: time to speak up.
The hyperbole, violence, and abrupt scene changes in Matthew’s parable of the wedding feast have driven most interpreters to treat the story allegorically—thereby turning it from a dangerous puzzle to a reassuring message in code.
In her most recent book, Blessed Are the Consumers, Sallie McFague focuses on kenosis as the key element in shaping a Christian alternative to the pervasive religion of consumerism. McFague says that consumerism consists of those cultural patterns and practices by which people “find meaning and fulfillment through the consumption of goods and services.” We may rightly identify consumerism as a religion.
I begin sermon preparation by reading through the texts and writing a 200-word summary of the themes I observe in that initial reading. I include this summary in an online publication for the congregation I serve. It's called "Sunday is Coming," a title with an edge for the preacher.
When I do this reading I I look for trouble—for the obvious, palpable problems in the text.