The Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14
Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: Well, I have to admit that my first thought when I read through the Gospel reading for this morning was the song we sang often at youth gatherings in the 1960s.
"I cannot come to the Banquet, don't bother me now, I have married a wife, I have bought me a cow."
To tell the truth, we actually used to sing: "I cannot come to the Banquet, don't bother me now, I have bought me a wife, I have married a cow."
But, anyway, enough of the foibles of my youth.
This is another difficult parable, isn't it? Here is a wealthy person, a king, who wants to celebrate the marriage of his son. He makes all kinds of preparations and then sends his slaves out to invite everyone, friends, neighbors to come and celebrate this wonderful event with him and his family.
But the response is less than enthusiastic. Everyone who is invited seems to have an excuse why they can't make it. Matthew records it this way: "But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them."
The king reacts and responds with a vengeance: "The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city."
Whew, I am glad I never received an invitation to that wedding.
Then the king decides to fill the banquet hall with anyone he can gather up: "Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests."
You would think he would be a happy man. But he suddenly discovers someone who is inappropriately dressed. He reacts and responds again. And not in a caring and compassionate way.
Jesus concludes this parable by saying "For many are called, but few are chosen."
I don't know how many times I have heard that quote in my life. The interesting part to me is that it was rarely used in reference to the parable that it appears with here in Matthew.
Now, I am not going to attempt to interpret this parable for you this morning. I am going to readily admit it is a hard piece of scripture to make a lot of encouraging comments about when it comes to our current spiritual lives here and now.
I will say that usually, when we hear Jesus refer to a king in a parable we expect that Jesus will be teaching something about God. But the actions and reactions of this king in this parable don't lend themselves to how we want to see God, do they?
Now, the casual, almost indifferent way, that the people responded to the invitation does remind me of the parable from last week. On a positive note, this king, unlike the wealthy man from last week, does seem to be present among his neighbors. But he certainly doesn't seem to be someone any of them wants to spend a lot of time with. He doesn't seem to be someone that they know a lot about about. We would be tempted to say we understand how this casual and indifferent attitude towards this king has developed.
His harsh responses and reactions don't draw the neighbors to him. He doesn't seem like someone that people would want to spend a lot of time with. But this is a parable that Jesus told, and that Matthew recorded. A parable that has been passed down through the centuries to us. So, what might we gain from reading and thinking about this parable?
One element I want to raise for conversation's sake is "fear." We don't do a lot of talking about how much we fear God in our modern, scientific, rational world.
Scripture says in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Then it says in Proverbs 10:27, “The fear of the Lord prolongs days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.”
I wonder how much time we have given to study, or developing our ideas, of how we should reverently and thoughtfully consider how we experience and express our fear of the Lord?
Fear can motivate us, either in a negative way or in a positive way. In our Old Testament passage, the people fear that Moses has abandoned them. They want to build an image of a God so that they don't feel alone and abandoned.
Moses fears what the Lord will do to the people who have built the Golden Calf in his absence. Moses pleads with God not to let "his wrath burn hot" against the people. Moses pleads with God to remember the promises he made to the people through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses rightly fears God and seeks his compassion and forgiveness for the people of Israel. Moses has a healthy fear of what God could and might do. He pleads with God and God relents and spares the people.
In the passage from Philippians Paul fears what will happen if Eudia and Syntche continue in their destructive behavior. These two women, who Paul remembers, as people who struggled alongside him in the work of the Gospel, and who he says have their names written in the book of life. Unless they settle their differences it could have a destructive impact on the church.
Paul encourages the church in Philippi and also encourages us because we have the opportunity to read his words, to focus on things that bring God's blessings in our lives. When we are focused on these things we do need not fear God.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
My prayer for us all this week is that we will find the grace of the Holy Spirit to motivate us to love and good works for the love of the Lord and the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Bishops & Father Mike