18th Sunday after Pentecost, year A, 2014 (preached October 12, 2014)
first reading: Isaiah 25:1-9
second reading: Philippians 4:1-9
gospel reading: Matthew 22:1-14
My husband and I are NOT big entertainers – we hardly ever have people over. It’s not that we don’t like the company, but with three kids, two of whom still play with toys, we feel like our house is never in “entertaining” shape.
The exception to this happens right after Christmas. Almost every year we host an Epiphany open house to celebrate the end of the Christmas season. A LOT of planning goes into this event – getting a caterer, planning the menu, buying the paper goods – and most of all, cleaning the house! It’s a major undertaking to thoroughly clean any house. It takes days, and sometimes it seems like the kids are purposefully following behind me, trying to undo all my hard work.
Then there is the dreaded clean-up AFTER the party is over. Where to put the leftover food, the garbage to collect, vacuuming the crumbs out of the carpet, wiping the spills off the floor and counters. The list goes on… I SHOULD say that I really enjoy do the company, but not all the work that goes into it.
Those of you who have planned any big parties in your home or even at an outside venue, know that there is nothing more frustrating than having a lot of people cancel at the last minute. You plan food and seating for so many people, and although some leftovers are nice, too many is a burden. Those of you who have planned parties also know how hurtful it is when people spurn your invitation for what they perceive as a better offer.
The king in our parable this morning was doing much more than hosting a yearly open house or a birthday party, or a barbeque. His son was getting married. An extra special occasion. A grand affair to be sure.
We can assume GREAT planning went into this wedding party. Those of you who have had the pleasure or pain of planning a wedding know how complicated it can get.
When no one showed up for the wedding of his son, the king experienced both frustration and hurt, combined with intense righteous anger. Some gave no excuse for their no-show, others mocked the invitation, and others claimed they had better things to do.
But does the king give up? Does he call off the party due to a lack of guests? Certainly not. This king is a most determined partier. Plus, he loves his son and wants to celebrate this tremendous event in his life. He WILL have his wedding banquet.
Here’s where you and I come in. I bet you thought we were in the story already. Most traditional interpretations of this parable ask if we’re the “old” guests or the “new” guests, or the troops, or the poor guy without the proper wedding robe.
Most folks pretty much agree that God is the king and Jesus is the son, and that the wedding banquet is the feast to be shared one day in heaven. Most folks also pretty much agree that the point of the story is that if those who were originally invited won’t come, then the hall (or heaven) will be open to anyone the king wants to bring in, good or bad.
But I don’t see US in any of these players in the story.
Just like in many of the other parables we’ve looked at in the past few months from the gospel of Matthew, you and I are the SERVANTS – the SLAVES.
Think about it. Who are the instruments by which the king extends the invitation to the banquet? Who gets sent into the streets to gather the people? The servants.
Through the gift of Holy Baptism you and I become workers in the kingdom. Servants of THE King. We hold in our hands and in our voices the invitation of our King, to invite ALL people – the good and the bad – into the heavenly feast.
Listen again to the words that Jesus gives the king. Listen again to the commission that the slaves/servants are given: “Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find…”
These words sound quite familiar to the words that flowed from Jesus after his resurrection. Words spoken to his disciples, his servants, of then and now, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”
This is our great commission as Christians – to go out and invite everyone to know Christ – the good and the bad. To give them THE King’s invitation to the earthy banquet hall in which we are all seated NOW, and the heavenly banquet which will be our home for ETERNITY.
Invite. We take great pleasure in doing so for other occasions such as birthdays, holidays, and certainly weddings. But what a greater, most joyous invitation is the one to the very banquet of GOD.
It is true that many will reject the invitation. That’s made clear in the parable. Some will be too busy with “important” things. Some will ridicule or ignore us. Some may even try to kill us – if not our bodies then our spirits. It has certainly happened to other servants of the King, both past and present. And there will be some who accept the invitation, but come to the banquet of God, not in garments of light and joy, but in rags of criticism, blame, hate and darkness.
But we are not to let the rejections or abuses of the invitation deter us, for they have not deterred the King.
The world is aching. People are unsure of the future. People are lonely and reaching out for SOMETHING that will fill their lives and give it meaning. There is no lack of work for us as we seek to do the Will of the ONE who has sent us out – “Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find…”