The Feast Is Ready To Begin - Matthew22:1-14
When I was 6, I was thrown out of my own birthday party.
We had been playing pin the tail on the donkey, and I lost.
I don’t really remember why I had such a temper tantrum.
All I remember is my mom whisking me out of the kitchen and to the bedroom,
where I was given a good talking to and a spanking.
Perhaps it’s the weeping and gnashing of teeth that I did that day, but something reminds me of the guy who shows up to the wedding feast without a wedding robe on in Jesus’ parable. The wedding robes went out to the guests at the same time as the invitations,
so there was no excuse for not having one. His fashion choice is in such poor taste that the king is deeply offended. He banishes him to the outer darkness.
Jesus ends the parable with the ominous words, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
I don’t know about you, but those words seem un-Jesusy to me. The Jesus I know invited all kinds of people to follow him he chose 12 disciples, but welcomed many more to follow him
he regularly accepted people across religious, ethnic, and gender lines. The Jesus I know seems the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words from our first reading, “I will make a feast for all peoples.”
Furthermore, the king in Jesus’ parables often represents God. But this king is violent and vengeful. What happened to “for God so loved the world”?
A closer read of the parable, though, suggests something else. First, this is a parable of great exaggeration. Here honored guests rearrange their proverbial sock drawers instead of coming to the banquet and the king retaliates by wiping out an entire town.
Like many stories and tall tales, Jesus’ parables are not meant to be taken literally
rather they are stretched to make a point.
The second thing that Jesus was saying this parable to the Pharisees and temple leaders.
They had heard Jesus’ message but rejected it. In fact, the temple leadership were planning to get rid of Jesus. The townspeople in the parable who murder the messengers-
that’s a not-so-veiled reference to these religious leaders who wanted to kill Jesus.
I guess in this sense many are called, few are chosen- they hear the message but do not make the cut, by virtue of their own response of rejection.
On the whole, this parable seems to be less about who is chosen, and more about what people choose to do. It seems like it would be more apt for Jesus to say:
“Many are called, but few choose to come.”
And in this sense, this parable has a very contemporary feel.
Before the pandemic we all felt the competition for the worship hour on Sunday morning.
The games, lessons and gym time – the quiet morning at home or walk on the golf course
sometimes meant we didn’t attend worship as often as we used to. Now with Covid, professionals and school children alike are zoomed out.
It isn’t safe to gather in large groups. Some worry that even formerly regular worshippers may be getting out of the habit of showing up to church. It makes you wonder if the twist on Jesus’ words will true for us: many are called, but perhaps fewer will choose to come.
But this parable has a broader application than this treatment of worship and modern life,
one that has been true for centuries.
And that is, that Jesus came offering a banquet, a party… Life with a capital L.
And we, along with many others, have often failed to recognize it.
We have taken this feast for granted in the past.
We filled our lives with activities, crowding out the quiet reflection that worship offers
We focused on doing, rather than making time to simply be.
Perhaps this pandemic can refocus our attention on what God offers to us.
It’s a lavish feast for all peoples, Isaiah says. Throughout this pandemic we have been fed.
The scriptures themselves have been our food as we do daily devotions and gather for worship and bible study. God has blessed us with connections to neighbors and friends near and far away, in ways we didn’t expect.
Jesus describes what God offers as a party for the good and bad. All you need to do is show up with what you have been given. There have been times in these past months when it just didn’t seem like we’d make it through Yet here we are.
God has been faithful. God has provided.
For me this parable is a cautionary tale about resistance to God’s gracious invitation.
The invited guests resisted the invitation, not taking it seriously, making excuses, even acting out in violence. There is even resistance among those who show up-- the one who refuses to put on the wedding robe. The parable is a reminder that we all have ways we resist God’s awesome celebration, And we all have ways we hold the Life Jesus offers at arm’s length. God is in fact, offering us Life right in the midst of this pandemic
Sustaining us, strengthening us, and deepening our connections to our neighbors through our mutual needs. We can resist God’s invitation and complain about our circumstances
Or we can stop criticizing the management and show up to the party and get out there on the dance floor, Trusting that God is going to teach us a few new steps.
In the parable, Jesus like the prophets before him, compared God’s salvation to a feast.
Today we celebrate Jesus’ Feast in holy communion. For some of us this will be the first time in seven months. This is a special occasion. It isn’t like usual—
We are not in the sanctuary, we are not kneeling at the rail. But what is the same is that in this small taste of bread and wine is the gift of Jesus himself. His Life with a capital L.
His unbreakable life, that no circumstance no matter how challenging can alter.
God has extended this invitation to us.
We don’t want to take it for granted.
It’s also too good to keep to ourselves.
We, like Jesus, are tasked with the job of extending the invitation to others.
Jesus’ gift of Life is for you, for me, for everyone.
The party is for all people, good or bad.
Rejoice and be glad!
The feast is ready to begin.