Posted on Mon, Oct 13, 2014
October 12, 2014
18th Sunday after Pentecost
Gospel Text: Matthew 22:1-14 “All Are Welcome!”
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 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.” 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” 10 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. 11 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. 13 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.” 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.’
For the title of today’s message, rather than, “All Are Invited,” if I was Matthew, the rather ‘strict’ evangelist/confirmation teacher, I would change the title to, “All Are Called, and Expected to Bear Fruit.” At first reading, the text is somewhat straightforward, when the king calls the people to a banquet for their ‘future king,’ the king EXPECTS his people/subjects to be come! It’s not like it is a bad thing to be invited to be a banquet, or luau, especially if it the host is the king. The people can only expect the finest food in the kingdom to be offered WITH NO CHARGE. But the point is that the people were so obsessed with their own lives, they turned down the gracious offer of the king, abused the messengers and acted as if their actions would not bring on any consequences.
This king was angry and felt betrayed. His so-called ‘loyal’ subjects that WERE SPECIFICALLY INVITED, murdered his servants, SOOOOO he “burned their cities. The king was a little upset…
What is the meaning of this parable, and why did Matthew’s write this “Gospel for the early church?”
We have to remember that the Bible is not made of a bunch of independent passages with each text standing alone.
This parable stands with an interesting series of three parables. 1) Two sons (21:28-32), both were ordered to work in the vineyard, one refuses, one says “yes,” but only the first one goes out to labor in the vineyard. 2) Wicked tenants (21:33-44), and 3) Today’s text the wedding feast.
All these texts have important images: father and son(s), a vineyard, the sending of two servants, the murdering of servants, and the punishment for the murderers.
All three texts paint vivid pictures of sharply contrasting responses to plain obligations. And in doing so they condemn disobedience or fruitlessness and call all the readers of the Gospel to unflinching and honest self-examination.
The texts go step by hard step to tell the young church that prostitutes and tax-collectors (sometimes lumped into a group called “little ones), the outcasts, the “unclean,” are more quickly to bear fruit and show faithfulness than the so-called ‘leading lights’ in the religious community. It is a strict yet humbling message to the new church.
The next point it hammers home are the results of those who have become disobedient to the kings simple and generous request, the nay-sayers and the results of their actions separate themselves from the presence of the king, resulting in the destruction of the community causing a physical or spiritual death.
Today’s parable begins happy enough. The servants are sent to call those who have ALREADY been invited to the kings’ celebration! The invited guests know the time, place, theme of the occasion and especially the host! But instead of honoring their protector, they turn their back on the invitation and some of the INVITED guests even kill some of the kings’ servants. This is really bizarre and shameful behavior.
The consequence of deciding to murderers the kings’ servants is the rage of the king… not surprising.
Luke’s version of the same parable still has the invited guests making excuses for not attending, but at least they don’t kill the king’s servants.
But in today’s text the king declares the wedding is ready, but as those who were invited betrayed the king with their actins, they are obviously not worthy to attend, so the king wills that the banquet hall must still be filled with guests, so he orders the servants to go out into the streets and gather everyone they can find, the good and the bad. This means the people NOT ORIGINALLY INVITED TO THE BANQUET are now worthy to dine with the king! Finally the hall is filled with a most motley group!
Matthew is describing the new community. It is a mixed body made up of the ‘wheat and the tares (problematic weeds!),’ the good fish and the bad fish, the obedient and the disobedient sons, the sheep and the goats, and so many others! Because of the grace of God shown to us when God did not even spare Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, Matthew sees that the new community of God is made up of an odd and amazing assortment of people.
Matthew sees that God has acted with amazing disdain for all the old rules, all the old definitions of worthiness, or acceptability, and has filled the hall to the rafters. Matthew loves to celebrate the surprising depth and splendor of that grace.
Matthew is also painfully aware of those who are tempted to still judge and demand to cast out those considered unacceptable. Or to those who misconstrue God’s Amazing Grace as an excuse to be indifferent to their new identity as those forgiven and not take God’s grace seriously. To be Called by the King, means we must allow the Spirit of God to change our lives.
Matthew is tireless in warning that judging others is no business of the community, and equally ardent and insistent that history will end with God’s judgment.
Time after time, Matthew spells out Jesus’ terms of judgment, its criteria and standards, 1) constantly calling each one of us to self-examination, 2) giving in to living in the promise of God’s grace and 3) allowing God’s judgment of grace to change us each and everyday into God’s faithful people.
But before we finish, we have to talk about the guy the king sees who is not attired in a proper wedding garment and is ‘bound hand and foot and thrown into utter darkness!’ After talking about God’s Amazing Grace, what is going on here?!
Not surprisingly, this paragraph is only found in Matthew.
In Jesus’ day, a wedding garment may be a very fine robe reserved just for festivals and weddings. Or, it could be a very nice robe especially cleaned, in either case it is considered the same as, “bearing good fruit” in Jesus’ context as it also shows respect to the host and the meaning of the event. To show up in ordinary, shabby or soiled clothing is considered and obvious insult to the host and the meaning of the celebration or event.
Since almost everyone in attendance now, has essentially been forced to enter, we can only imagine that no one is attired in a proper wedding banquet garment. But this guy, we can only guess was originally one of “the invited,” looked around at the ordinarily dressed people, and came to the party thinking he can just “come as he is,” and not show proper respect to the one who invited him.
Matthew makes is clear that in all three parables there is a sharp warning to the new Christian Community, so few of the “chosen” go out to labor joyously in the vineyard, few will yield good fruit willingly and abundantly out of a feeling of thanksgiving, few will have their lamps lit at night waiting for the bridegroom (Jesus) or the master’s return. Matthew is calling all of the members to repent for the smugness at claiming saying, “of course WE would be invited to sit at the master’s table and would be adorned with the finest garments” … especially when it has been shown that so few have even responded to the invitation… they have begun to sound no different than the Pharisees that would publically boast of their faith in fine robes and decorative tassels.
It is one thing to be invited to sit at the master’s table, but it is certainly another to sit at the table in “robes of righteousness,” or “garments of salvation,” expecting others to do the work in the vineyard, afraid to have your own clothes soiled.
As I was writing today’s message, I took my usual “I need to breath” break from my office and I went over to Angel Network to be with people truly working “in the vineyard.” I shook hands with all the clients and introduced myself and as usual, we all shared sweaty hugs and laughs. Bernie invited me to grab a plate of lunch for all the volunteers. And then Bernie and I both looked at each other with the same thought. We looked at our bustling campus, weddings that help pay for our mission, laughing kids playing and learning together on the playground, Shelby and Lehua working to make it all work, and we both said it is such a blessing to be part of something so special as our church! It was so special AND IMPORTANT to be working for something that was much larger than each one of us! We were thankful to be working in the vineyard and it was so apparent and important that each one of had our own little job, but when we looked at the bigger picture of all that was being done and the people who were being blessed on our little campus, vineyard, we were so thankful to be part of one incredible message of Good News, joy and Mercy!
The only response we both said together was, “PRAISE GOD!”
What a gift it is, to get dirty and work in the Vineyard of God, to be blessed to be a blessing! Amen
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