Friday, October 10, 2014

Gospel text for Sunday 12 October 2014

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."
Reflection    “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet  for his son.” I must confess, the first thing I think of when I imagine attending a wedding is, “What am I going to wear?” Must everything match? is bling OK? What about shorts and flip flops? “

Frankly, I don’t believe Christ, King of the Banquet, cares. Violating the dress code was not the issue when the king confronted the wedding guest, “ How did you get in here without wearing a wedding robe?” Remember, the parable is about the “kingdom of heaven,” so the question is, what do we need to wear to enjoy our place at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven? 

Writing to the Colossians Paul elaborates, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  (Col 3:12-17 ) Which is to say, “…clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. “(Eph 4.24-32)
Just showing up at the banquet, at church on Sunday, is not enough. Something is required of us. It is about the way we show up, the way we live our lives. Do we wear the robes of righteousness, which is biblespeak for asking, do we allow God’s Spirit to be revealed in the way we live our lives?  Are we revelations of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness and self-control? Do we clothe ourselves in righteousness?
Or do we do what Matthew suggests at the end of this parable, cast out the people who are different from us, who don’t believe the way we do; “Bind (them) hand and foot, and throw (them) into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth?” 
In the year 1513 when Martin Luther came to Matthew’s parable of the wedding banquet he called it “the terrible gospel on which I hate to preach.” Indeed, it is hard to swallow. Matthew was a Jew preaching to Jews, not all of whom believed that Jesus was the Messiah, particularly not the religious officials. Matthew and his community of believers were frustrated and deeply distressed that some of their Jewish family members did not believe as they did and flatly refused their invitation to the wedding banquet. Unfortunately, resorting to violence was Matthew’s response to the religious leaders who did not see what he believed was the truth; Jesus is the Messiah. Disasterously, Matthew’s angry words have been used by Christians to justify the mistreatment of Jews throughout the ensuing centuries. I have to believe this is a case of unintended consequences. 
The question before us today is, what do we do when members of our own family, both biological family and our extended family of humankind, when they do not believe as we do? Do we choose to respond as did Matthew? Or do we remember that everyone is invited to the wedding banquet…”both good and bad?” In the context of this parable I believe we are the servants of God, sent “into the streets (to) gather all whom (we) find, both good and bad, so the wedding hall (will) be filled with guests.”
We are the beloved servants of God which means, we are meant to be the revelation of God’s righteousness, God’s love on earth. We are intended to reveal the good news that the kingdom of heaven is right here, right now.  Far too many people have not experienced Christians  revealing God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness and self control. It is time for us to go into the main streets, let people see who we really are, wearing the robes of righteousness rather than the armor of religious fanaticism.

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