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Sermon for Ordinary 28 Year A

12 October 2014

The Reverend Canon Charles Royden

Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. "Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' "But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and 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 wedding clothes. 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "For many are invited, but few are chosen."

 

Jesus speak with his listeners about an invitation to a banquet.
A King … the guests would have all led the king to expect that they would be coming - but they never went …..
It was a fantastic invitation to the place to be seen.
In Jesus time he used the story of an invitation to a feast held by a king. Nowadays we might change the story. Perhaps the place to have been seen recently was not at Buckingham Palace, or even the Whitehouse.

Where did all the rich and famous want to go last week?
Where did all the A list celebrities want to be seen?
The George Clooney wedding!

Imagine if you were invited to the George Clooney wedding. He has the room booked for you at the 7 star Aman Canal Grande Hotel. He has your seat on ‘Amore’ his special wedding boat. Then you don’t show up ! You make an excuse, somewhere else to be. Imagine if you knew somebody who did that.
You would say ‘ What a fool’!
The guests all got great food, they had fantastic entertainment, they got goody bags !
You would say that the person was - Ungrateful
You would say that the person was - Foolish
Then you might say ‘Why didn’t George invite me !

Well in this story Jesus says that this is exactly what happened. The great banquet which God has prepared has opened up the occasion to all people. It is like George Clooney inviting everybody. God’s banquet is literally ‘a free for all’

Imagine you and I are invited to the most amazing place- to be with God and not to have to worry about

  • Not being famous enough
  • Or talented enough
  • or beautiful or clever enough

Jesus is teaching that God wants each one of us to be present with him
This is the message that all people need to hear, that God is a God who welcomes us - No matter who we are
We might not feel special - But we are special to God

The human condition is one of questioning

  • Why am I here?
  • Where I am going?
  • What will happen to me when I die?

Jesus choose to answer that questioning in the form of a simple story, it is like God is having a fabulous banquet, a celebration and do not worry about not being invited - you are !
The Christian Gospel is a message for everybody, but make no mistake parables like this have a particular resonance with anybody who feels a bit lost or a bit vulnerable. We can all understand the story, but it means more to those who seek justice and equality.
God has no special list of top invitees - all are welcomed. This is a comforting message to reassure anybody who thought God might have forgotten them, or that God has favourites. Well God does have favourites, but we are all his favourites.

Look at a baby and you will see a tiny human being, a miracle of life. To me they all look very much alike. When I am shown a picture and the parent says’ don’t they look like, his mother or father, or grandfather or grandmother I do always try to agree. But in truth I can’t see it and when they say the baby looks beautiful, I can see the wonder of tiny little fingers and stuff , but they don’t look beautiful. They are a bundle of wrinkled skin - they grow into their looks.
However for parent of grandparents this baby is really beautiful because
‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’

The message of Jesus is that we are all God’s children and God looks at each one of us with a parent’s eyes. He looks at us and sees us as beautiful, even when we are not beautiful in any ways that we might humanly judge people. God loves us just like a human parent loves a child, because we are his children.
So it is that he invites all of his children to his special party. There are none forgotten, none unwanted, nobody unimportant, none are considered expendable.
Jesus once told a story to make this point clear. He said that God would leave all of his children rather than allow even one to go missing.

There is a final message to the story which Jesus told. One of the guests was shouted at because they were not wearing the right stuff.
Imagine if you were invited to the Cluny wedding. . You would be expected to wear the right stuff. No good going in sandals and shorts. Imagine the photos in vogue. !

What Jesus is saying is that if you are coming to the party you have to fit in. It is not about clothes literally. This is a way of expressing that we need to be apart of the occasion, we need to share in the behaviour expected of the guests.

This passage has been used to threaten some folks. The message is that you had better make sure you are going to the banquet otherwise you will end up in hell - the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Preachers have dangled their congregations using this phrase. The story is told of Ian Paisley who was hammering this verse verse home about weeping and gnashing of teeth, when an elderly lady rasied her hand and asked 'But Mr Paisley I have no teeth', Paisley responded 'teeth will be provided!'

What is clear is that this banquet is a place where God expects his love for all people to be shared and appreciated. You can’t share in the banquet if you hate the other guests. Jesus spent his life teaching that his followers should behave in certain ways towards each other, especially the ones they did not like, or who had different views.
His followers should be defined by their love of justice and peace and forgiveness.

Those of us who want to go to the banquet try to live now the life that God expects of us. This means that like Jesus

  • We too must show qualities of compassion and care for others.
  • Our eyes must be opened to the needs of those around us.
  • We must give of our time and money to seek to bring about change now.

Our appeal as a church this year is Emmaus. This is a fantastic organisation which takes people at the bottom of the pile and loves them and gives them dignity to help them.
As Christians it is a privilege for us to be a part of this work.

Jesus loved people but he did not accept the world as it was, he sought to change it and that is something which we too must do. We are involved in social issues, community issues. We get upset when people downgrade our hospitals by salami slicing the services. We use our vote to challenge. We might march with those who protest. This is serious stuff and we get involved. We are called to sacrifice for others, like Jesus. Called to love others as Jesus loved. Called to forgive others as God has forgiven us.