This week’s reading are a bit startling, perhaps even shocking, at first glance. The shock is found in the rather violent way that God’s judgement is portrayed, especially in Jesus’ parable. However, this image must be placed in context with another theme that also emerges from the readings this week – that of inclusive welcome. Let’s begin with the Gospel. Here Jesus tells a parable of a king inviting guests to his son’s wedding. When the guests refuse to come, the king responds in anger and violence, but then invites those who would not normally be welcomed to come to the feast. Following the other parables of the last few weeks, this invitation is a clear indictment against the religious leaders who should have been willing to accept God’s invitation into God’s reign, but who refuse. The king’s response in the parable must not be taken literally as God’s response to the leaders, but it does serve to indicate that God does not simply accept their rejection of Christ. Then, there is the further shock of the person who is rejected for having the wrong clothes. This would indicate that entrance into God’s reign requires us to adopt the “clothes” (the ways of being/righteousness) of God’s reign. The invitation is open to all, but we only experience God’s life when we allow God’s reign into us. With that as the background, then, we can see both the invitation and the confrontation of God’s reign. This is expressed through the other readings as well. In Exodus, the people, who have been rescued from oppression, turn away from God and stir God to anger. But, in the person of Moses as a kind of “conscience” for God, God remembers grace and continues to lead God’s people. The Psalm reveals that, as much as God saves us, we need to remember God’s grace and allow it to change us (Ps. 106). Finally, in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the life of grace that is possible for all those who have come into God’s reign and allowed God’s reign into them is described – united, gracious, expectant and focussed on the best qualities of life, all leading to a sense of God’s presence and peace. So, in spite of the seemingly violent first impressions of this week’s lectionary, the conclusion the readings invite us to is the peace of God which passes understanding.
May our worship this week invite us deeper into God’s reign and confront the places in our lives where we refuse God’s reign entrance into us. In prayer, Rev Tania