What have we gained by accepting God’s invitation to the banquet?
What have we lost?
Are we healed, strengthen, given courage, inspired, challenged by declining God’s invitation?
We still maintain that the demands of living in today’s “day and age” determine our responses.
Isn’t it wonderful that God does not use excuses to exclude us from God’s love and goodness.
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) 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.
The Gospel picks up right where we left off. Lectionary has kept this section in tact, as Jesus answers the question question “Who gives you this authority?” with three consecutive parables.
3 parables – there is a natural progression (use of “again” in v.1 bind this parable to the preceding ones)
21:28-32 – Two Sons- focus on John the Baptist
21:33-46 – The Landowner’s Vineyard – Focus on Jesus (the son who was killed)
22:1-14 – King’s Banquet- Focus on the parousia- the culmination and judgment/salvation
Comes in response to the Chief Priests and Pharisees deciding that they needed to arrest him, but refrained for fear of the crowds.
“We are catching a glimpse of the low point in an intense family feud.” (David Lose, In the Meantime) This is true both within Matthew’s story and within Matthew’s authorship and historical context. This section of the story directly connects the the crucifixion of Jesus to the destruction of the Temple.
Luke’s literary context was at a table gathering. It was a Sabbath meal at the home of one of the Pharisees, a much less contentious place in the story.
Similar stories, but Matthew escalates it – in violence and absurdity
Wedding instead of “great banquet” elevates the rudeness of snubbing the invitation
Guests don’t even have the decency to provide reasonable excuse. They simply don’t want to come and ignore the invitation.
Today they would just click “Maybe” or “Interested.”
Rejection of invitation is escalated by beating and killing the messengers – which is an absurd way to respond to a King’s invitation – hence heightening the reality that this is not prescriptive. We are not meant to learn how to handle those who reject our invitation from this story.
Son – Jesus
Initial Guests – Religious Elite (according to Carter)
First group of slaves – Hebrew Prophets
Second Group – Christian Missionaries
This parable is not to be understood historically or literally in any sense
The “killing” of the servants and the Kings “destruction” of the initial guests is both hyperbolic and symbolic of the abuse of the prophets at the hands of the “faithful” and the destruction of Jerusalem
In this story, the King (God) acts as a Roman Imperial tyrant. This is not meant to be descriptive of who God is, but a reflection of how earthly Kings act.
Matthew is writing out of a particular context which includes the destruction of the Temple and the persecution of followers of the Way.
Being invited to the party does not mean one automatically is “saved”
The “elect” or the Christian are not a replacement for Israel
This passage is not a word of triumph to believers but a word of warning – do not presume salvation – it is a gift
Salvation is not a destination is a dedication to God’s ministry of love and grace. Showing up is a good start, but not enough
The wedding feast is not the church but the age to come. The required garment is righteousness, that is, behavior (to put on Christ) in accordance with Jesus’ teachings. The man is speechless because he has no defense; he accepted the invitation of the gospel, but refused to conform his life to the gospel.”
Those that are initially called/blessed/elected are still judged on their actions – there is no “grandfather” policy of salvation
God is interested in who shows up prepared to do the work of God (love God and neighbour)
The Good and the Bad are invited to attend!
“But keep in mind, we are not Matthew’s community; that is, we are not the minority tradition with little cultural power trying to make sense of our rejection and alienation. Rather we are disciples of Jesus who hear, even in this parable, the good news that God invites all, good and bad (Mt. 22:10), because God is a God of expansive love and radical inclusiveness. And we are disciples who see, especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, not only just how far God will go to make this invitation of grace but also and that God’s words of love and forgiveness are more powerful than any words of punishment, hate, or fear. And because we have seen and heard and experienced first hand God’s love, we do not have to call down God’s judgment but can trust the God we know in Jesus to care for those who do not respond to God’s invitation just as graciously as God has cared for 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 echoes Old Testament reading, revealing 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.