This Sunday’s gospel lesson is similar in character and structure to last week’s “Parable of the Wicked Tenants.” Though not twins, both parables are actually allegories. In this parable, God invites everyone in the kingdom to a sumptuous banquet in honor of his son. Everyone is treated to the finest food, wine, and hospitality. God spares no effort in welcoming everyone to a life of salvation.

But no one accepts God’s gracious invitation. The tables are set and the food is prepared, but no one shows up. They all have better things to do, so they simply turn their back on God. How do you think God feels when you and I would rather do our own thing than be with God? How do you think God will respond? Put on your seatbelt and read the “Parable of the Wedding Banquet.”

SCRIPTURE READING FOR OCTOBER 15, 2017
Matthew 22: 1-14
“Demands My Soul, My Life, My All”

Yes, this parable is shocking. Not only do those invited not attend, but they mistreat and kill the slaves God sends to invite them: the prophets and John the Baptist. So how does God respond? God becomes enraged and kills those who have killed his slaves! Can you believe this? I thought the psalmist said that God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love! Yet, before we give up on this parable, let’s not forget that it is an allegory. This reaction by God would have reminded Matthew’s congregation of the burning of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 AD. Many saw the destruction of the Temple as God’s punishment of an unfaithful people.

Despite all this, however, God still hosts the banquet and sends his slaves out to the streets to invite anyone and everyone they can find. Such imagery is encouraging—God’s salvation includes even Gentiles and outsiders. God’s mercy is for all who accept God’s invitation.

Yet, the parable takes another unsettling turn. One unsuspecting guest, invited from the streets, dresses inappropriately to the banquet. I can’t believe it! After all the energy expended to invite outsiders, why would God become upset over the dress code—and not just to toss him out on the streets, but to dismiss him to the outer darkness? The moral of the story is: “Many are called, but few are chosen” (22:14).


Well, at least Matthew has our attention now. Yes, this story is an allegory. God will never reject anyone who sincerely receives Christ as Lord and Savior. Jesus on the cross gives us that assurance. But neither is God’s love to be taken lightly, neglected, or thrown aside for our convenience. If we accept God’s gracious invitation to salvation, then responsibility comes with it. Matthew warns us against self-sufficiency. Yes, God throws open the doors of the kingdom to literally everyone. But once we enter, we must celebrate God’s way of loving the world and living up to our full potential.

As Karl Barth wrote, “In the last resort, it all boils down to the fact that the invitation is to a feast, and that [those] who do not obey and come accordingly, and therefore festively, declines and spurns the invitation no less than those who are unwilling to obey and appear at all.”[1] The good news of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet is that the feast is set and always ready. Such love demands our soul, our life, and our all.

Lacy

 [1] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, II/2 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1957), 588


 


GETTING READY FOR SUNDAY

Weekly Greetings from Rev. Sellars