‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith Request The Honour of Your Presence’. We have all been there at some point or another. You go to your mail boxes and notice an especially large decorated envelope with a little more density than usual as you weigh it in your hands. On the outside is carefully written calligraphy addressed in your family’s name. As you carefully open up the thicker than average envelope, you are met with an array of smaller folded cards, pieces of tissue, and a beautifully written invitation.
You have just been invited to a wedding.
Now, for some of us, this may be a moment of excitement and joy. A wedding! A party! What a fun time! What shall I wear? What gift should we get? I wonder who will be there! Oh, there’s so little time!
For others, such invitations may bring feelings of dread and apprehension. ‘Who are these people again’? How are they related to us? I wonder who we will have to sit next to. Why are these words spelled in British English anyways? What do we have to buy them? I have to wear what?
This cultural event known as the wedding can be a moment of joy or dread, or somewhere in between for all of us. We all seem to individually wrestle with this affair, and all of the literal and metaphorical baggage that comes along with it.
So I can understand what some of these people were going through in the scripture story this morning. As many of us have done in the past, I’m sure there were some that would be thrilled to be part of such an occasion. And I’m sure there were some that came up with any excuse they could find to not have to attend the wedding which the king had prepared for his son.
Yet something miraculous in my opinion happens at a wedding. Next time you are attending one, try and pay attention to this. SOMEHOW, despite all of the awkwardness with distant relatives, family friends, and new family ties; somehow, despite awful music such as the Chicken Dance and the Macarena…despite people in clothing that makes them super uncomfortable, and traditions that seem to go back to before Jesus himself…people generally seem to get along. Not only that, but for the most part, people have a pretty good time!
In a rather odd way, Jesus describing the Kingdom of God as a wedding banquet is actually a wonderfully creative metaphor for God’s kingdom, where all of God’s people, no matter how excited or dreadful they may be at first, are gathered to celebrate life together.
Now let’s get to this story that Jesus shares to see if we can get into this metaphor a little more.
Jesus got a little testy every now and again; no?
The Jesus who we learned about as children, who is smiling and laughing, also had a side to him that was pretty intense. This parable in Matthew exemplifies the challenging side to not only his personality, but to his understanding of the kingdom of God.
So what are we to make of such a story? Well, when looking at the parables in the Gospel of Matthew, they share some similarities. In most cases, there seems to be a common setting. If we take a larger look at where this story is told within the Gospel itself, we recognize that Jesus is in Jerusalem near his final days before he will be arrested and executed, and he is in arguments with the authorities over both his identity, and that of God’s Kingdom.
This time we hear a parable of a wealthy king who has a son who is getting married. There are servants, who are the messengers of the king. There are those who have been invited to an elaborate wedding feast. And then there are the ‘others’, who seem to be in the background of the story. But here is the challenging part for us to think about: how is this like the kingdom of God?
In verses 3-6 we hear that the king invites many people to this wonderful feast; however, most people either dismiss the invitation, go back to their work and other obligations, or even react in violence against the messengers!
So how does the king respond? In verses 7-10 we hear that the king was enraged, he punishes those who harmed his messengers, and instead invites and gathers those ‘others’ who were living on the outskirts of the story, both ‘good and bad’.
If we read the academics, we hear that this story was written and edited sometime after the year 70CE, which would be about 40 years after Jesus was crucified. The year 70CE is important in Jewish and Christian history, because it is the year that the Jewish Temple was burnt down by the Roman Empire; the Western Wall in Jerusalem only survives to this day. For some, the destruction of the temple was referred to in verse 7 as a reference of the burned cities. What follows in verse 9 is a noting the change in the understanding of the Christian movement; the Gospel will go from being shared with those of the Jewish tradition, to now the Gentiles, or ‘other’ population. In many ways, this parable reflects the actual transition in mission around that time, even though the parable is attributed to Jesus before his death in his ministry.
Verses 11-14 are a warning to those who may not live a faithful life in response to such an invitation; all may be invited, but we also are called to live a changed life in light of the Gospel.
Whether you choose to understand the parable as a story spoken by Jesus, or understand the historical significance of the parable as the academics compare it to the early mission of the Christian Church, there is a message of Good News here today.
The Good News is this: You are invited! God invites us to the feast. No matter how good or bad we think we are in this world, God will invite and gather us together to share in the feast.
And this is not only good news to us, but this is an invitation for us to do likewise in this world. In response to God’s invitation to the Kingdom, we are given an example of how to exhibit God’s kingdom here on earth. We are not only those invited, we are God’s messengers as well.
We are called to not only invite, but to gather all people, good and bad, to the feast. We are called to go into the dark, unpleasant places in the world, and share the Good News of Christ. There is more than enough at God’s feast; we worship a God of abundance.
What would it look like for us to celebrate the next year as one would celebrate such a feast each Sunday? What would it look like to celebrate such a feast each day of our lives? Where our very lives exhibit an invitation to all of those who live in the outskirts of God’s Good News to come to the feast which has been prepared? This is our challenge, as well as our opportunity; for it truly is an honor to be in each other’s presence as we celebrate all that God does in this world.
May we never forget such an important and inspiring message as we continue to serve as faithful messengers of God’s love for the world. You, and all you may encounter in this world are invited. The honor of your presence is requested.