Oct17TueMatthew 22:1-14 October 17, 2023 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
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- Pr. Sebastian
Did you ever get a wedding invitation in the mail
that just filled your heart with a special sort of joy?
A wedding invitation is more than just a piece of paper
or a ping on your phone, right?.
It's a request to be happy for someone else's big day.
It is a call to celebrate, to stand witness to the loving union of two souls.
But what happens if that invite is shrugged off or even rejected?
What if no one shows up to the party?
Puts a different spin on things, doesn't it?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, that's what our Gospel today is about -
But this is an invitation far grander and deeper,
Namely a call from the Divine Himself.
In the final week leading up to His crucifixion,
Jesus presented a story to his opponents
that must have been like a hard rock hitting right at their hearts.
He painted God as a King who kindly asked everyone to join him in his kingdom's joy.
Let's remember, this parable isn't just an ancient tale.
It speaks to us today, reminding us of the magnitude of God's grace and the serious implications of rejecting Him.
God's gracious Kingdom invitation demands a response
that recognizes the vastness of God's grace …
and for those who reject it…well, they better watch out!
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a big wedding party,
a banquet with all the trimmings, the appetizers,
the prime rib roast, and the raspberry cheesecake.
It is a symbol of the age of the Messiah,
when all that is supposed to pass, comes to pass,
When God will live with God’s people,
And God will be wiping tears off every face,
and the New Jerusalem will appear like a bride for the waiting bridegroom.
This vision of the Kingdom of Heaven is in some distant kind of future,
but also, in some strange way, also part of our here and now,
and becomes visible when we gather as the Family of Christ on Sundays for worship, with the Altar, /
the Banquet Table, at its prominent place.
The kids are now crafting their own banquet table… /
I wonder what kind of food and drink they are preparing
for their heavenly party?
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who sends out invitations
to his son’s wedding party.
The first invitations land in the laps of the usual suspects,
the friends and nobility.
That doesn’t go so well,
and so the invitation gets expanded to the edge of town,
both evil and good, rich and poor are invited,
even those who weren’t expecting an invitation,
even those who hadn’t heard there was a wedding party going on
were tapped on the shoulder.
God sends out invitations to humankind.
God calls people to be disciples, followers of Jesus.
God calls everyone to repentance and salvation.
This call is an invitation, not a command or an order.
God’s offer is full of grace and love,
it’s not forced,
there are no strings attached.
God’s friendly call respects human free will.
We can choose to accept or not.
Still: God awaits our response, and will respect our choice.
God continues to reach out to humanity!
Time and time again.
God will not give up on us and keeps reaching out,
this is good news!
And we will get a second chance.
Even those we think don't deserve it, they get another chance too!
God's invite also goes out to the less fortunate and forgotten ones.
But, keep in mind, how we respond to His call matters.
The way of Christ demands we abandon former ways of living,
taking up our cross and
Living and walking in the way.
We may prefer to avoid thinking about divine punishment,
but it seems to be a reality we can't just wish away.
… the subtext is there:
If you don’t heed God’s call; and listen and come and follow instructions,
There are consequences:
The Outer darkness: the harshest punishment imaginable,
serves as a warning.
Now I’ve often struggled with the meaning of the man
who wasn’t wearing wedding clothes.
The best explanation I found is that:
though as Lutherans we often declare that we are justified only by faith,
and there is nothing for us to do to earn God’s grace and calling,
we can't afford to ignore that faith isn't a passive word.
Genuine faith should motivate us to good works,
to live a life of serious obedience and deep devotion to God.
So as the man took advantage of cheap grace and lived a superficial faith life, not taking it too seriously,
So we too are challenged to respect God’s call and God’s law.
When God asks us (who are called) to do something,
we should take it up in prayer and do what we can.
“Many are invited but few are chosen”:
It is so intriguing that God’s will and grace is universal
but not everyone will respond in faith!
But it points to a reality that we understand,
For example when we prepare a feast here in our Sunday gathering,
and so few attend.
All of us are invited to God's enormous banquet.
But being invited is just the first part.
How we reply – by accepting His rules or following our own rules –
Makes a difference.
Everyone is welcomed at God's party.
While God's call is kind, He waits for us to respond.
Let's gratefully accept the invite
and live as He would want us to.