10/12/2014 Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost The text for today’s sermon is Matthew 22:1-14.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
It was a crisp fall day, much like today. The year escapes me now, but the vivid colors of the trees remind me of the events that took place.
I was a child at the time…a little kid who loved to run and play and be included in neighborhood games. I wasn’t any different from any other child growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s, with one big exception. I carried extra weight and that meant that I was always the last one chosen for a team and usually ended up on a team only after the captains argued about who was going to get stuck with me.
Yes, always I was invited to play, but then I was all but excluded. For, the invitation to participate was nothing more than a tease and an opportunity for those who would belittle me to have some fun at my expense. I was called, but I wasn’t chosen. I was never chosen until one crisp fall day when someone actually saw me as a person of value and picked me for a team. Sure I wasn’t the first pick, but I wasn’t the last either. On that crisp fall day, someone actually wanted me to play on their side. And with being chosen, joy filled my heart. It was a day to remember for on this day, I was no longer standing on the side lines, looking in and longing to be part of the group. I was invited and welcomed.
Now, this may seem like a minor event in the big scheme of things as we have all wished to be invited to something and never been asked to come. There have been times when we have felt invisible as we have been passed by, ignored or even rejected. Yet, at the same time, all of us have received invitations that we wish never came our way…invitations to participate in activities or events that just aren’t our cup of tea. There have been times we have felt compelled to go even though we don’t want to go. There have been times when we have come up with excuses, any excuses, to get us out of going. And yet, the invitations keep coming. Each of us has received more invitations, both formal and informal, than we can remember – invitations to parties, to recitals, to open houses, to church events, and to dinners of all sorts and sizes. But, of all the invitations we have received, none are as first class as the invitations we have received to weddings. These are special invitations, beautifully printed on good quality paper. Because a marriage is such a special event for the happy couple, the invitation comes with a self-addressed, stamped envelope asking for an RSVP. But in spite of all this effort to get family and friends to participate in this happy occasion, I’ve known couples who have got pretty discouraged because they didn’t get as many responses as they expected. For, some of those who are invited think of this as a lower priority than the couple had hoped.
Called, invited, but unresponsive – that is what Jesus also ran into as he was disappointed by people who ignored the message that he brought from God. They were being invited into God’s kingdom, to God’s banquet table, but as soon as the invitation went out, the excuses began to come. They were chosen to participate in God’s kingdom, but chose instead to do their own thing – without the God who was opening the door for them. So, Jesus told them a parable about a king who sends out invitations to his son’s wedding.
It seems unbelievable that anyone would pass up the opportunity for a social event of this magnitude. I know that if I were invited to a social gather at, let’s say, the White House, I would beg, borrow or run up my credit cards to get there – and it wouldn’t even matter if the president was a Republican or Democrat! Yet, the unbelievable happens. When the king sends out his invitation, some ignore it; some turn it down; some make light of it and continue with their everyday tasks; and others (and this is really far out) actually abuse the king’s messengers and go so far as to kill them.
Obviously, the king is upset by such a response. So, he sends out his SWAT team to deal with them and sends out a new set of invitations. This time, the king sends his invitation to the little people – the forgotten, the lonely, the outsiders who expect nothing more than to look in longingly as others frolic and enjoy themselves. The invitation goes out to all the people and not just to the elite, to those who know the king and can expect to be invited to such an event, as many of them have already tossed the invitation in the trash.
My friends, this invitation is inclusive. That means that we have received this invitation too. We have been chosen…we have been picked…to be part of the heavenly celebration. God’s invitation, that is God’s call, is to all people – male, female; young, old; short, tall; brown, yellow, white, black, red and everything in between; and yes, even heavy and thin; and rich and poor – it is an invitation extended to us to come to the banquet prepared in honor of God’s son. All are called. We can accept God’s invitation with joy and celebrate with God, or we can toss it in the trash, ignore it, or treat it as insignificant for our lives. The choice is ours to make. We can exclude ourselves by choosing not to respond or by finding excuses, and bear the consequences of our choice.
It may seem unbelievable that anyone would turn down an invitation to the kingdom of heaven, but the sad truth is that attitudes aren’t really much different today from what they were years ago. God calls – people stall! There is so much to do! And we too often have other priorities than God’s kingdom.
God would have all of us answer his call, and share the joy of the kingdom the first time he invites us. God would have all of us come to his table and be filled with heavenly food right off the bat. God would have all of us on his team, in his church, doing the work of his kingdom forever. But while many are called, only those who accept the invitation and who are ready for the celebration will be chosen. In the meantime, our God waits patiently for our RSVP.
May we answer the call of God to be full and welcomed participants in his kingdom, and may we not exclude ourselves from the joys that await us. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.