10/15/2017 Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The text is Matthew 22:1-14.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today, I’m going to share a story with you. It’s a very old one…one that I told over 20 years ago, but it’s just as relevant today as it was back then. And after listening to it, I’m sure you’ll understand why I’ve resurrected it.
Once upon a time, there was this king whose son was getting married. The king loved his son very much and he loved the one he was marrying, so he planned a royal wedding, complete with the very best things to eat. Yum! This was to be a feast bigger than Thanksgiving and Christmas, Easter and all the birthday parties in one year put together! Yum, yum! But what good was this meal without people to share it with?
So, the king invited all the people who knew his son to come and celebrate this marriage feast with them. He invited Harry, the chief accountant and Jessie his wife. But they were too busy that day, so they sent him a note saying they wouldn’t go. He invited John, the prince down the road and his parents too. But they said they would be out of town and sent their regrets too. And the king invited Mary, the homemaker, and Tom, the shoemaker. But they didn’t believe the king’s invitation was real, so they tossed it away and said, “I’m no one’s fool.”
Then there was Fred and Heather and Bob, all who were asked, but it was too far. And Gladys and Jerry and Paul and Irene, who all said, “No thanks,” for they had nothing to bring. And Beth had no clothes fit for a king and Joseph no cloak for such a grand thing.
So, none of the folks invited did go. And the king was left pouting, unhappy and low. But, the wedding was coming and the feast was prepared, so the king sent his servants to call others there. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker; the gardener, the builder, and even the bricklayer. And all of them came, without one excuse made…from hither and yonder and all about town,
They came and they partied and feasted till full, then rested and partied and feasted till noon. They danced and they frolicked the hours away. And they stayed there forever and ever to stay. While Mary and Fred and Heather and Bob, and Gladys and Paul and Jerry and John, all watched what was happening outside the big gates and wished they had never said no to the date. But, alas they had said it and now they must pay – the price of their ignorance and busy array. For they never will enter and frolic with glee for the king calls but once and once it must be.
My friends, God is the king of us all and he invites us to come and be his guests at the feast given in honor of his Son, Jesus Christ. That feast begins here every Sunday as we come to receive a foretaste of the banquet to come. God wants us to come to the feast. God wants us to come with joy for God wants us to be part of his people, of his church, of his family, and to have fun in the relationship we have with him and each other.
God invites us whether we are rich or poor, black or white or red or yellow or anything in between. God invites us whether we are male or female, Swedish or German or Liberian or Hispanic or Chinese or anything else. God issues the invitation for us to come whether we are busy or not, whether we feel acceptable or not, whether we are prepared or not, whether we believe it or not. For ready or not, the invitation is real and the celebration is forever.
Sure, we can send out excuses. We can walk away from the call and the responsibility that goes along with it. Or, we can give the fit gift of our presence. The choice is ours. God gives us an open invitation to come and celebrate with him. We don’t have to be the most righteous people in the world. We don’t have to be the best teachers or witnesses or preachers or anything else for that matter. All we need do is accept his invitation to come to the banquet – to feast on the good things that he provides for us and to celebrate with his son at the marriage feast without end.
It’s often been said, God doesn’t care what you wear as long as you accept his invitation to come. But, according to today’s gospel, that’s not totally true. God does care. Those who accept his invitation and come, clinging to the old, tattered rags of sin have no place in God’s kingdom. Those who arrive intending to maintain the old wardrobe of fear and defeat must prepare for the displeasure of God. God will not allow us to wrap ourselves in the guilt and grief of yesterday, not when we have been given a robe of new life. Putting on the new life in Christ is both God’s gift to us and our response to God’s grace. If we are serious about accepting God’s invitation to the banquet, then we cannot remain the people we’ve always been.
So, many are called, but few are chosen…or perhaps it is better said that many are called, but few truly accept the invitation. For those who do accept it, the rewards are eternal. But, the invitation doesn’t last forever. We can lose out – not because of the king, but because of our response or our lack of responsibility as faithful subjects of a good and gracious king.
So, what’s the moral of the story? When the king calls…joyfully accept the invitation, not as an obligation, but as a celebration. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.