The gospel readings over the last few weeks have been pretty dark and gloomy as we have journeyed through some of the parables and teaching of Christ from Matthew 21 forward. When I was in a teaching role at our church I would love to remind students about one of the great reasons the Pharisees killed Jesus in the book of Matthew: chapters 22-25!
Really, if someone came into your home speaking this way about the way you conducted your business – you might consider the option of getting rid of him as well. Jesus turned into an agitator and provoker in these chapters. All pretense (if there was any to begin with) was dropped and Jesus put all of his cards on the table. There was no doubt where he stood in relationship to the Jews.
This week’s gospel reading is really disturbing and hard to understand. The parable of the wedding banquet is filled with a king wanting to party, guests who are indifferent, the poor and marginalized getting invited, then even one of those poor getting thrown out because they didn’t dress right.
It’s a strange story that seems to conflict on a lot of levels. This is especially true for the poor sap who wasn’t wearing the right wedding garment and got thrown out.
So, what is the point of all of this? Is God just a temperamental party host with a penchant for controlling the guest list? Maybe, but perhaps there is something else going on here.
Maybe these folks were not participating in the party. Perhaps there was something to celebrate and be excited about at this party and nobody seemed to understand it.
We are so easily lulled into routine and tradition when it comes to our faith walk that we forget what a big deal it is to have a chosen, special relationship with Jesus. It is a big deal!
So let’s look at what it means to party in the kingdom of God. We spend a lot of time talking about what we need to do better and how we can change. But, what would it look like to really live well in the kingdom and maybe…..enjoy it?
Join us this week as we learn how to party.
Jesus also told them other parables. He said, “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come!
“So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them.
“The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
O Lord, I will honor and praise your name,
for you are my God.
You do such wonderful things!
You planned them long ago,
and now you have accomplished them.
You turn mighty cities into heaps of ruins.
Cities with strong walls are turned to rubble.
Beautiful palaces in distant lands disappear
and will never be rebuilt.
Therefore, strong nations will declare your glory;
ruthless nations will fear you.
But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord,
a tower of refuge to the needy in distress.
You are a refuge from the storm
and a shelter from the heat.
For the oppressive acts of ruthless people
are like a storm beating against a wall,
or like the relentless heat of the desert.
But you silence the roar of foreign nations.
As the shade of a cloud cools relentless heat,
so the boastful songs of ruthless people are stilled.
In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will spread a wonderful feast
for all the people of the world.
It will be a delicious banquet
with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat.
There he will remove the cloud of gloom,
the shadow of death that hangs over the earth.
He will swallow up death forever!
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.
He will remove forever all insults and mockery
against his land and people.
The Lord has spoken!
In that day the people will proclaim,
“This is our God!
We trusted in him, and he saved us!
This is the Lord, in whom we trusted.
Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!”
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.
Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Thank you for giving us something to celebrate
Forgive us when we see it as normal or routine
Help us to live well and enjoy the world and life you have given
Give us the insight to know how big a deal your grace is
Let us be people of celebration and joy