Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 14For many are called, but few are chosen.’
I hope this post finds everyone doing well! For those of you who only check the blog it seems like it has been forever. I have been busy for sure finishing Ordination paperwork and moving right into Charge Conference season. It is good to be in a Somewhat normal pattern again!
As I write this morning, I do so with the seasons changing outside. The past few mornings have been cool and the tips of the highest trees’ leaves are beginning to change from summer green to autumn yellow and red. It is always a beautiful mystery to watch the seasons change. The study of weather and the seasons coupled with our rotation around the sun tells us the particulars of how this all happens and we even have it narrowed down to a specific day when summer ends and fall begins. The great mystery for me is how the natural world seems to “know” exactly when to begin changing. And as much as we have it pinpointed to a day and time, the seasons always begin at different times – sometimes early, sometimes late.
In the same vein we have once again shifted the focus of our scripture. We have recently completed 12 weeks delving into Paul’s post-resurrection point of view of Jesus. We highlighted those great and loaded sayings of Paul knowing that for Paul faith was not stagnant but alive. Paul’s letter to the Roman Church is part doctrine part exhortation. Paul forces us to wrestle with the implications of weighty truths about ourselves, God, and God’s grace. I always like preaching from Paul after Easter. Instead of asking how the resurrection happened and whether or not we believe, Paul defines resurrection and asks how we are going to live our lives in light of Jesus’ resurrection. But now we switch back to the life of Jesus. We switch back to the miracles and parables of the man many people were still wondering about. Specifically, for the past few weeks, Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like….this is one of my favorite phrases in scripture. As surely as we are convinced we know everything about what “Kingdoms” should look like and who should be there, here comes another “The Kingdom of Heaven is like” parable. They are never what we are expecting. So far, Jesus has compared the Kingdom of Heaven to mustard seeds and overgrown bushes, seed scattered with wild abandon, overloaded fishing nets, weeds in a garden, treasure buried in a field, generous landowners, and wrathful Kings. Think about each of these images. When we think of “kingdoms” we don’t normally think of messes or blurred lines. We think of an orderly entity with very clear boundaries and clear requirements for who does and does not belong. Then comes a “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” parable to destroy our conception of neat and tidy Kingdoms. The overwhelming message of all of these parables is that God’s Kingdom is outside the boundaries of our concepts of what is fair and just. Jesus paints a picture of a God who desperately wants everyone to be in.
Last week and this week we have heard that the Kingdom of Heaven is like Kings who expect rent from those to whom the vineyard was leased and presence at the wedding banquet prepared especially for them. Jesus develops these parables in direct response to the Pharisees and their constant attempts to “destroy” Jesus (Mark 3:6). In the parable for this week (Wedding banquet) we see a King furious at guests for not showing up to the wedding banquet he has invited them to. In retribution, he destroys them and their town and instead invites everyone he can find from the streets to come and enjoy the wedding feast.
If we understand the on-going conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees, the meaning of this parable isn’t very cryptic. God is the King. The pharisees, religious elites, and Israel are the invited guests to a banquet prepared for them. But they rejected God. They mocked God. They killed God’s servants (Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus). The parable says “they made light of it and went away….seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.” So God destroys them and declares their unworthiness. Instead he invites the street people; weeds, slimy fish, wildly overgrown bushes, and gentile dogs alike (talk about being outside the boundaries – see the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman!) to come and partake in the banquet. “The Kingdom of God is like…” a King who desperately wants “his people” to come to his wedding feast and does not hesitate to invite everyone else when they reject him and kill his servants.
This parable was a warning to those who took for granted God’s favor by rejecting his messengers. This parable is a warning to those now who think they are “in” just because “we’ve gone to church all our lives,” or because we’re “just good people.” But larger than a warning, this parable is a picture of just who really is invited to the banquet.
Blessings for the journey,