THE WEDDING BANQUET
A sermon at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church by George R. Pasley
Exodus 32:1-14; Matthew 22:1-14
It wasn’t just ANY wedding.
It was a GRAND wedding.
It wasn’t at the VFW.
It was at the ROYAL PALACE.
The wedding plans weren’t boiler plate
And they weren’t even from Bride’s magazine.
They had been carefully scripted, over many months.
The menu wasn’t cake and punch.
It was crème bolete and French Champaign-
Not to mention prime rib, swordfish, and risotto.
There wasn’t a DJ, but there WAS an orchestra.
Because it wasn’t an ordinary wedding-
It was a wedding for a prince, the son of a king
And he was marrying Cinderella.
And the invited guests?
They were the privileged few.
Now, when Jesus TOLD this parable-
He told it to the priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees-
The ones who had the nation
In the palm of their hands,
And he told it to them after THEY
Challenged HIS authority.
Who was HE
To clean the Temple of moneychangers
And receive the praise of children
And teach about the Kingdom of God?
He was a nobody, a carpenter’s son,
A rube from the hills
With fish mongers for disciples.
So he told them a parable then,
And it ended with this:
Many are invited,
But few are chosen.
It’s easy for us to say, well- that parable is about them.
It’s even a bit helpful to remember that.
But it’s not really about them, not anymore.
It’s about us. But before we talk about us, let’s talk about when.
When is the wedding banquet?
Is it in when we get to heaven? Or is it now?
We need to remember that all glory, and all joy, that we experience now, in whatever form, is provisional and flickering and but a shadow of what we will experience THEN.
That sort of knowledge and anticipation is essential to hope.
When we lose something precious NOW, we have hope of redemption THEN.
When we fail the Lord NOW, we have hope of his faithfulness THEN.
But we live now and we suffer now and we dream now, and when Jesus walked in the same dust that we walk in the Kingdom of God was at hand. It was now, it was tangible, and people were filled with joy.
So the wedding banquet is as much now as it is eternity, which ought to fill us with eagerness and urgency. Because if it’s going on NOW, I want to be there.
I’m remembering a friend who was planning his wedding, and it was to be a spring wedding, on a Saturday- and in those days, my springtime Saturdays were filled with shearing sheep. So I planned not to go, much like one of the invitees in the parable.
I never had that much fun at weddings, anyway.
But my friend- he became quite distraught at the news. Not angry, but distraught. It was an eye-opener for me to see his concern- to realize how much he wanted me to be part of the merry making that was planned for that day.
So I sat the day aside, and got all cleaned up, and bought a wedding present- a really GOOD wedding present, and I went- and many good friends were there, and it was at a grand ballroom, and it was a memory to cherish. I’m eternally glad that I went, that I didn’t miss it, and I enjoyed every second of it.
So when the invitation to go to the wedding banquet comes, I want to be there now- not dilly-dallying around with something that doesn’t feed my soul. And if there is someone out there who is missing out, I want to say “HEY! God intends for your life to be a party, what are you doing in the morgue?”
All of that presumes, of course, that when we hear the parable we assume that we are the folk who are being invited- that we are the people who were hanging around on the street corners when the servants came and handed out invitations.
And we are those people. So we grab up that invitation and shout, “WOW, it’s my lucky day”, and we’re grateful.
But we remind ourselves to be humble, too- and a bit careful because- look, one guy got thrown out.
The thing is, nobody seems to understand WHY he got thrown out. Sure, he wasn’t wearing wedding clothes but what are the right wedding clothes, anyway?
Even the greats- Augustine, Calvin, and Luther- even they could only SPECULATE.
MAYBE those wedding clothes were something in the heart, MAYBE they were something in the life we live. Maybe it’s all of the above.
Or maybe we’re just supposed to be ever mindful of paying attention to who GOD wants us to be and WHAT God wants US to be doing. MAYBE the right mindfulness is the right wedding robe.
But let’s swap roles for a moment.
Let’s make us NOT the persons who are being rounded up on the street corners. Let’s make us the servants who are doing the rounding up.
What was their job? To hand out invitations, to fill that ballroom, and to make the King happy.
We’re nodding our heads. Yes, we can do that. But not so fast.
First, it’s not invitations to church. It’s invitations to the feast of the King. It’s invitations to what God is doing in our place and time.
Hopefully, the church is involved in what God is doing but it’s a whole lot more than what happens here on Sunday morning.
It’s what happens where you are on Monday morning
And it’s what happens where you are on Tuesday night.
And it’s what happens where you are when you’re out shopping for groceries.
And it’s what happens when you’re just driving cross town.
And it’s what’s happening when you’re voicing your opinion on public events.
It’s what’s happening when somebody’s getting on the bus
Or getting arrested
Or getting bad news
Or making a decision
Or losing a friend
Or falling in love.
Because the thing is- do we want those occasions to be occasions of hope and blessings and redemption?
Then we have to open our eyes and see the Champaign being poured,
Open our ears and hear the orchestra,
And invite someone to dance.
BUT- if we’re the servants, it’s not our job to throw anybody out.
It’s our job to bring them in, and it’s GOD’S job to throw them out.
Just like it’s the guests job to remind each other to be humble and mindful and to have those fashion discussions about what God wants us to do and who God wants us to be.
NOW, there is one other role to play. It’s not in the parable but it’s in life, and it’s in Exodus.
Go back to the Old Testament for a bit.
Think about Moses up there on the mountain with God when God is about to throw a whole LOT of folk out of the banquet and into the streets.
What did Moses do?
Did he shout, “You get ‘em, God! Zap them hard!”
No. he implored God to be merciful.
Implored, that’s the NRSV word.
NIV used “sought the favor of the Lord.”
I think maybe it ought to have been BEGGED.
The odd thing was, when Moses begged, God repented.
Not the usual sort of thing that we think God needs to be doing, but God did it.
So if God can do it, why can’t we?
Let’s stop judging folk.
Instead, let’s invite them in, and see what God can do with each other
When we take our invitation in hand
And enter into the party.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.