The Holy Gospel according to Matthew, the 22nd chapter.
Glory to you, O Lord.
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. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again 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.' 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, "The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' 10 Those 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, 12 and he said to him, "Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. 13 Then 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.' 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
You remember watching British royal weddings on television? A few years ago there was Prince William and Kate Middleton. Some of us can remember way back to Diana and Charles. Do you remember all the beautiful clothes? All the royal pageantry? All the parties that were held in celebration? All the important guests?
They had protocol about what order everyone went into the church, based on who they were. People were seated based on relationship and rank of importance. Dave and I even download the wedding booklet for Kate and William’s wedding so we could follow along as we watched the ceremony online.
I was very excited to see what the archbishop and priests were doing. I know most people were interested in the bridal gown but Anglicans have such beautiful vestments. I wanted to see what the pastors were wearing.
There was a lot of commentary about what everyone else was wearing too. The women had to be sure that both their dresses and hats were the latest designer fashion. Some of the hats were gorgeous and some were kind of funny looking.
Can you imagine how exciting it would have been if we were invited to that royal wedding and the parties afterward? That's an invitation you wouldn't turn down. People lined the streets for miles just to get a glimpse of a royal car. All over the world people watched on television and over the Internet. No one wanted to miss the wedding of Prince William. The press called it the wedding of the century.
In today's gospel lesson, Jesus tells a parable comparing the kingdom of heaven to a royal wedding. In this story, the prince is getting married. A huge crowd was invited. Amazingly, many said they couldn't come. They were too busy. They had farm work to do. They had a business to run. They couldn't take time for that kind of nonsense.
The king had a huge feast prepared though and he couldn't let it go to waste. He had his servants bring in people off the streets. All kinds of people were brought in, both good and bad. No distinction was made.
They didn't have to be concerned about whether they had something appropriate to wear either. The king provided a beautiful white robe for each of them, so all were dressed alike. They just came in and filled the wedding hall. There was no rank or privilege or distinction made.
Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like this wedding banquet. God has invited us to a feast. God has prepared everything and it will be more wonderful than anything we can imagine. William and Kate's wedding will pale in comparison.
Isaiah describes it for us, too. This banquet is held on the mountain of Lord. All people are invited. There are rich foods all over the table and lots of good well-aged wines. There will be plenty for everyone. No one needs to worry about having too little. And even better for some of us, no one has to worry about eating too much.
Isaiah says God doesn't eat any of the banquet food though. It's all for us. Instead God does something amazing. God swallows up death forever. God is the original death eater.
But God doesn't just swallow up death and give us life in Heaven. God lifts the shroud, burial cloth, that is spread over us now. God lifts all those things that cause sadness and pain and grief in our lives. God wipes away all the tears from our faces and takes away our disgrace.
In the psalm we hear about the banquet again. God has prepared a table for us. God fills our cups to overflowing. God anoints our heads. Everyone is included at this table too, both good and bad, friends and enemies.
In the second lesson there is a message of celebration too. Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always no matter what our current circumstances. He urges two women, Euodia and Syntyche to get along with each other. He tells us their names are written in the book of life.
The good news for me here is that women were obviously in leadership positions in the early church. It would also seem that their disagreements were not of a theological nature, because Paul didn't offer an opinion about them.
This is just a reminder that things are not always perfect in the church or in life. Things didn't go perfectly at the wedding banquet Jesus tells about. There was the original problem with the invitation list. Lots of people were just too busy to be bothered. They even made fun of it. But the king was persistent. There must be guests for the royal wedding.
God invites both the good and bad to the banquet. One of my pastoral colleagues a while back said that it was very good news to her that both good and bad were invited, because she said sometimes “I am in one of my moods.” We all have our moods. This is indeed good news for all of us.
There was that problem with the wedding crasher too, though. What are we to make of him? The king throws him out for not wearing a wedding garment. When the servants were handing out robes to everyone, he must have just said, "No thanks, I'll wear my own clothes."
It was the typical practice for the king to provide the guests with long whitewashed robes. Most people couldn't afford one, just like most people today don't own a tuxedo or formal gown.
At God’s banquet, you don't need to provide your own robe of righteousness. You just need to wear the one that's given to you freely at your baptism.
Don't get caught without that robe of mercy and grace. Beware, if you think you can getting by with the dirty rags of your own self-righteousness. They simply won't do.
God is having a banquet. We have been invited. Sometimes we forget how important it really is. We think our own busyness is more important. We do have to work after all. We have commitments.
God is persistent though. God keeps inviting us. God provides everything, the food, the drink, even the clothes to wear. Everyone who is anybody will be there. And everyone who is nobody will be there, too. All your friends will be there. All the people you disagree with will be there as well, because God loves our enemies, and asks us to bless them.
We don't have to wait until we get to heaven to get a taste of the feast though. God has provided the robes of righteousness to us in our baptism. God prepares the table before us. We taste the bread of heaven today. We drink the wine of forgiveness today. God invites us today! Let us rejoice in the Lord always. Come to the banquet!