Who’s Invited?

invitation-Rfw1wM-xlg-lgPentecost 18A Who’s Invited?

Matthew 22:1-14

October 12, 2014

Have you ever been dressed wrong…I mean really wrong for something?

It was October and our junior choir was having its

yearly Halloween party one Saturday morning.

I was about 9 or 10 years old and was very excited.

I was going to be a clown that year…

I had the best costume

and I was especially proud of my makeup:

white face with a big red nose.

That morning I proudly walked into the choir room…

but discovered to my horror…

that I was a week early.

No one else was in costume!

I ran into the bathroom.

I could take off my costume,

but I couldn’t remove the makeup.

So there I sat, with white face and a big red nose!

To this day, I get a little anxious about parties…

checking the dates and times three or four times!

There’s nothing more embarrassing than showing up to a party

wearing the wrong thing…

In the case of the parable Jesus told, the guest shows up to a wedding party

without a robe….

and it’s confounded readers of the Bible ever since,

why the passage ends with the guest being thrown out of the party

to weeping and gnashing of teeth,

a phrase that the gospel writer Matthew seems to like a little too much!

Some say that it means he came to the banquet

but had no intention of partying –

he was only going through the motions.

Others say it that he missed an important ritual of respect.

Ironically enough, I live near the Interfaith Meditation Center on Franconia,

and this week on their sign outside they are advertising

the annual ‘robe’ offering –

I researched it a bit, and it’s a Buddhist custom to bring robes to the monks

at a certain time of year.

Perhaps this was a similar type of ritual

that we no longer have.

For whatever reason, this guest shows up without a robe

and it’s not a good thing.

He’s not dressed for the party.

It doesn’t sound to me like Jesus, though,

to say the lesson we have from this story is to be sure you’re dressed appropriately for church.

It sounds more like Matthew – the gospel writer who’s writing 80-90 years after Jesus,

who’s dealing with conflict in his community

as they decide which religious rituals are important and which are not.

So I’m going to move to the earlier part of the parable…

the part of the parable which is also found in the gospel of Luke,

and is more likely closer to something that Jesus actually said,

because it addresses something he was interested in:

Jesus wanted to know, “Who is invited to your party?”

“Who gets an invitation?”

“Who is at your table and whom do you leave out?”

In the parable of course,

the king calls in the fine guests who are expected to come

to this fabulous wedding banquet he’s set out for his son.

These are guests, who ‘should’ be there at the table…

Respectable people,

honorable people,

merchants and landowners…

But it turns out that they don’t come.

(Wow! That’s embarrassing!)

Luckily enough the king finds out in time

to make another round of invitations.

(Groveling to get someone to come to your wedding is never a good thing.)

It turns out that it wasn’t just a misunderstanding…

they really have no intention of coming;

and some even beat up the guys who delivered the invitation!

Well in a day without refrigeration,

with a calf and an oxen already prepared and on the table,

it has to be eaten…and soon…

so as a last resort, the king says,

“Go out to the street and this time invite everyone you find…

everyone…”

And the banquet hall is filled.

When Jesus has a meal, of course,

he eats with tax collectors and sinners,

fishermen,

even women!

He goes to great lengths to extend an invitation to everyone

to show that this is what the kingdom of heaven is like…

In Jesus’ eyes,

The kingdom of heaven is like a table

            where all are invited

and the most unlikely show up and eat together.

Can you imagine such a table?

The kingdom of heaven is like a banquet

where Israelis and Palestinians, Russians and Ukrainians sit next to each other;

where a homeless woman asks a queen to pass the salt;

and an undocumented immigrant shares bread with an INS agent.

The kingdom of heaven is like a banquet

where Protestants and Catholics say the Lord’s Prayer together

and don’t notice who stops when;

where Republicans click glasses with Democrats

and Red Sox fans with Yankee fans.

The kingdom of heaven is like a banquet

where the menu is in Spanish and Chinese and  Arabic and Braille;

where everyone has a seat – and it may be short or tall, narrow or wide;

and where everyone has a voice.

Can you imagine such a table?

This week we got a foretaste of it.

The winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize were announced,

and it was given to two people who have not always been invited to the banquet,

but who insisted on coming anyway:

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi.

One is Pakistani, the other is Indian;

One is Muslim, the other is Hindu;

one is a young woman, the other is an older man.

Malala Yousafzai survived a bullet wound to the head

as she defied the Taliban and continues to speak out for education for girls.

Kailash Satyarthi has followed the practice of Gandhi

in nonviolent protests and demonstrations on behalf of exploited children.

The king will have a banquet…. in Oslo.

And there will be a dress code (either your national costume or white tie and tails and evening gowns).

Malala and Kailash will be at the table together.

The kingdom of heaven is like a table

            where all are invited

and the most unlikely show up and eat together.

 

Well we may not be invited to the Nobel Prize banquet,

(and I’m thinking that trying to crash it isn’t a good idea),

but as we gather at other tables, other banquets, think about:

Who is at your table and

Whom is left out?

When we look for leaders for council,

who has been left out?

whose voice is missing?

When we look around our worship space,

who’s not here?

who’s not at this table?

When we think about our friends, the people we invite to our homes to our tables,

whom haven’t we invited?

from whom might we learn something?

When we choose a particular news station or another media outlet,

whose voice are we missing?

whose point of view are we choosing not to listen to?

In Jesus’ parable, the king’s first inclination was not to invite everyone to the banquet.

It turned to be a very different party than what he was expecting.

We don’t know the end of the story,

but I imagine that there was eating and drinking, laughter and dancing just the same.

When we invite others into our tables,

we might find our selves eating and drinking different foods,

laughing at different jokes,

and dancing to different music, but

nevertheless there will be eating and drinking, laughter and dancing.

It’s a foretaste of the feast to come.

Amen.

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