Musings from the Manse 11th October 2020

Have you ever been invited to a party that you didn’t want to attend? If so, what did you do about it? You may have made your excuses but I am surely correct in assuming that you didn’t abuse or murder the person who delivered the invitation! 

Or, have you ever organised a dinner party – cooking the meal, setting the table, getting everything ready then, the expected guests didn’t arrive? How did it make you feel? Sad? Disappointed? I am sure that is the case. However, I am sure, too, that it didn’t make you want to kill these missing guests or want to burn down their houses!

If you read Matthew Ch 22 vs 1-14 about the wedding feast it would seem that these were the reactions of the people involved. To say it is ‘a bit over the top’ is to put it mildly! However, as is quite often the case, Jesus is using shock tactics to get his point over. 

This parable is designed to make us think. Jesus says of the first group of invitees “they were not worthy”. So, it is a parable that raises the subject of judgement and we are not always very comfortable when that particular subject is raised. Perhaps it raises questions in our minds as to whether we are ‘worthy’ or ‘unworthy’. 

Some of that anxiety that lies around the subject of judgement stems from the assumption that God judges us in the same way as we judge others. More often than not, our judgement of others tends to be a judgement of exclusion. Who is in, or who is out! Does that apply to God? Perhaps his judgement is based on different principles? What if God bases his judgement on grace, acceptance and invitation?

Let’s look at the parable and see what evidence we can find there.

Well, first of all, please notice that all the guests were invited. The first guests were also recipients of God’s favour. None of them had done anything to earn the invitation; it was just given. The king didn’t show favouritism – he just wanted to share his feast. It is an invitation to share his joy and be part of his Kingdom. If that was true for the guests in this parable it is also true for us today.

There is no distinction made in the guests. It isn’t that some are good and some are bad. The invitation wasn’t issued because of behaviour, beliefs, attitudes or morals. Look at what it says about the second group in particular: “they went out in the streets and gathered all they could find, good and bad alike.”  If it was true for them, it is true for us.

So, what did separate the groups, (because something did, going by the different reactions)? Well the answer is probably more simple than you think. The only difference is that the second group showed up! They responded to the invitation by being present.

That is so important to us also. In our life with God it is vital to be present. What does that mean?

It means letting go of our own agendas and listening for what God has to say to us.  It means the opening up to God and accepting the vulnerability of entrusting our life to him.  It means bringing and offering all that we are and all that we have.  It is not easy. Often, we are too busy, too distracted, too tired. We have lives to lead and work to do. We might feel distracted by pressing needs and responsibilities. However, it is important to remember that our life is God’s and there is no life outside the kingdom.

To show up and be present is to be worthy of God. We can’t earn the right to enter the feast – we just have to be willing to be there!  We just have to open ourselves up to God’s plans for our lives.

What about the man without the wedding clothes? That’s a bit strange. What is it all about? Perhaps he didn’t have time to change? Perhaps he didn’t have any other clothes. Is this saying that we have to be dressed correctly for God? Some have interpreted it as meaning that you must dress in a certain way to go to church. Actually, it has nothing to do with clothes.

It is to do with the spirit with which we come into God’s presence. Do we prepare ourselves? Do we clothe ourselves with humility, reverence and faith? Or, do we come into God’s presence with closed minds (no wedding clothes)? If we do, then it is a waste of time. In the parable the man was said to be speechless – it was as if he wasn’t really there.

God’s invite is to all, but the response is our responsibility. If we choose not to be present with God then basically, we are making a judgement on ourselves! If God thinks that you are worthy of an invite, why would you turn it down?

The feast is set for you – accept the invitation given by a gracious God!

Prayer

Generous God, in your overflowing care for us, you yearn for each human being to become whole and holy, mature and fulfilled, knowing themselves to be utterly and uniquely loved. 

In light of that, we pray

–for all those who do not feel themselves to be worth anything and for those who, in response, reach out to them in their desolation

–for those who feel isolated, particularly in these present times, and for those who reach out to them in their loneliness

–for those who feel that they have nothing to contribute, and for those who reach out to them with encouragement

–for those who despair of life, and for those who would love them back into positivity

–for all who find it difficult to accept comfort, and for those who would be persistent in encouraging them

–for all those who believe that they are beyond your saving love, and for those whose mission it is to tell them the good news of your grace

Generous God, teach us to become the bearers of your peace to all who are in pain, whether physical, mental or spiritual, this day and forever

Help us to be willing, at all times, to be bearers of your invitation to all people that they come and join in your great feast

Amen


Rev Nik Wooller

11th October 2020

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