An invitation – should you choose to accept it
Gospel Reading: Matthew 22:1-14
This parable came just at the time when I have been thinking about my own wedding – it was our wedding anniversary yesterday.
I remember we did the invitations in sections; the people Colin and I wanted there, then my mum’s friends and family and Colin’s mum’s friends and family.
Whatever reason for a party, even a Zoom party, it’s really important who you send an invitation to. Let’s be honest, there are certain people you MUST have at your function and there are people you REALLY don’t want to attend.
When I think back, I remember how proud my mum was to see us getting married. She had a marvellous day, which she always remembered fondly and one of the reasons was the guests!
All those people were invited and came because they knew us and loved us and were happy for us. For some it would be the last time they would all be together. To the whole family it was a very special occasion.
So, I find that it’s not too hard to identify with the king’s feelings in our Gospel reading.
We see the happiness of the king and his joy sending out invitations to selected guests. Twice he sent out his servants encouraging them with the good things at his table he wanted to share with them. But on both occasions his invitations are rejected.
This is a king whose son is getting married, so this would be a royal wedding!
Look at the contrast between those with official invitations – the first preferred the things of this world, the wealth and building their own kingdoms. They were so fond of their worldly pursuits, that they were annoyed at being bothered a second time, they react violently and kill the messengers.
Compare that to those who were invited gathered from the streets, ‘both good and bad’, it says, who accept the invitation immediately and filled the wedding hall, happy to be there.
The Chief Priests and the Pharisees where the ones this parable was directed at, but why?
Jesus tells three parables from Matthew 21 to this one. They all describe how the Pharisees are passing up the opportunity to share in the kingdom, and this parable tells them in no uncertain terms they would rather kill and destroy Jesus for healing and preaching the Word of God than accept his invitation into relationship.
But the people who listened to Jesus, the crowds, the ones the pharisees despised, sinners – tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor and sick, the ones who turned their hearts and minds back to God through Jesus’ healing and preaching, they were the ones who accepted the invitation, were gathered and heading into the kingdom instead.
But there is one, it says, ‘without a wedding robe.’ He is asked why and does not respond.
This man says nothing. Not even, ‘it looked like a good party and I wanted to see what was going on’ or ‘this is a once in a lifetime invitation and I couldn’t resist’ – NOTHING!
He is not interested in the King; he doesn’t care about the Son and the invitation extended to him and so receives a harsh punishment. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) It is indeed true, ‘Many are called, but few are chosen.’
This parable is really helpful to get us thinking about our own journey of faith.
One way to do this is to think about who we might be in this parable, and at some point in our journey of faith we might be all three.
There is a struggle daily in each of us between our sin, doing as we please on the one hand, and the invitation to live our lives according to God’s will.
We can be like the Pharisees self-righteous, self-important, and doing everything in our own strength, thinking if we are busy for God we must be good, we don’t need an invitation, we must be worthy!
Or are we the unworthy sinner invited to the wedding party – those who are happy to receive the invitation and be called into a relationship and will spread the joy of attending that wedding feast with the King?
The generosity of our God is that he keeps on inviting us into a share of his kingdom, there is always a chance to be redeemed.
Remember when Jesus was on the cross with two thieves and only one asked Jesus to remember him. After all the wrong he had done, Jesus looked at him and told him, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’
And his generosity goes further when, just before his death Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Unlike the man without the wedding robes, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” (Rev 19:7)
Wherever we are in our faith journey, could you resist accepting this invitation of hope, grace and love:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
Reverend Jane Elliott