Sunday, October 9, 2011

Too Busy for the Banquet....Sermon for Year A Proper 23

This is the third parable.
The third parable we have heard in three weeks.
Jesus is not giving up on the chief priests and the Pharisees.
This is third parable he tells them
as they confront one another in the Temple.

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to...

That’s how the parable begins.
The kingdom of heaven.
What does Jesus mean by that?
What do we mean by that?

Is the kingdom of heaven up in the sky somewhere?
Will we only understand it only after we die? Probably.
Yet why is Jesus always talking about it here on earth?

Personally, I struggle with “kingdom” language.
I don’t really have an innate sense of what that means
because I have never lived in a country or in a time-period
with a king.
(other than Elvis Presley, perhaps).

So when my ears hear “the kingdom of heaven”
i usually translate that into “the dream of God”.

I hear and perceive the kingdom of heaven
to be what God deeply dreams for our world.
Our world right now.
As in heaven, so on earth.

The dream of God for you right now on earth is like.....
a wedding banquet.

The ultimate joyful feast--a wedding banquet.
An occasion for celebration and hope and looking to the future
with great expectation.

God dreams for us joy and hope and celebration.
But what do we dream in return?

If we are like those who were the first round of invited guests,
we turn our backs on God’s dream for the world.
We make excuses.
We don’t have time for God or for holy dreams.
We have plans and dreams of our own--
and many, if not most of them, often don’t include God.

Like those guests who turn away,
the truth is,
we don’t take God all that seriously either.
The scripture says “they made light of it.”
We live in a culture that makes very light of God.

The scripture says they went away,
one to his farm, another to his business...

We too turn away from God,
from doing God’s work in the world
from celebrating with God in worship,
because our lives are very very busy.

We make light of God’s dream
because our jobs require long hours,
our families are demanding,
our lives are already way too jam packed and busy.
God, I might be able to fit your dream in between 6 and 8 pm on.., that’s not going to work.
I have a meeting that night....

Sorry, God,
I am RSVP-ing to your dream for the world
with my regrets.

So God looks out on this world
and realizes that those who were invited
to help make the dream come true,
those whom God hoped would join the celebration
are too busy, too distracted, too apathetic, too hostile.

So God moves to Plan B.
Okay, God says, forget my Google Close Contacts list--
open the doors wider.
Welcome everyone to come.
Yes, everyone.
The good and the bad.
I’m fine with that says God.
Go out and gather people to come and join this feast.

Ah! The doors open wider
and the banquet hall is filled with guests.
Ah! thinks God--
NOW we can work together and make the kingdom of heaven
happen on earth.

Now, upon my first reading and study of this parable,
I thought--I wish Jesus had stopped right here.
Wouldn’t that be a great ending--good and bad, ALL are welcome?
Come in. Come in.

But I didn’t write Matthew’s gospel
and the parable continues.
The king--AKA God--
the king notices that one guest is not wearing a wedding robe.

“Friend” the king says--
now one commentary I read this week said
think of the word “friend” here
as more like “Hey! Buster! How’d you get in here.”
Friend in this parable is probably not a term of endearment.

But whoa! God’s next words--oh my!
Bind him hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

What?!!! Because he wasn’t dressed right?
Our immediate reaction is probably like that
of the ill-clothed wedding guests--

Okay, so maybe this guy
IS the equivalent of a first century wedding crasher--
he doesn’t care about the people there,
he’s just there for the buffet and the bubbly.
And he’s just been busted by the King.

But then we may think,
“Hold on a minute.
You open the doors wide.
You pull this guy off the street
and you expect him to have a tailored three piece suit
in his backpack?!!!”

But I think we miss the point of the parable if we go in that direction.

Think back to an earlier phrase--
“they made light of it.”

Jesus is calling our attention to the fact
that God’s dream for the world
and our role in that dream is not something to take lightly.

Our “wedding robe” is the way we our everyday lives.
The way we treat other people.
The manner in which we order our lives to put God first.
Or not.

Jesus is telling us in this parable
that God expects things from us.
Yes, God gives us grace--truly amazing amounts of grace--
BUT it’s not an entitlement--it’s a gift
and we who receive so much
are expected to give as well.

To give of ourselves.
To give of our lives.
God calls us to take our spiritual life as seriously
as we take our material life.

Think about it.
How many of us have ever spent a sleepless night
worrying about our spiritual life?
Yet most of us have spent more than one night
worrying about our material life.
How will we pay the bills?
Will I have enough money to retire?
How and I going to afford this or that?

Our material lives get so much attention.
Our spiritual lives and God too often have to wait in line.
Do we take the holy too lightly?

This is what this parable is asking.
Are you going to be part of God’s dream team
or not?

For many are called, but few are chosen.

God has wide arms. The invitation is broad.
Good and bad.
God is an equal opportunity inviter. God calls and calls and calls.

But to be more than called,
to be chosen,
means that we must choose God over the many other
competing factors in our lives.

We are called to be doers of the word,
not just hearers of the word.

We are called to take our Baptismal covenant seriously,
to not make light of things holy,

To be chosen means to put on our wedding robe.
every single morning,
and to do our very best to intentionally live
those promises we made to God--
our baptismal covenant--
to strive for peace and justice,
to respect the dignity of every human being,
to keep praying and showing up to break bread together,
to resist evil in every form and shape it takes.
to help make God’s dream for the world come true.

Jesus tells this parable
with the hope
that those hearing the story might change.

The doors are wide open.
The call has been issued.
The choices now are ours.

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