A king gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. They made light of it and went away, one to his farm, and another to his business. Matthew 22.1-14
This week we have another dose of the Gospel of Matthew where everything goes terribly wrong. The king goes to all the effort to throw a wedding banquet and none of his friends and family want to attend – in fact they make light of it. Can you imagine if you were going through the expense of throwing a wedding and you invited people you cared about, loved, adored, and they made light of it and did not come? And it is interesting that the idiom “made light of” is used here – as you know, it means to treat something as insignificant, trivial, or even humorous. Do you know what the average cost of a wedding in Boston is these days? $39,239. That’s not something to be taken lightly.
And how do the invitees make light of the invitation – mostly they go about their own business. Some do worse things – but let’s stick with those who are just too busy. They don’t or can’t seem to realize what the king has offered them is far more exquisite and wonderful than anything they could have possibly experience in their day to day affairs.
Let’s for a moment consider the second story that gets stuck onto this first parable. We have the bizarre story of guest who shows up for the wedding and then gets kicked out and thrown into the streets because he has not adhered to the dress code. And the reason the story gets tacked onto the earlier parable – is that it demonstrates that just showing up is not enough – we need to take God’s invitation seriously enough that we would be bothered to change out of our work clothes into the proper clothes of a wedding. I guess it would be the modern day equivalent of showing up at a black tie wedding in your gym clothes, after going to the gym.
The story, again like last week’s gospel lesson, is an allegory of about the rejection of Christ among his own people. And what the story is telling us is that Jesus is extending his invitation to the Gentiles to follow him– to those outside of Jesus’ own religion, to those who want and need the heavenly banquet of faith in Christ.
So just like last week, I ask again the question, “What does this have to do with us?” Last week I mentioned sometimes our rejection of Christ is functional atheism – the belief that, although we have faith we operate in such a way that we just can’t bring ourselves to let go and cast our worries onto Christ, and to trust Christ to help us through our hardships and our lives. Today I think this story calls for a different sort of thought around rejection and that is to think of ways we may unconsciously make light of our faith.
I found part of the answer to this question in a book I am currently reading a book called Ordering your Private World by a retired pastor Gordon MacDonald. In the book he talks about a self-described breakdown he had when he was 30 years old. He was doing very well on the surface as a young promising pastor and he found himself running from one thing to the next. One morning as he was leaving his house on a Saturday morning he said to his wife, “I’m really busy today with writing my sermon and meeting with the staff at church about a problem, so don’t expect me back until late.”
And the wife said to him, “Is this the type of life you really want to lead? You have not spent any time with the children or me for as long as I can remember.” And at that he broke down into tears and he said he sobbed for 4 hours straight. He writes that he realized that he was busy doing soul work with an empty soul. He was busy doing soul work with an empty soul. He had in the process of being successful and an admired pastor, neglected that which was truly important: his family, his friends and his faith.
He decided from that experience that he needed to change and to do that he needed to acknowledge and list the things that had drained his private world – he included things like:
-living at too fast a speed
-being awash with too many choices and not being good at saying no
-comparing himself to others
– not seeking times of deep reverence, prayer, in the presence of Jesus
And then after he wrote his list, he set to the hard work of ordering his private world – the world of the heart and the soul because, he writes, you cannot order your world from the outside in – you need to start with the inside and work out. It is sort of like trying to order your clutter in your house by buying more Sterilite plastic container boxes and a fancy labelling machine when what you really need to do is just get rid of stuff and think about why you accumulated so much stuff in the first place. And this is such hard, soul searching work. But he writes that if you do this work, first of all, understand what is draining you – keeping you from nourishing yourself at that sumptuous wedding feast of the King, and secondly, set some priorities in your life around what is truly important – then you will be doing the deep soul work of the Kingdom of God.
MacDonald writes, “The order we seek begins with a thorough scouring of the inside of life, with tough questions that it may take others to help us answer. With a confronting of beliefs and principles that are toxic and destructive. With a listening to the voice of God who has better things for us.”
I cannot verify this quote, but when I was first ordained I was given the advice that purportedly Archbishop William Temple gave his son which is always to “First plan your prayer life, and then your holidays, and then your work, always in this order.”
The busyness of life will never cease to creep into your life, there will always be good reasons and compelling reasons not to attend the king’s banquet. But what Jesus would tell you, urge you to go, go to the banquet, clear your schedules, put on your party frock, or suit, and go eat, drink, dance and just enjoy the fruits of the kingdom.