The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
Good morning everyone.
Welcome to this shorter act of worship today. I am still recovering from my operation but when I read the gospel for this morning, I realised I had something I wanted to say about it, so I have put together some music and a reflection and some prayers. Thank you and bless you for all the prayers and good wishes that I have received from you all over the last few weeks.
Today’s service is about the partying nature of the Kingdom of God!
Let us pray the collect for today.
Almighty and everlasting God,
increase in us your gift of faith
that, forsaking what lies behind
and reaching out to that which is before,
we may run the way of your commandments
and win the crown of everlasting joy;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Hymn: Let us build a house where love can dwell
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.’
Reflection: Matthew 22:1-14 The Parable of the Wedding Banquet.
Jesus tells a story of a disrupted wedding.
Over the last few months there have been lots of disrupted weddings. Couples who were looking forward to big celebrations who have decided to postpone them rather than lose the wonderful occasion they had dreamed of. Other couples who have compromised and have settled for something small and planned a party or celebration for later. People’s plans have been in tatters, and dreamed moments not as people thought they would be. Special moments have been lost.
And it’s not just weddings – disruption has been the key word of the last few months. Everything from the local horticultural festival to anniversaries, graduations, birthday parties, sports fixtures and village events all cancelled. A whole series of disappointments. Sadly, it is still going on – and it feels like our whole lives are cancelled or put on hold as all of us are caught up in something beyond our control, and there’s no doubt we are tired and fed up. Disrupted people and disrupted lives. Trying to make the best of it, trying to make occasions work when they are not as we expected, and wondering how there is going to be an end. These are tough times.
In the parable, wedding plans have been made for a very special occasion. A celebration planned by a king to mark the marriage of his son. This was going to be some event – a royal wedding. We know the kind of thing – we’ve seen a few royal weddings in the last few years. The great churches, the archbishop of Canterbury to officiate, celebrity guests, open topped carriage for the bride and groom so the whole world can cheer them on, the world’s media on the doorstep, the best musicians – a top comedian to entertain those attending the reception…
The royal wedding in the story gets disrupted because when the invitations are hand delivered to the guests, they refuse to come. They don’t take the invitation seriously and the lavish hospitality of the King is spurned, rejected out of hand. Some of those who’ve been invited get angry that the gesture has even been made and so mistreat and murder the messengers as though they had been offered an insult, rather than an invite. Those particular guests don’t want their concerns and their plans disrupted by taking the time out to go to a wedding or respond to a king.
So, the king sends his servants into the streets to gather guests to come to the wedding – anyone who will come – whoever they are – anyone willing to come and celebrate – to come and join the feast – those who are willing to put their plans aside and enjoy the occasion. You can imagine that will be the big issue seller, the busker, those who need a meal, the homeless and, those who can’t believe their luck, those who think really – is this for me; then also those people who think – ‘yes actually, let’s go for it’, and who go along; the curious, the timid, and people who don’t usually get asked to anything being given the invitation of a lifetime and having the willingness to respond.
Jesus tells the story as a parable of the nature of the Kingdom of God. The core message of Jesus’s ministry is that the kingdom of God has come – and we learn two things about the nature of this kingdom from this parable. The first is that it that celebration is at the heart of it. The image of the banquet – a place of plenty, of eating and drinking and coming together, a feast, a joyous celebration is an ongoing picture of the kingdom. This image echoes the occasions when Jesus ate with the tax collectors and sinners, and when Jesus fed the five thousand, and when he shared the last supper with his disciples. The act of eating together representing the inclusive and welcoming nature of the kingdom of God.
The second point is that it matters how we respond to the invitation. Do we reject it? Do we consider the invitation to join in with the partying nature of the Kingdom of God an irritation or secondary to our plans? Or can we say yes? The point that Jesus makes in the story is that all sorts of unexpected people will be there – it won’t be those who you might think would be there or those who might think they are entitled to be there. The people who will be there are the ones who accept the invitation, who are willing to come along and willing to enter into the spirit of the event- who will join in and celebrate.
I say that because the issue of the wedding guest without suitable wedding clothes always troubles us – where could he get the right clothes from at short notice? But the point is that that guest was just there for a look-see, he was keeping his options open. Responding to this invitation requires an intentional response, a moment where a person realises that actually – yes, they have been invited and yes they do want to come and they choose to celebrate – perhaps they have to pick up a clean shirt from the charity shop as they walk past on their way to the party – but some effort is made – there is an intention.
Into our disrupted lives this invitation is still being given. Come to the feast, come and celebrate – come and join in the party of the kingdom of God. Of course – what we all actually want to do is to have a party – we are starved for a party – we want to mix and eat and drink together. We want to chat and have a great occasion. In our everyday lives we can’t physically do that at the moment – but God’s invitation is still there – it is offered into the isolation and the limited contact – God is saying to us – there is a celebration – there is love, there is welcome, I am here for you through all of these troubling times – enter in.
This morning I listened to the actress Samantha Morton on Desert island Discs talk about how she endured the foster families and care homes of her adolescence – and it was through the knowledge that she was loved and she connected that knowledge to faith in God. That wonderful knowledge is ours too.
I think the question for us as the people of God at this time and across the months that lie ahead is how we demonstrate and show that we belong in the kingdom of God – how we make that real for ourselves and for each other and how we invite others to join in. We live in a place where we can meet – we can have coffee with one another and visit one another – of course we have to do all this safely – but we can do that. And we can pray and spend time with God where ever we are. Let’s not allow the sense of disruption and disappointment to rule over us but rather enter into the deeper knowledge that we have been invited to God’s banquet and that our presence there is real.
This invitation is reflected in the words of our next hymn…
Hymn: One shall tell another
Let us pray
Lord our God, we want to find the ways to connect with this whole community, to demonstrate the welcome and acceptance of Jesus for the children, the young people, for parents, for single people, for older folk, for members of our congregations and for those who wouldn’t think of going to church, for those who at first sight we would think are unlikely people to turn to God but who have open hearts. Call your people together God we pray. We dedicate ourselves again to build your kingdom here in Ketton and Tinwell. This is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of heaven.
Lord in your mercy…
Hear our prayer.
We come before you on behalf of all of those who don’t feel safe venturing out yet, who have underlying medical conditions or who are fearful. We pray for them in their continuing limited contacts. Help us to meet their needs – physical needs or simply the need for company. In these days help us to be very conscious of one another’s wellbeing and to continue to support each other. We pray for all our families and friends and those we love, especially those we haven’t seen for a long time. Help us all to connect again in the best way.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.
We continue to pray for all who are victims of Covid 19, here and across the world. We bring before you those who are suffering with the virus or with its after effects, those in hospital, those who are recovering at home and those who are having to isolate because of the possibility of infection. We especially pray for people who live in areas where there are further restrictions and a local lockdown. We pray your healing, your reassurance and above all we pray for your comfort and peace for those who are bereaved through having lost loved ones to the virus.
Lord we cry out to you in prayer for the means to release us all from the threat of this pandemic.
Lord in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our saviour has taught us
Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen
Hymn: Rejoice the Lord is King
The peace of God,
which passes all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds
in the knowledge and love of God,
and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.