Throwing a party can be a tricky and stressful business. How many people should be invited? What if no one turns up? Then there’s the reluctant guest who makes excuses – the one who says, “I’ve got to stay in to wash my hair .” or says that they just can’t find a babysitter. And then there’s the gatecrasher who doesn’t belong.
In this week’s Gospel from Matthew 21:1-14 , as in the preceding two, Jesus is speaking to the religious leaders. This wedding banquet story follows immediately on the tail of his direct comment that the kingdom of God will be taken away from them and given to those who produce kingdom fruits (21:43).The people who were invited just would not come. Some of them wouldn’t take it seriously, and went off to do their own thing. The people of God were set apart by God, a chosen people, not in the sense of being elite, but rather chosen to show God to the other nations. Having failed to take this seriously, they have lost their status.
There are some stark images in this story. The invited guests do not merely fail to show up: they refuse, they insult, they kill the messengers. The king does not merely feel anger: there is a severe consequence. Those who are invited instead do not fall into certain categories; everyone is invited, good and bad. As an image of the kingdom of heaven, God is generous and our response matters.
The custom was for the host – in this case the king – to provide wedding robes for the guests. All guests were dressed similarly, so role and status were irrelevant. The guest in the parable who has continued to wear his own clothes wasn’t wholehearted in his acceptance. He has not joined in with the necessary preparation for the banquet. He has stood apart, attending on his own terms and this, too, has a severe consequence.
God who invites us not simply to take our places at his banquet, but actively to prepare it with him, to begin the work of building up his kingdom in our own lives and in the world in which we live.
With love and prayers.
Our service on Sunday 15th begins at 10.30 am. We look forward to welcoming Rev Jan Ainsworth to preside and preach. Our organist and MD, Ollie Mills will accompany the hymns and lead the singing. Here are details of the readings and hymns for the service: