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A Special Invitation

October 5, 2020

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—If anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8

I imagine it’s been a while since you’ve received an invitation to a special party.  Like us, perhaps you have put off celebrating a landmark birthday, anniversary, wedding, or other event because of the current pandemic.  But there is one special invitation out there that you can accept.  It is God’s invitation for you to join the family of God.  In next Sunday’s Scripture texts we see God’s invitation repeated by Isaiah, David, and Jesus.[1]

In the parable recounted in the gospel text, Jesus’ story of the wedding banquet for his son is a metaphor for the rich life that God offers to us when we join his family as his sons and daughters.  In the parable, Jesus says that the king sent out the invitations and even sent his employees to personally remind the invitees.  But the invitees not only ignored the gracious invitation—they also abused and killed the king’s servants: “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged.  He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city” (Matthew 22: 5-7). Can you imagine ignoring a royal wedding invitation—and then killing the messenger?  Of course, when God sent his Son with a special invitation to the people of God, that’s exactly what happened: Jesus was killed. 

Jesus continues the parable: After the initial invitees ignored the invitation, the king extended the wedding invitation to everyone–as God did.   The banquet begins, and while the king is greeting the banquet guests, he notices that one guest has not taken care to dress appropriately for the banquet and he throws him out! What??!! Gentle Jesus is suggesting that someone should be ousted from a party merely for wearing the wrong clothes?  What gives?

Paul explains that “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27).  The ousted man was not clothed in Christ. You “put on Christ” when you commit your life to Christ through faith.  Jesus is telling us that those who have not committed themselves to Christ as expressed by their faith, will be judged unworthy. It’s not enough to give lip service to the gospel. 

The parable describes various responses to God’s call.  Some are indifferent to God.  Others are openly hostile to the King and seek to harm his followers. Others still would like to enjoy the benefits of an eternal party, but won’t make a commitment to the faith. The ousted man said yes to God but didn’t follow through on being a committed disciple. We are agog at the idea of refusing a royal invitation, but we do, don’t we?  We ignore the opportunities that come our way to join the family of God and to get the Word out.  We often shrug off his gracious invitations, and in doing so, we risk missing the royal celebration.  

The king in the parable gave the invitees more than one opportunity to accept, just as God extends many invitations to us to join in a family celebratory feast—a metaphor for joining the family of God at a banquet that will last past the wee hours of forever.  Is there anything better than spending an evening with loved ones and friends in a comfortable environment, eating delicious food, listening to wonderful music, laughing together and enjoying each other’s company?  That is the image that Jesus gives us of heaven.   But to top it off, we will be in the King’s house–a royal palace–and he will be in residence.  His light will fill the great palace, and will warm our souls.  Forever.  And ever.  And ever.  

Isaiah also spoke of the celebratory feast that believers will enjoy forever when evil is overthrown: “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples,  . . . on this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples . . . he will swallow up death forever. . . The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces . . . in that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us’” (Isaiah excerpts from 25: 6, 7, 8, 9).

 Paul explains that even in this life, we can enjoy the blessings and protections of living a life committed to Christ.  He tells us that whatever is beautiful, good, pure, admirable—we are to think on those things and fill our souls with the holy, the good and the beautiful.  It will ease the pain of our earthly life and give us hope for tomorrow.  We are told that when we commune with God through the Eucharist, we are given a “foretaste of the feast to come.”  God gave us his Word, the sacraments, and sent his Spirit to comfort and guide us during our lives.  We can’t totally escape pain, but God helps ease our pain and sorrow, and gives us much to look forward to.

Imagine that you have arrived at a dinner party at the home of cherished friends after a long and taxing week.  You are welcomed warmly by your hosts, and move into the home–delighted to see the beautiful table the hosts have set with care for their guests in preparation for a very special evening.  The table is covered with a white damask linen cloth and the places are set with matching napkins.  The silver, fine china, and cut crystal goblets sparkle and gleam in the candlelight.  You look past the dining room to the garden which is a riot of color with masses of blooming flowers. 

As you take in the aroma of the roses in crystal vases and hear music wafting from another room, your blood pressure drops and the tension in your neck is slowly released.  The host hands you a flute of champagne–the good stuff.   You notice that your name is on a place card in a silver holder on the table.  Your hosts prepared for you and looked forward to your arrival!  They set a special place for you.   David describes the feast that God has prepared for us, even as we face our enemies: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (Psalm 23:5).  God protects us from our enemies and sets a special place for us at the table.  After long and hard fought battles on earth, we will be rewarded with a banquet in the palace.  We will be drinking the best vintage from God’s own cellar, and will be released from the mental and physical pain, worries, and anxieties that plagued us on earth.  The King himself will welcome us, and will wipe away our tears.  We will be reunited with our loved ones in Christ and enjoy a never-ending banquet in a warm and loving atmosphere.  

Don’t ignore God’s invitation to join in the celebration.  Come to the banquet, enjoy the feast, and stay forever.

Prayer: Faithful God, we thank and praise you for extending repeated invitations to us to join your family and to express our faith by loving others as ourselves.  Forgive us for the times we have ignored, rejected, or been indifferent to your invitations and to your direction as to how we should employ the gifts you have bestowed upon us.  We are grateful for your steadfast love and for having mercy on us every day.  Show us how to use your gifts willingly and joyfully to help others and to welcome them into your family. Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost are Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 23; Philippians 4: 4-13; and Matthew 22:1-4.  A related blog was published on this website in October 2017.

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