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					SERMON FOR ST JOHN’S - 12/10/08 Theme: Praiseworthy Living. Lesson: Exodus 32:1-14 Epistle: Phil.4:1-9 Gospel: Matt.22:1-14 The Wedding Banquet Loving God, may our words, thoughts and actions be always worthy of your Kingdom. Amen “For many are called, but few are chosen.” A pithy conclusion to our Gospel today. Reminds me of the times I was called for jury service recently. I fronted up there with many others on the Monday morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, having put my life on hold for the week….. And that was as far as I ever got - called but not chosen! So I went home! Thankfully we will discover a more promising invitation as we unpack this latest parable which Jesus told. Told in a typical uncompromising Matthew way laced with messianic metaphors, it is the capstone of the 2 preceding parables, particularly the one last week about a Vineyard owner whose tenants abused the abundant lifestyle given to them. Amongst those listening to Jesus are the group of religious leaders who had already unsuccessfully challenged his authority to teach in the Temple and who now hear the same recognisable warning message, as Jesus confronts them yet again head on. But it’s a story about a wedding today! I think we all like weddings! They are usually happy occasions where family and community come together. Think of weddings you have attended for a moment - were they not times of celebration? ………… As a civil Marriage Celebrant over a number of years I have had the pleasure and privilege of being involved in quite a few weddings. Some small and simple, and others more elaborate and expensive with great attention to every detail. I can tell you weddings can indeed be rather stressful for the happy couple who, of course, want everything to be super perfect on their big day. Today’s parable compares the Kingdom of God to a wedding banquet. It’s about a King who put on a feast to celebrate his Son’s marriage. We easily identify the King as God and the Son as Jesus - so far so good! But then things start to go wrong! We are told that it is a wedding banquet where the invited guests don’t come! All is ready. But the chosen

guests - seemingly all the “right people” who have been invited - find they have better things to do. What’s more some even treat the messengers extremely badly. In Jewish custom of the day a rejection like that would be a huge insult, and a shameful reflection on the host’s hospitality. It wouldn’t be easy to accept today either! Imagine tables set for say a hundred people down at Bureta Park - white damask table cloths, shiny silver cutlery along with wineglass flutes and the carefully folded napkins - colour chosen to match the bridesmaid’s dresses. The floral arrangements. The food ready to serve, plates piled high - carefully chosen menu. Champagne chilling in the ice buckets. The wedding cake in all its 3 tiered glory. All waiting for the happy couple and their family and friends to arrive and celebrate their union. Unimaginable that no one would turn up!! But wedding plans don’t always go as they should. Let me tell you that when Dave & I were married in Gisborne many years ago now, we had a last minute panic and disappointment, when some of our guests, who had accepted the wedding invitation weeks before, weren’t actually able to be there after all. But they had a very good reason! The roads were blocked by flooding and land-slips - that’s the Waioeka Gorge for you! My bridesmaid, to have come by bus, only just made it too. She was fortunate enough to get a flight to Gisborne. Of course it was too late to change our catering numbers and so we gave out some last minute verbal invitations to a few extra friends, who quite understood, and as far as I can remember we all had a great time! But back to the parable told by Jesus. We could feel rather perplexed over the reaction of the King who, we are told was so enraged at the no-show, did unthinkable things to those who had rejected his first invitation. But then turned around and sent out his slaves once more to go, this time to all those in the streets with the invitation - a very inclusive invitation - to come, come, come! The banquet doors were thrown open to all [both good and bad we hear] and soon the wedding hall was filled with guests. Now they could party! While the listening religious leaders would hopefully identify themselves as among the chosen ones who had rejected the King’s invitation; of course Jesus was equally speaking out to the ordinary folk gathered around him. Many of them poor folk who rarely had full stomachs - the idea of being invited to a feast would be very appealing. His message to them, as it is to us today, is of God‘s redeeming love to all who would respond to that invitation. The good news is that are all welcome.

It would seem like a good way to end the parable but then there is this extra bit - almost another parable really. That out of all that wide assortment of people there remained one, just one, without the wedding robe the king would have supplied to those coming in off the streets. Everyone else was wearing it - this one was not. This refusal of the wedding garment meant that this person really did not belong at the banquet, anymore than the previously “chosen” belonged. Certainly he had entered, but then had decided not to be fully part of what was happening there. We hear he is cast out. And so what do we make of this “wedding robe”? When we accept a invitation to a wedding come thoughts of: “What will I give as a gift?” and very important to us ladies, “What will I wear?” None of us would dream of turning up in our dirty old gardening or fishing clothes would we? And so, as we get dressed in our wedding outfit on the big day - our glad rags - we also determine and expect to enjoy and enter into the celebration with all the other guests. All of us here have received an open invitation from God to come to the wedding feast - to be part of God’s Kingdom - a Kingdom which is right here and now. There is a place for each one of us around the table. The garment we are offered, as another free gift, is the garment of grace. On accepting that garment we need to shed our old clothing and make changes for the good, as we put on this new clothing and live our lives in the Jesus way - clothed in the right mind. To me the wearing of Christ’s wedding garment means striving to live a life which is loving, open, transparent, honest, inclusive and real. Living life joyfully and fully in the light of Christ. These words of Bishop John Spong continue to inspire me: “God is life - live fully. God is love - love wastefully. God is being - be all God created you to be.” This is indeed praiseworthy living - [the theme for today ]and is our way of being in the world as God’s wedding guests. Paul talks about this way of life in the lovely words from his letter to the Philippians - the Epistle reading today - sometimes referred to as The Letter of Joy. In it he exhorts the people he loves, and is about to leave, to continue to wear their wedding garment as followers of Christ by rejoicing, trusting in God, with thankful and all-inclusive prayer, and focusing their thoughts on worthy things. Rejoicing is certainly a key word as Paul says it twice: “Again I will say, rejoice!” We are called to be joyful as God‘s people in the world. The expectation of always being joyful in the worldly sense today is an

unreal one. We cannot deny that bad things happen in our troubled world - things that impact on us all. A fine man acting as a good Samaritan brutally killed; institutions which once seemed secure are now crumbling; the possibility of a world economic recession; someone we love struggling with a terminal illness. We all know that the Christian life is not an easy problem free life. Instead Paul reminds us that God is near and of his promise to all who wear His wedding robe as we live in the world with all its challenges: “The peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” he says. A peace which Jesus described as: “My peace which the world cannot give.” To have that peace amidst our troubles is, I believe, true rejoicing spiritual joy. Have you ever considered the word Joy in this way: J.O.Y. - Jesus. Others. You? Thinking of that metaphorical wedding banquet once more: Jesus is there. Others are there. You are there. A challenging dynamic of living in God’s Kingdom. We had some lively discussion in the “Living the Questions” session this week which focused on this - that is on accepting and affirming others particularly those whose experience of life is different to our own and finding ways to be together in community. Remember all those called off the streets to the wedding banquet were such as these - many and varied - some like ourselves, some not. As I said: A challenging dynamic of living in God’s Kingdom. We have heard: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Indeed many are called, including ourselves - now the choice is up to each one! And in that choosing may God’s peace be with us all. AMEN Chris Parkes


				
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