Punctuating our lives
Matthew 22: 1-14 (NRSV)
1 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, mistreated 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.”
Like a thread, the notion of God’s people celebrating is woven through our scriptures. I have not yet had the privilege of being ‘mother of the bride’, nor the expense of a family wedding! Not yet! But I tried putting myself in the position of the king who generously invited guests to his banquet, and I began to sense something of the acute pain their rejections would have produced. Of course, the custom of inviting first and setting the actual date later, expecting guests just to drop everything was problematic. When some couldn’t make it, the king instructed his servants, “‘Go…into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet… Everyone!’ …both good and bad; so, the wedding hall was filled with guests.” People who would never have expected to be there received an invitation from their king. Those ‘on the margins’ we would call them today, those with little power or importance. ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’ (Luke 6: 20). What radically good news!
Weddings, like birthdays, graduations, Christmas and Easter and specifically Christian life events are occasions for joy and festivity. Joyful celebration is central to life itself, not least the Christian life. Jesus’ birth was heralded by an angel singing, ‘I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people,’ (Luke 2: 10), while near the end of his life he said to his disciples, ‘I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you…’(John 15: 11). In between, Jesus was seen to so rejoice in life, he was accused of being a winebibber and a glutton!
This year we are experiencing a critical decline in opportunities for celebration, both personal and national. Nevertheless, each one of us is invited to the King’s banquet, and despite media panic, we will still celebrate the Child born in a manger, for God is with us.
Inviting God, thank you for the gift of celebration which punctuates our lives, and for all who share with us in times of joy and laughter. Amen.