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Living Truth: Service

Sharing God's Word, Living His Love
Living Truth

Matthew 22:1-14

October 15, 2023

Several years ago, when I was single, I received a nice invitation to a Christmas party. It had the date and time of the party, along with a handwritten note that said, “We hope you can join us, there will be lots of food.” But there was one problem. There was no return address on the envelope, no number to call to RSVP, and no name on the invitation.

The next day at work I started asking some of my friends if they received an invitation to a Christmas party and some said they did, but they too had no idea who was having the party as their invitations also had no return address and no number to call to RSVP. Based on who was invited, we guessed that it might be our boss who was having the party, but no one wanted to ask him as we thought it would be awkward if he said, “No.” Finally one of my friends agreed to ask him, telling a group of us, “Come on you guys we should all ask him together. After all, can you imagine if he and his wife are having a Christmas party and no one shows up?” We learned it was our boss and he was very embarrassed that he had forgotten to put the RSVP information on the invitation.

In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. I’m sure we have all been to wedding receptions and we know how much fun they can be, how elaborate they can be, and how it is a time of non-stop celebration. But in Jesus’ day, a wedding and the reception would often last an entire week. Many parents saved up for years in order to throw a lavish celebration. So, if an average wedding was a huge celebration, just imagine one being thrown by a king for his own son. It would probably be larger and more elaborate than anything we have ever seen. At first, though, we see in this text that this wedding banquet is an exclusive party. Only the king’s friends and associates were invited. But, oddly enough, they all turn down the invitation.

Well, the king was furious, so he tells his servants, “Fine, forget those people. Instead, go out and gather up anyone you can find from the streets and bring them to my wedding banquet.” So the image we have then is a wedding reception filled with all kinds of people – good and bad, rich and poor, old and young, worthy and unworthy all celebrating together.

The connection, then, that Jesus makes with this parable is that the king is God and the reception is eternal life in heaven – a place where there will be an elaborate, non-stop, joyous celebration. And since God made a tremendous investment in each one of us by creating us, providing for us, and sending His Son, Jesus, to save us, He wants everyone to be there. This means that we are all invited, your name and my name are on the guest list.

But while everyone is invited, not everyone will respond to the invitation. I’m sure we have all made up excuses, at one time or another, as to why we couldn’t attend an event. But what is it about these invited guests in this text that keeps them from attending? After all, it’s an invitation from a king. Well, it says in verse 5, “They paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business.” Ok, they had to work. What’s wrong with that? It doesn’t say that they didn’t like the king or that they decided not to go because they were playing golf.

The point our Lord is making in this parable is that even good, wholesome, or necessary things can stand between us and God. And when these good or necessary things keep a person’s mind off of God, when these things consistently keep a person from worship and Bible study, and when these things keep people from serving God and others, they can become a stumbling block or an obstacle to his/her relationship with God. In other words, God certainly understands when work schedules or emergencies are beyond our control and we are not able to make it to worship or Bible study, but when unnecessary work causes us to miss worship or keeps us from serving others week after week, our walk with God suffers.

The bottom line is that the people in this parable did not want to attend the wedding banquet. They had no real desire to go, so they were looking for excuses. If they had really wanted to go, they would have found a way to attend. And that’s true for us when it comes to worship in many cases. If a person really wants to attend, either in person or online, they will usually find a way.

After all, I’m sure we all find it amazing how quickly people can clear their calendars for a sporting event, or to see a friend who visits the area, or to do things they really want to do. Sadly parts of this parable are being reenacted every day in the lives of people and in the life of the church. One of the great enemies of faith and commitment to God is preoccupation. God is simply crowded out. That doesn’t mean we reject God, but we simply have no time for Him.

We try to justify our behavior by saying or thinking things like, “God I know you’re there, I know you’re always with me, but I’m just too busy right now to get involved in the church. When things slow down, then I’ll get back to church.” God has blessed us with this beautiful and comfortable place for worship and with this wonderful technology to make it easy for many people to attend worship through live streaming and recording, so that people can attend whenever it is convenient for them. But as soon as you miss a few weeks, for whatever reason, it can be very hard to get back into the habit of attending worship. As a result, instead of growing in our walk with God, you start walking away from God and you start growing in the ways of the world. The reality is if we start walking away from God someday it will be too late and the door to the Kingdom of Heaven will be closed.

If we are too busy for God right now and constantly reject His invitation, we certainly can’t expect to get into heaven because of the so-called “good things” we have done in the past when we weren’t so busy. And that’s the final point Jesus makes in this parable. As the king went into the wedding banquet to greet the guests, he noticed that one man was not wearing the proper clothes. When the king asked him how he got in without the proper clothes, he was speechless.

So the king had him thrown out.

Now that might sound harsh, but in those days, whenever people were invited to a wedding banquet, if a person did not have the proper clothes, the host always provided some. Therefore, this was a situation where the person the king had thrown out clearly rejected the clothes that were offered to him. The clothes in this case represented the righteousness of God. This man believed that what he had – his own clothes; and what he had done in the past – his own good works – were good enough to be accepted to the king’s banquet. In other words, this is like thinking, “I don’t need Jesus. I’m a pretty good person, I try to be nice and I don’t bother other people. I think God will definitely welcome me into His heavenly kingdom someday.”

While God’s invitation of eternal life with Him in heaven is definitely extended to all people without restrictions, it is not without expectations. We cannot just show up wearing the same old clothes of busyness, judgment, arrogance, or indifference. And no matter how hard we try to change, nothing we do or say will be acceptable to God, because all of our words and actions are stained with sin. But through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, not only does God prepare a place for us in heaven, He also serves us by clothing each one of us with His Son, so that when God sees us, He doesn’t see how unworthy we are, He doesn’t see our excuses, He doesn’t see our sin – He sees His Son, Jesus, in each one of us as He welcomes us to His heavenly banquet.

Therefore, despite our shortcomings, failures, and excuses, God continues to invite us to walk with Him so that we can enjoy and share in the blessings of His love. It is true that the first thing we need to do is to show up, but that is just the beginning of our walk with God as we grow in His Word through worship and Bible study, and serve one another in the way He serves us. I pray that we will always say “yes” to God’s invitation, that we will do more than just show up, and that we will be obedient to His call, and will never toss aside the invitation from our God, the only One who can give us real life.

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