“Failure to Party”

12 October 2014

Matthew 22:1-14

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Matthew 22:1-14


Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 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.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.

 

Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 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. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 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.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

 

Prayer.

 

Well, this parable of Jesus

Went off the rails pretty quickly!

 

In this third of three parables

Jesus tells the assembled crowd, religious authorities, and Roman soldiers

In the courtyard of the Temple

- The day after he entered triumphantly into Jerusalem

Marched up the Temple steps

And overturned the money changers tables -

… He tells them

A parable that is so wildly absurd

That it leaves every credible preacher wondering

And scratching their head;

Just how is this going to preach?

 

I will not be afraid!

The deeper truth Jesus is communicating

Can be found below the surface of this Parable

For those who are willing to make the effort to dig.

Are you in?

Of course you are!

 

Let’s start at face value:

A king sends out an invitation to his son’s wedding banquet.

It is rejected.

Odd; don’t you think?

A royal summons is rejected?

I was summoned to federal jury duty this past week;

You can be certain I promptly responded.

A royal summons is rejected?

Who wouldn’t attend a free royal banquet?

The spiral into absurdity begins.

 

So the king sends out a second invitation.

He sweetens the deal.

The king includes a professionally produced pamphlet

Listing the menu, amenities, and information about the party house.

A second time, his royal invitation is rejected.

The kings slave messengers are seized, mistreated, and murdered.

Wow.

Who saw that coming?

What possible motive could there be?

Absurdity deepens.

 

This is where the story becomes a train wreck:

The king becomes so enraged

He put boots on the ground,

Called in airstrikes with drones, fighters and cruise missiles.

The king killed those who rejected his invitation,

And he completely destroyed their city.

He wipes it off the face of the earth.

Without even a pause to take a breath

The king turns to his slaves,

Brushes off his hands,

And tells them

“Party on.”

 

No kidding.

The party is still on!

 

One observed:

“Apparently, while soldiers pillaged and slashed -- all the while as great flames devoured the buildings outside the palace walls -- little Sterno burners toiled away silently under the sumptuous dishes in the great hall, keeping the meal hot for the eventual guests!”

(Professor Lance Pape, Brite Divinity School, as found at workingpreacher.org)

My point is this:

It is perfectly acceptable to reject realism with this Parable.

We can honor, appreciate, and respect the absurdities of this Parable.

Let us recognize the fact that Jesus exaggerated absurdities

Point us toward a deeper allegoric truth:

Jesus is speaking about salvation history

And he is about to make his point.

 

Some historical perspective.

Saint Matthew and his community of Christ followers

Still considered themselves as faithful Jews.

They saw themselves as Jews who had received a new revelation,

An enlightenment,

As ones who’ve accepted the King’s invitation

By becoming disciples of Jesus Christ;

Not like the religious authorities

Running the synagogue down the block

Sticking to their ‘old school Judaism.

 

It is also important to note

That Matthew and his community of believers had witnessed from a far

The complete destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD

And the diaspora of the few remaining Jewish survivors.

Jesus certainly saw this coming.

Matthew is looking backwards,

Confirming Christ’s prophetic words.

 

Jesus’ message, communicated through Matthew’s Gospel is clear:

God’s judgment was upon those who reject God’s Son.

God’s judgment was upon those who reject God’s effort

To bring forgiveness and salvation

In a new way

Into the world.

 

Surprisingly, Jesus continues the Parable!

There is a banquet hall ready for a feast.

So the king sends out a general invitation.

Everyone is invited:

Jew and non-Jew,

Christian and non-Christian,

Roman citizens and resident aliens,

Young, old, rich, poor, singles, families, gay, straight, and everyone in-between.

Everyone is welcome.

Does this sound familiar?

Around the Lord’s Table

Everyone is welcome.

 

One of my professional hazards is attending wedding receptions!

Often times I’m seated at tables of those I barely know.

Don’t get me wrong;

I’ve met many wonderful families and people at receptions.

I’ve also learned a lot down through the years.

Many times there seems to be one guy

Who becomes Mr. Inappropriate.

Jesus describes him well:

That guy was under dressed for the party.

The king had him arrested, handcuffed, and tossed out by the scruff of his neck.

He wasn’t just kicked out.

He was tossed

… “into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Wow!

Now THAT is absurd!

 

But let us remember,

This Parable isn’t about realism,

It is an allegory about a deeper, spiritual truth.

Salvation is at hand, and every follower of Jesus

Better be ready for the party!

 

Let’s take a moment to apply this Parable of Jesus to our lives today.

 

First, there will be many who reject God’s grace.

God sent us a Son to redeem and save the world;

Many will shrug their shoulders, turn their back, and walk away from him.

Expect it.

Don’t be surprised by the world’s rejection of Jesus Christ.

Just as first century Jews rejected Jesus,

So too can we expect many in today’s world to also reject Him.

Do not become discouraged or lose faith.

Consider the seeds planted for a future harvest.

 

Secondly, judgment is not ours to dispense.

Only our king,

Only our Lord,

Is the one authorized to dispense judgment.

Timing, duration, nature, and intensity

Of judgment are not our affair

And we only waste energy debating it.

Today, gossip may be the single worst example of judgmental debate.

In high school our chorus sang a number that went like this:

“Gossip, gossip evil thing

Much unhappiness it brings.

If you can’t say something nice

Don’t talk at all is my advice.”

Instead, let’s get to the task of loving God and loving neighbor.

Let get to the task of kingdom building.

 

Thirdly, the underdressed guest was guilty of a kingdom crime:

Failure to party.

What does this mean?

A failure to party;

Griping and moaning,

Being caught unprepared, or

Caught in an unbreakable cycle of wishing for the good ‘old days to return …

… results in God’s judgment and being tossed out altogether.

Church, the way it used to be done

Is a failure to party.

Being caught in an endless parade of meetings planning ministry

Instead of doing ministry

Is a failure to party.

Being lured into status, power, authority

Without a disciple of humility, love, and generousity

Is a failure to party.

When it comes to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ,

Of His forgiveness and salvation,

Being dull

Is a failure to party.

 

God has a kingdom to finish and

A party to throw!

Our worship must become a party for God’s Son

And it must be over-the-moon wonderful!

Our outreach must be a party for Jesus

Reaching out in friendship

… Just as Jesus taught us …

Inviting everyone to the Table,

Especially that last, the least, the lost, and the left behind!

 

The Church is no place for half-hearted, under dressed, unenthusiastic volunteers!

Jesus is calling those who follow him

To come prepared

To take part in the best that is soon to come!

God’s party,

Our Lord’s Messianic banquet,

Symbolized right here in the bread and cup.

 

Dearly beloved,

Lets raise the roof, tear down these walls,

And lets get this party started!

Amen!