Pentecost 20 A 2023 The Wedding Invitation
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Most of you are probably aware that the wedding industry is big business. But did you know that the wedding industry generates about 60 billion dollars in revenue each year here in the United States. That, my friends, is a lot of money.
If you have planned a wedding recently, you probably know how complicated and expensive a wedding can get. There is the wedding dress, the bridesmaids’ dresses, the tuxedoes, the flowers, the invitations, the venue, the menu, the limo, and unfortunately, even the cost of security to consider when one plans a wedding.
It is safe to say that the average wedding today takes a year to plan and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. And if you want a destination wedding, well the costs can really add up. I can’t even imagine the cost of having guests fly and stay in Hawaii or Cancun for the big event.
It is no secret that when a couple asks me to officiate at their wedding, I ask the couple to keep it simple. And instead of spending thousands of dollars on a wedding, use the money to make a down payment on a house or use the money to pay down student debt. Unfortunately, that advice is not usually well received.
Well imagine that you are like most couples and have ignored my advice, and you have made all the arrangements for the perfect wedding.
You reserved the perfect spot for the wedding and reception. You paid all the deposits, you picked the florist and the bakery, you set the menu with the caterer, the limo driver has been reserved, you sent out all the invitations, and everything is all set.
But then out of nowhere, all your guests respond that they will not be attending the wedding. A few offer excuses such as “Sorry, the date does not work with my work schedule.” Or “my grandfather just died, and I need to take care of his funeral arrangements.”
But most don’t offer an excuse at all. Instead, they simply inform you that they will not be able to attend the wedding. Can you imagine how frustrated, and heartbroken, and angry you would be if none of your guests responded that they would be attending the wedding.
After having spent months planning, and budgeting for the wedding, you have now been left with a disaster on your hands. I bet deep down inside you would feel rejected by your guests. Well, that is how the king in today’s parable felt when no one showed up to the wedding banquet that he had planned.
The parable states “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out his servants to summon those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they did not want to come.”
The king can’t believe what is happening. Who would turn down free food and wine? And who would turn down an invitation from their king?
It doesn’t make sense.
Thinking that the invitations must have gotten lost in the mail, and that his guests did not realize how important this event was to him, the king sent out more servants to explain that the invitation is real, and the prime rib has been sliced, and the wine has been chilled. And all they need to do is come and enjoy the feast that has been prepared for them.
But still they don’t come. And now they come up with even more excuses not to attend the wedding banquet. They have fields to attend to, businesses to run, money to make, football to watch, fish to catch, soccer to play, sleep to catch up on, and a whole litany of other reasons why they cannot attend the wedding banquet.
The guests make it clear that they do not care how much time and money has been put into the event. The guests make it clear that it is not important to them that they honor the king’s son with their presence.
I think we all can understand the frustration the king felt when he put in all that time and effort to prepare for a celebration, and no one showed up.
Now consider the fact that the parable is not about a king, but about God. And the main emphasis is not about a wedding celebration, but about God’s Redeeming Activity in our world. God did not just butcher an ox or slaughter His only fatted calf; God sent His only begotten Son to die on the Cross to take away the sin of the world.
So, when people reject Christ, they are not just rejecting prime rib, or brisket, baked beans, coleslaw, green beans, BBQ chicken, grilled sausage (I am making myself hungry just preaching this sermon), they are rejecting God, and not giving God the honor and respect God deserves.
It is no wonder then, that God gets so angry in the parable. After many attempts to invite humanity to His Heavenly banquet, God responds by sending troops to kill the people and burn the cities of those who rejected His Son, and made fun of, and killed His messengers.
God demonstrates that there are consequences for our actions. If we reject Jesus and think we do not have to lay our sins on Jesus, bad things will happen.
But thankfully, God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounds in steadfast love. And God sent His messengers out again to gather everyone, both the good and the bad, to His feast. God never stops loving His creation. God never stops inviting us to come and be a participant in His Heavenly Feast.
For you see, His invitation to partake in His Redeeming Activity is a blessing and a gift. It comes to us free of charge because of God’s great passion for us. But it also comes with responsibilities. Discipleship demands that we change our ways and allow God to create a clean heart in us.
God expects that we love one another, and that we show compassion and respect for our fellow guests. God wants us to take care of one another and be merciful to one another just as He bestows mercy upon us.
And when we fail, it is just like showing up to the feast without the proper wedding garment. And again, there are consequences for our actions. When we fail to live as God’s chosen people, and treat one another badly, we end up in place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
When we mistreat one another and ignore our neighbor, we create hell in this world right now. Violence, prejudice, anger, broken families, broken friendships, broken relationships; that is what happens when we fail to put on the garment of grace.
In short, the appropriate response to God’s invitation is not about what we wear, but about the fruit we produce. It is about our actions, our attitudes, and our behaviors. It is about how well we respond to Christ’s demand when He was asked which is the greatest command.
Jesus said: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. ' This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-39
My friends, God has invited all of us to His heavenly feast. And God wants to fill his heavenly banquet hall with people like you and me. The question is: How will you respond to the invitation? And are you willing to be changed by God to be the type of guest God expects us to be?
I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to walking through those big double doors into God’s banquet hall and participating in the feast that He has prepared for us. And I am looking forward to the time when we will all join hands and give Gods our thanks and our praise. Amen.
Let us pray: God of all creation, open our hearts that Christ, the King of glory, may enter and rule our lives. Give us clean hands and pure hearts, that we may stand in your presence and receive your blessings. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.