Invitation – Lectionary Sunday – October 9, 2011

Photo credit: Sarah Parrot

Do you have a movie that you can quote from front to back?

For my sisters and I, it’s probably “A League of Their Own.”

“I’m singin’ to Nelson, ain’t I baby?”

“You sure are”

I recently “wowed” my Middle School Students by quoting a two minute block of quotes from “The Princess Bride.”

“I’d sooner destroy a stained glass window than artist such as yourself.  But since I can’t have you following me either. . . ”  

Ok, back to the post

For young men in Israel during the Roman Empire, the book of Isaiah was the thing that they all had memorized.  Isaiah was this amazing book that promised a new day for Israel, it spoke of God’s love and Shalom.  Isaiah is quoted more than any other book in the writings of Jesus’ day.

Many of Jesus’ parables play off of images that the prophet Isaiah used.  (For example the vineyard in last week’s post).

Jesus does the same thing in this week’s parable.  Check out this passage from Isaiah:

But here on this mountain, God-of-the-Angel-Armies
will throw a feast for all the people of the world,
A feast of the finest foods, a feast with vintage wines,
a feast of seven courses, a feast lavish with gourmet desserts.
And here on this mountain, God will banish
the pall of doom hanging over all peoples,
The shadow of doom darkening all nations.
Yes, he’ll banish death forever.
And God will wipe the tears from every face.
He’ll remove every sign of disgrace
From his people, wherever they are.
Yes! God says so! (Isaiah 25:6-8, The Message)

Who wouldn’t want to look forward to a banquet like that, especially if you were longing for a new day.  No wonder this book was so often quoted.

So when Matthew quotes Jesus’ story:

God’s kingdom,” he said, “is like a king who threw a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out servants to call in all the invited guests. And they wouldn’t come!

“He sent out another round of servants, instructing them to tell the guests, ‘Look, everything is on the table, the prime rib is ready for carving. Come to the feast!’ (Matt. 25:2-4)

You can imagine people calling to mind the Isaiah passage.  The feast is ready.  This is going to be so awesome!  But look at how Jesus describes the response:

“They only shrugged their shoulders and went off, one to weed his garden, another to work in his shop. The rest, with nothing better to do, beat up on the messengers and then killed them. The king was outraged and sent his soldiers to destroy those thugs and level their city.

“Then he told his servants, ‘We have a wedding banquet all prepared but no guests. The ones I invited weren’t up to it. (Matt. 25:5-7)

Do we do that? Do we look for God to show up, only to be too busy when he invites us over?  Do we assume that we’re the insiders and will always be the insiders, so don’t bother responding to God’s invitation?  I do.

But if we don’t show up to the party, God’s not going to stop partying.  The kingdom is going to move forward whether we show up or not.  We may think that we’re an insider, we may think that we are the elites who get an invitation, but if we don’t show up, the party is still going to go on.

Go out into the busiest intersections in town and invite anyone you find to the banquet.’ The servants went out on the streets and rounded up everyone they laid eyes on, good and bad, regardless. And so the banquet was on—every place filled. (25:8-10)

The streets, that’s where the party guests are at.  It’s not for a certain group, it’s for everyone in town, it’s for the busiest intersection.  It’s not for people who are too busy taking care of their own house or their own garden or their own business.  It’s for those who want to celebrate with their king.

If we think that we are insiders can we be a part of the party?