Sermon (Dcn. Sue); 19 Pentecost/Proper 23A; Matthew 22:1-14
What a Debbie Downer Wedding Banquet!
We all have been there, a nightmare wedding reception. There is one who knocks down two attendants vying for the bouquet. Or someone who is dancing, well actually twerking, before it was a thing. But today’s Gospel is in competition with the Game of Thrones Red Wedding episode.
And speaking of violence in Matthew, the whole of Matthew is gory. Herod was killing babies, to John the Baptist’s beheading, and eventually to Jesus on the Cross. And today, we have a King who is snubbed by all he invited to share a meal and celebrate his son’s wedding. So let us continue understanding the context within this gospel.
We are near the end of Ordinary Time and Jesus’s parables in Matthew. Leading up to today, in the previous chapter, Matthew announces Jesus’s arrival on a donkey to Jerusalem. Dire things are going to happen in Jerusalem. As he rides this donkey the people hail him, Hosanna to the Son of David.
Jesus, with this public recognition, drives out the market sellers in the temple, overturning tables. He goes off to Bethany (No, not the beach) to spend the night. In the morning, after being so dastardly to the market folks, he wakes and is hungry (or in today’s language hangry). He finds a fig tree and expects fruit, but since it has none, he condemns it. It sounds like Jesus is having a bad day. I wonder if this is a Monday for him. His disciples question him, and he gives them an idea of what they can do when they have faith. But what amount of faith? As small as a mustard seed?
He then tackles the Chief Priests and Pharisees and gets into a debate of who he is. Of course, he answers them in a snarky parable of the two sons. One who says he’ll do something and doesn’t, and the other son, says he won’t do what his father asks but does it anyway. Of course, there are consequences.
Then he offers another parable, a landowner creates a perfect place, allows folks to run and harvest it, and those folks abused his property. What happens to these folks? The landowner will put those wretches to a miserable death.
And finally, we get to today’s scripture, “The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.” Those invited didn’t have time, so he re-invites, and still, they cannot be bothered. He asks for anyone to come to the party, and some show, but one is not dressed well, and he rebukes him to darkness. For many are called, but few are chosen.
So this king, of course, conquers a city, people die, and eventually, those who dress inadequately get thrown out as well. No matter how good the food and drink are, if you are not willing to show up in the appropriate attire, there are consequences for this.
My Matthew Bible Study night is opening my eyes to the Gospel writer’s positions. Here and earlier. We have two Kingdoms at odds with one another, the earthly and heavenly kingdom. I sense that the king of this reception is not our Heavenly Father but rather a reflection of Herod or, at the least those, who live comfortably and felt no remorse on wiping out a city. But he needs attention, and even when poorly dressed folks come in, he’s still wretched to them.
The society of the time is plagued with a lot of rulers. Sadducees, the elite, Chief Priests, judges and keepers of the law, Pharisees who live and breathe the law, and the Romans who have their own set of rules and law. That is a lot of people with a lot of power, doing what?
Feeding the poor?
Clothing the naked?
Freeing the imprisoned?
Making a thriving difference for the everyday folks?
Also, there is an ever-increasing amount of anger in the three parables,
The one son who says yes, but means no.
The paradise is given, only to be hoarded by the tenants.
And now a king…Could this king be the symbol of a
Roman ruler, Chief Priest, Pharisees?
The king is despised, and he seems to despise all those around him. How sad I feel for this king. He seems to have inherited much but doesn’t seem grateful for what he has and needs more.
Here in Matthew, we have been shown paradise by the landowner, yet those who have tended it kept it for themselves. Hence, over and over again, Matthew says where your heart is, so is your treasure. The king’s heart seems very, very small in giving his party. Jesus is speaking to those in authority, to turn, and open your heart to the one who has made you king. He’s given you all you need, tend it with the love in which he gave it. Do not hold onto it with earthly desires.
I see this as a direct message for the Pharisees and Chief Priests. We are now in a verbal debate, and weeping and gnashing of teeth from those in Matthew’s society who are in charge.
We, too, hold onto our comforts, only to let in people who think, act, dress, and look like us. God, who is more patient than Jesus of Nazareth, waits on us to learn from the foibles of earthly living, and knew then, knows now, and will always love us even when we hold onto the comforts.
Just like the Pharisees, we hold on to the old even as everything is made new in Christ. The law is not tossed away but is fulfilled all the more with the Cross's redeeming work: Hosanna, Son of David.
Matthew is all about bringing those hardened, like the king, to implore them to turn and see the greatness of our God. The warning is dire, to convince those to reach out to the world and teach them the way of love, and to offer themselves in joy and obedience to God. These last chapters of Matthew are a crescendo of the Father's driving love for all of creation. We know what is at the end of the Gospel: The Great Commission. Go, make disciples everywhere, baptizing in the Trinity, and teaching to obey what Jesus has commanded:
- Love your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.
- Love your neighbor as yourself
- And to remember, Christ is with us always, to the end of the age.
The transforming love of God changes us every minute of every day, slowly pointing us to a new reality of love for one another, and not the earthly desires of kings.
Rather than being a king who is despised by all, why not turn to whatever is true, honorable, just and pure, and there, the God of peace will be with you. Amen