Jesus Christ our Voice!
Exodus 32: 1-14
Psalm 106: 1-6, 19-23
Philippians 4: 1-9
Matthew 22: 1-14
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4: 6
Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.
Well, it seems like Jesus is teaching us another lesson about ourselves. Have you ever received an invitation to a party or a wedding that you didn’t really want to go too? I’m sure most of us have but I reckon you didn’t abuse and kill the mailman. Or have you ever invited people to a party and they didn’t show up? You cleaned, you cooked and you made your place look awesome. The tables were set, hangi was down and music was pumping. Everything was ready but some of your manuhiri didn’t come. Did it make you so angry that you killed them and burned down their houses? Probably not, but that’s what happens in today’s parable. This parable of the King’s Son’s Wedding is pretty shocking and it begs to be taken seriously but not literally. It begs to be taken as truth but not as historical fact. Besides, to hear this parable and conclude that God is an angry king who, if he doesn’t get his way, destroys his own people and burns their cities simply doesn’t fit with the God revealed by Jesus Christ throughout the four gospels. If we tell that story as the gospel truth then I reckon Jesus might just call us liars.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a parable of judgment, but it may not be the judgment we think it is. Speaking about the first group of guests the king says, “Those invited were not worthy.” By implication those in the second invited group were worthy. That’s when we tend to get nervous and fearful because God begins making judgments. It leaves us wondering whether we are in the first group or the second group. Are we unworthy or are we worthy? I suspect our nervousness and fear about God’s judgments arise from the assumption that God judges us in the same way we so often judge others. More often than not our judgments of others are judgments of exclusion. What if it’s just the opposite with God? What if Jesus is trying to shock us into seeing that the kingdom of heaven is not business as usual according to our standards? What if God’s judgment on our lives is one of grace, acceptance and invitation; a judgment of inclusion?
If that’s true then what separates or distinguishes the first invited guests from the second?
The difference isn’t that one was more deserving than the other. The first lot of guests were the recipients of the king’s invitation and favour. But so were the second group of guests. And so was the man who showed up without a wedding robe. They were all invited. They were all favoured. None of them had done anything to earn or deserve an invitation. It was just given. If that’s true for them, then it’s true for us. The difference isn’t that the king likes one group more than the other group. His sole motivation is to share his banquet. He wants someone, anyone, everyone, to join in his joy and celebration, and be a part of his kingdom and life. Both groups were given the same opportunity. The difference isn’t that some guests are good and others are bad. There is no distinction or judgment made based upon behaviour, beliefs, attitudes or morals. On the contrary, with the second lot of invitations the king sends his servants into the main streets with the instruction to “invite everyone you find.” And they did. They “went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad.” If that’s true for them, then it’s true for us.
That’s probably not the kind of social life most of us live, offer to another, or receive from another. But the parable is talking about God’s kingdom not ours. So what is it? What’s the difference between those who were not worthy and those who were? There’s only one thing that distinguishes the first invited guests from the second invited guests. Presence. The second group of guests showed up. The first group didn’t. The “wedding hall was filled” with the second invited guests but the first invited guests “wouldn’t come.” That’s the only difference between the two groups.
Like I have maintained, the key to our life in God is to just show up and to be present. But I know that’s a lot easier said than done. To be present is hard work. Think how hard it is to be present to another person. It means establishing the other person as our priority. It’s about seeing them for who they are and not who we want them to be or think they should be. It’s about opening ourselves to receive their life into our own. It means the vulnerability of entrusting and giving our life to the other. It’s about really listening to what they say and not just what we hear or want to hear.
Therefore, that means letting go of our own agendas, distractions, fears and prejudices. If we’re not doing that with others we’re probably not doing it with God. Instead, we too often go our separate ways, doing what’s more important to us. We’re too busy, too tired and too distracted. There’s work to be done and money to be made. We make light of the other’s life and what is being offered. If we don’t earn it or work for it we assume it has no value. After all you get what you pay for, right? We’re convinced we have better things to do and better places to be. That’s what the first invited group did. What they didn’t realise, and what we sometimes don’t realise, is that there is no life outside God’s banquet and God’s kingdom. To show up and be present is to be worthy before God. It’s that simple and it’s that difficult. We don’t earn or prove our worthiness as a prerequisite to entering the banquet. We show up, be present, and discover for ourselves the worthiness God has always known about us. That’s when our lives begin to change.
But what about the bloke who showed up without a wedding robe? This is about more than just a dress code violation. Something else was missing. “He was speechless.” He had nothing to say. It was as if he tried to sneak in without an invitation and act as if he wasn’t really there. Jesus is reminding us that there are times when we show up and we’re not really present but God can see what we are up too. Always remember, God knows our hearts, our souls and our minds. So when you are present, don’t hide but be open and say something. Let God know what is going on at the core of your being. Be present so God can then say, “My friend, welcome, I’m so glad you got my invitation. I’m so glad you are here. And, you are worthy.” Amen.
Archdeacon Kaio Karipa
Kind and generous God, you prepare a feast for all people. May we prepare for your banquet by putting on the garment of love that springs from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith. Help us to bring the lost and lonely, the poor and those in need to your feast where all are fed. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu