We Are All Invited!

Sermon Title:  We Are All Invited!

Date: 12 October 2014

Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers

Church Calendar Date: 18th Sunday after Pentecost 2014

Lectionary Reading: Matthew 18: 22.1-14

Wow! God is throwing a big party! And we are all invited!

In the gospel story you just heard, this party was an extravagant banquet and many people were invited.  It’s not the only time we read of amazing feasts.  In Isaiah (25:6) it says “on this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.”  And in Psalm 23 it says that “God will prepare a table before me” I can only imagine what would be on it!

This biblical image from the prophet Isaiah and from Psalm 23 are describing God’s eschatological feast, the arrival of the Kingdom of heaven and describes God’s abundant grace.  The prophet said “All are invited to feast!”

The last big party I put on was for Jonathan when he turned 60.  For many of us who have organised parties we know there is a lot to think about.  And the host is quite vulnerable. It’s risky business! Did I invite all the friends Jonathan would want at the party?  Will they all get along? What food shall I order…will the guests like the food that I have chosen?  When do we have the speeches?  Is there enough wine, beer, soft drink?  And the invite…is it snazzy enough! Did I remember to put on the RSVP date!

So as a host, it can be quite a tense time and often will sit down afterwards to check out whether the party was a success or not.

And then I was thinking about when I receive an invitation to a party.

Do I really want to go? Is it because I ought to go? How do I say no…what excuse will I give? I have something already booked? Busy? Tired of obligation? Don’t really like the company? It won’t be fun? I‘m sure we had some experience of this!

So, really the act of hospitality involves risk on the part of both the host and the guest. And hospitality, both offering it and receiving it, can be really uncomfortable and sometimes even hurtful.

How do we make sense then of this bizarre story you have just heard from Matthew’s gospel! It’s starts off ok with the invitation to come to a feast in honour of the king’s son, but it’s met with rejection. Well, I guess that’s not too unusual.

The second invite goes out to entice the invitees with description of the elaborate preparations! It’s going to be so yum! Who wouldn’t come to this party? But those invited were unimpressed and just went back to the usual daily life.

But then it gets nasty! The servants sent by the king are abused and murdered.  Then in retaliation the king goes to war against his own people. And it gets weirder. The dinner believe it or not is still on and invitations go out again!  With the guests now gathered in the banquet hall, the king moves among the guests and spots one guest without a wedding robe and asks him “how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” the guest couldn’t answer and was thrown out !

Now I wonder where we go when we hear this story. This is a parable; it is not something that really happened. It’s to teach us a truth. So, when we hear this story, how do we respond personally? Do we think about ourselves and our fate? Would I have been invited? The chosen? Would I have picked the right outfit to wear? And what about other people. Who else would be invited? Why were they invited? Who put this guest list together anyway?

We know what it feels like to not be included. To not have hospitality extended to us. When we are not invited, we can feel rejected, not wanted. Not loved.

Using this biblical image of the feast, God extends an invitation to attend a banquet. God has planned the menu, bought the wine, set the table, arranged for some appropriate music…but we can refuse to go.

Out of this bizarre story in Matthew’s gospel, I can see that God (depicted as the king) simply doesn’t give up! The invitation kept going out until the dining hall was full, even over-flowing, perhaps embarrassingly so, uncomfortably so, disquietingly so.

Who are the guests? We will wait and see at the final banquet, but we can practice the hospitality of God here and now and include everyone to the feast!

Today we welcome Matthew into the Christian worldwide family.  God welcomes young Matthew and all of us. Rich, poor, whatever colour skin we have, language we speak, intellectual or not.

All are invited. We are not puppets: it’s up to us to respond.

As Christians, we have accepted the invitation to participate in the banquet…indeed I believe we taste it now when we share in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

We come to the feast ready to celebrate with joy, thankfulness and a repentant heart.  The guest, who didn’t have a wedding robe on, wasn’t prepared to be open to the celebration! He wasn’t ‘clothed’ with a joyful, repentant and open heart.

As a community of faith, we can support each other through prayer, through listening to each other, through wrestling with the scriptures as to how they speak to us in our daily lives and through acknowledging when we have strayed from being as Christ- like as we could be. We are not always going to be joyful, thankful or repentant. Thankfully, the invitation is continually being extended.

There’s a big party going to happen and we are all invited!

How will you respond today?                                       The Lord be with you