SERMON 9 OCTOBER 2011
TRINITY 16 (Proper 23)
Isaiah 25 Phil 4.1-9 Matthew 22.1-14
Mt.11.19 ‘The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say "look, a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners" but wisdom is justified by her children’.
loved parties and he didn’t mind who was there.
After he called Matthew to follow him he celebrated with tax collectors
and sinners. At
No wonder Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to a feast; not just an ordinary feast but one made by a King to celebrate the wedding of his son. Moreover, it was an oriental King so it was not a one-day affair like the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. A local taxi driver told me recently that he was going to a wedding; it was the last day of a week-long celebration. In heaven, of course, it goes on for ever.
Bernard’s magnificent hymn
Jesus wasn’t the first person to think that God’s kingdom is like a banquet. As we heard in the lesson at Mattins, that image occurs in Isaiah chapter 25. However, Jesus gave the picture a new twist when he described the disgraceful way the King’s invitation to the feast was received.
The slaves deliver the invitations twice. That was customary. The first time guests are invited to a forthcoming wedding without stating the day, the second invitation with very little notice gives the definite day. ‘The feast is prepared. Come to the wedding’. ‘Those invited made light of it and went their ways, one to his farm another to his business’. In St Luke’s version of the parable the guests make excuses. I have bought a piece of ground and I must go and see it. I have bought five yoke of oxen and I must go and test them. I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come’ (Lk.14.18-20).
all sounds very ridiculous but the sequel is alarming:
‘The rest seized the servants and treated them spitefully and killed them’. We should realise by now that we’re dealing with allegory. As in last Sunday’s parable of the wicked vine-dressers, the servants represent the prophets God sent to his chosen people, who were rejected by them and killed.
city in the parable stands for
In place of the Jewish leaders, the wealthy and the respectable, who had opposed Jesus and rejected his message, God invites to his kingdom the poor and outcasts, the prostitutes and sinners. In the parable they live in the exits of the streets, that is the outskirts of the city. Possibly this refers also to the non-Jews who accepted Jesus’ invitation. In Luke’s version it’s clearer. First the servants are told ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind’. Still there is room. So the servants are instructed to invite the non Jews ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled’.
Luke finishes the parable at this point but Matthew continues. Now he turns his attention to those Christians who believed that they had been invited into God’s kingdom. The evangelist attaches to the parable of the wedding feast the story of the guest who was not dressed in a wedding garment. What can this mean? The wedding garment isn’t a special suit. It’s simply clean, laundered clothing. Every guest could be expected to wear clean clothes. The punishment of the man wearing dirty clothes is alarming. He is cast into outer darkness.
we are dealing with allegory. Those
invited to become followers of Jesus mustn’t presume to think that any
behaviour is acceptable. They’re
required to be like him. Life in the
is required is expressed beautifully in the reading we heard from
Crispin Harrison CR