The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity - Reflection

‘Jesus said: 'go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find’.’ Matthew 22:9

A while ago I received a really exciting invitation. I was sat there at my parent’s house, minding my own business as a young man fresh out of bible college and I got an email, sent by my college principle, asking me to go and speak at the global leadership summit. Now I hadn’t heard of the global leadership summit so I went off and looked it up online and found that it was a hugely big deal. The top speakers from around the world, the absolute most important leaders you could imagine would be invited to speak at this conference; world leaders, business tycoons, archbishops and, according to my principals email, me too, to speak in a auditorium in America that could seat tens of thousands. Of course I was a little baffled but it sort of made sense, I do like speaking and I’m quite good at it, in quantity if not quality, so being invited somewhere to do it had a certain amount of credibility. Me, at that time about 22 years old, being invited to speak alongside presidents and prime ministers. I had, however, missed one small detail, which hardly bears mentioning. I’d missed that what I’d actually been invited to speak at, as had escaped my notice thus far, was the “Global Leadership Summit COMMA”. “The Global Leadership summit, COMMA, ‘Scunthorpe’”, to be held in Scunthorpe Baptist church which could seat maybe three hundred. In fact, what I’d been invited to was a local version of the Global Leadership Summit, to speak alongside such esteemed guests as Jamie, whose claim to fame was that he could play the drums with teaspoons. It turned out, once I understood the full nature of the invitation, to be a bit of a let down, mostly because of my reaction to it. I thought I was being invited to something great, the invitation had been a bit rubbish, it hadn’t been communicated clearly and my response had been a bit arrogant. The invitation was important, and so was the response.

Well today, our Gospel parable is about an invitation. Just a reminder, first, that a parable is a story that highlights something of spiritual importance and sometimes, certainly in this case, that is done through a sort of exaggeration, and it’s always done in a way that the people who were hearing the parable would understand. Jesus tells this story and tells us that it is about the kingdom of heaven. Though as we go through, we’ll see, it’s more specifically about those who are invited into the kingdom of heaven, and in this case that’s represented by the invitation to the King’s feast because, especially back then, who would say no to that? The king, especially back then, lived such a radically different lifestyle to all those around him that they couldn’t even comprehend it. Imagine if you were invited to be knighted today and were invited to go to see the king and he told you there was a party afterwards. Alright, for some there may be political reasons why you might say no, but what an amazing offer, how generous? And that’s what happens in our parable; the people are invited to the king’s feast, before a time when people disagreed with the monarchy, when this was the most important person in the land, with luxuries like you’ve never imagined. He sends out an invitation but everyone he invites to his wedding feast turns him down.

Imagine saying no to the king like that? Then imagine he sent one of his top people to come and fetch you. Imagine Prince William turned up at the door in his private helicopter and invited you to go with him to the feast in Sandringham Palace, and then imagine that instead of just saying no, you killed prince William. That’s what happens in this parable. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Some of you would maybe take a swing at Harry, but in this parable the King sends people out to go and bring people to the feast and his servants are murdered for it. It’s meant to be ridiculous. Who would do that? So the next bit may seem a bit harsh when the king ordered the people who murdered his servant to be killed themselves but we need to remember what this parable is. It’s a story that’s a metaphor about God’s invitation into his kingdom, exaggerated to make a point. God had invited the people of Israel into his kingdom and they had refused him, they’d killed the prophets and lived their own way. So now they’re spiritually dead, rejected, because of their rejection of the invitation into the kingdom, but God has a plan for what’s coming next. Unlike me thinking I was being invited into a mega-Church, God’s invitation is clear as day and far more prestigious, to be in the presence of the king of kings, but the people of Israel have turned away and ignored the invitation and even killed the prophets. So the servants of the king, in the parable, go out onto the streets they gather in everyone they can find. Suddenly, the invitation isn’t just for the select few, everyone can come into the kingdom, as is about to happen after Jesus’ resurrection with the Church, no longer is it just the people of Israel that’re invited into the kingdom, but me and you too. We’re invited to meet with God and live with him, now in part and, one day, fully. The invitation is for everyone, at last. You are invited.

And what do some of these new weddings guests do? They turn up not dressed for a wedding. Even today, to some degree, if someone turns up to a wedding in jeans and a t-shirt it’s a bit of a slight. It can say that that person doesn’t really care about that event enough to dress up. And there’s someone like that at the king’s wedding feast in our parable, someone who doesn’t really care that they’re there, they’re kind of crashing the wedding. They don’t care about the kingdom of God, they’re just there for the food. And that person in our parable get’s thrown out of the kingdom of God.That person didn’t ignore the invitation, but he didn’t really accept it in his heart, either. He accepted the invitation but only because of what he wanted out of it, not because he wanted to make any changes in himself.

Well brothers and sisters, you’ve all been invited to the wedding feast of the king, to come and live in the kingdom of God. That’s the most astounding invitation you’ll ever receive, more prestigious than the global leadership summit, more honouring than being knighted by the King of England. You are invited to the kingdom of heaven. Will you ignore the offer of God to be close to you? Or will you accept but only for selfish reasons and not give any of your heart up to him? Well, today I invite you all to accept the invitation and to make a commitment to God. I suggest that all of us set aside a minute in our heart each day over the next week to say yes to God’s invitation and to ask what we can give him, what we can do for the God who invited us to his feast. And perhaps as you come forward to receive our Lord in communion, you could remember that what we do there is a foretaste of that reality, in which we are invited forward and say yes in our hearts, to the feast of heaven, and to meet with God. Amen (from Fr Jordan).