The following is a reflection on Matthew 22:1-14, the Gospel lesson appointed for October 9th, 2011 according to the New Revised Common Lectionary. (Proper 23, Year A) On this site there is also
• a reflection on the Hebrew Bible lesson for the same day, and
• a version of the Prayers of the People, based on the Canticle of the Sun.
I don’t like the translation of “banquet” in Matthew 22. Maybe it worked as an acceptable option years back, but I’m not so sure it does today.
When I think of “banquet,” I think of long Formica-topped tables, polyester table cloths, and more forks than I think a man really needs.
When I hear the word “banquet,” I don’t picture an event I’m looking forward to all week. Not something that gets me so excited I have a hard time sleeping at night. No.
I think of something I have to go to. Something that I’m expected to go to. An event I know I’m going to need to wear an uncomfortable suit to.
Those shoes that make my feet hurt.
And, just when things don’t seem like they couldn’t get any worse some DJ is going to expect me to do the chicken dance. Or, heaven-forbid, the Electric Slide.
I think of an event that I’ll go to because I’m “supposed” to, but I’m going to duck out as soon as it’s socially acceptable. I may even push the boundaries of fashionable lateness.
That is not the kind of event that Jesus is talking about here. What he’s talking about is far, far closer to our notion of “party.” A good party. The kind you don’t have to go to, but can’t wait to get to. The kind you don’t want to leave.
The kind of party you talk about for years.
I think this for two reasons. First: the wedding feast (party) at Cana. Jesus knows how to keep a party going—and it’s not with extra pans of chicken cordon bleu and vats of rubbery green beans. And, second, the people in the parable that Jesus is telling here, quite obviously, don’t feel obliged to go. They see this event as optional.
The reason they don’t go is because they don’t respect or honor the king who is throwing it. And, there’s the crux of the matter.
And, apparently, you can even show up and dishonor the king.
The Kingdom of God is like a grand party. A great party. One that will be talked about for eternity, because it will go on for eternity.
I think this is so important for ministry today. In my humble opinion, the reason fewer and fewer people are coming to the Sunday morning party, isn’t so much that people want to purposefully dishonor God, but that the parties we throw in God’s name are lame. The way that we worship/ party/ fellowship should reflect what we believe about the Kingdom. Our parties have eschatological significance. They are our icons of the reign of God.
And, we’ve been painting some pretty sour-faced icons.
Too many forks. Too many chicken-dances. Too many congealed salads.
The Reign of God is like a party said Jesus. And, all are invited. Everyone. Absolutely everyone.
But, that doesn’t mean that anything goes.