17th Sunday in Trinity, Sunday 4th October 2020
May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
As part of my role as a priest I am often criticised for believing in God by many people. I remember when I had only been ordained a deacon for a couple of days and as I walked to church one day a guy stopped me and told me to get a proper job and stop brainwashing people into thinking there is a God. It wasn’t the most pleasant conversation I have ever had.
As we think about the kingdom of heaven being like a wedding banquet this morning, it takes me back to that conversation and how he rejected everything that the Christian faith has to offer; an offer that Christ says is like being invited to a wedding banquet where many are invited and where eternal life is given to those who accept it. And while this man was vocal in his disdain for what he thought I believed in because of the clerical collar, many people outside of the church hold very similar views to him, even if they are less vocal than he was to me.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding banquet, a great banquet, the best that we have ever been invited to. Many people reject this invitation. They simply are not interested, as that chap was who I met on the street. He did not believe in the one who had prepared the banquet or that there was even a banquet to which he may attend. He, like many people, are robust in how they think and feel about life, both this one and the next. They are not interested in God or who Christ is and what he has done for them. They reject the invitation outright from the start. And our modern world reflects much of this thinking. People are not interested in the invitation that the church offers.
However, the complexities of this parable are for those who accept this invitation but then do not show up. And coupled with this is that those who accept and attend are not really prepared for the banquet either. The Swiss Protestant theologian, Karl Barth, sums it up:
“In the last resort, it all boils down to the fact that the invitation is to a feast, and that he who does not obey and come accordingly, and therefore festively, declines and spurns the invitation no less than those who are unwilling to obey and appear at all.”
The problem for many modern-day Christians is that we have accepted the invitation of Christ to his banquet but we are not entirely sure if it is worth attending.
We are not sure if the banquet will be that good.
A few stale sausage roles and a cold cup of tea, rather a sumptuous meal to be enjoyed.
And because of that we are unwilling to invite those outsides of the church to come along with us.
We downplay it for a whole host of different reasons, embarrassment, uncertainty maybe even fear.
We need to remember that the invitation to the banquet comes from God.
It is not something that we can take lightly or casually and there is an element of preparation that we all need to do. In the same way that we wouldn’t attend a wedding in our old gardening clothes, or painting gear, we likewise, need to prepare ourselves for such an occasion. We need to prepare ourselves for eternal life. And only this, but the celebration takes on a much greater meaning if we really know the person who has invited us in the first place. We will enjoy the banquet much more and the meaning of the celebration more deeply if we know the host. Then we are more connected and involved in the whole celebration.
What we learn from this Gospel today is that all are welcome to the banquet, to that heavenly banquet, to eternal life with God, along with those outside of the church. Have we the courage to invite them and are we, along with them, prepared for that great banquet which God has called each of us too? It is the greatest invitation we will ever be given, but giving less than our all in response to it, is an insult to our host. Amen