As you may or may not know I recently applied for and was selected by the diocese to train as a Licensed Lay Minister and will begin my training next September after retiring from my current role at Bracknell and Wokingham College based in Bracknell as a curriculum administrator mainly responsible for Professional and Higher Education courses. One of those courses is the PGCE – Post Graduate Certificate in Education in the Lifelong Learning Sector. After enquiring about the programme those interested will be invited in for an interview with the programme manager followed by an assessment. If they are successful they are then invited to apply to the university for a place on the programme. After which if the college approves their application the university will invite them to register. This registration process is currently under way for this year. They need to acknowledge the university’s invitation and complete their registration by the end of this month. If they do not they will not have a place on the programme. They are however given a second chance in that they can apply for late registration but they need to have a valid reason and their application may not be successful.
The parable in today’s gospel reading from Matthew is about invitations and whether the recipients choose to accept them or not and the consequences that my result from their decision. We see Jesus using another parable which tells the story of a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.
In those days the groom’s father paid for everything and sent out the invitations. It was common practice at that time to send out 2 invitations, one to save the date and the second to tell them to come, everything was ready.
In the story the invitations had already been sent out and those who had been invited are being told the time has come for them to attend the wedding banquet
Over the past few years it has become more and more popular here in the UK for those arranging a special event such as a wedding to do a similar thing, sending out save the date invitations followed by the more formal invitations with all the finalised details nearer the time.
But what happened when the servants arrived to issue the invitations?
Those invited refused to come!
Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding and the King gives them a second chance.
He sends more servants saying -
Tell those who have been invited, Look I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered and everything is ready, come to the wedding banquet.
Surely they will come now! But no, they made light of it and went away, one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized the King’s servants, mistreated them and killed them.
Not surprisingly the King is furious and sends his army to destroy the murderers and burn their city. His invitation has been rejected by his original guests twice and he now sends out his servants to invite others to come to the feast – those both good and bad
Why did Jesus tell this parable? What point is he making?
The parable is about the Kingdom of God – The King is God and Jesus his son. Jesus is talking about entry into heaven – how to enter God’s Kingdom
The religious leaders rejected God’s invitation and Jesus; they spurned God’s grace.
But the King didn’t just send his servants out once, he didn’t say that one chance was enough, he sent his servants out again. He gave those invited plenty of opportunity to respond.
That is exactly what God did for Israel. Time and again God sent his prophets to tell Israel that one day God’s rescuer would come and they would be able to come to the feast in heaven at the end of time. Isaiah 25:6, part of Isaiah’s song of praise to the Lord who promises deliverance (our OT reading for today) is reflected in parable of the wedding banquet ‘On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wined, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear’
God gave his people plenty of opportunity to get ready for the day when the feast would be ready, and when Jesus arrived that time had come. He was the one who could bring the people to the feast.
He reminded the people that many had been called; they had heard the news of the Kingdom of heaven through God’s servants. The prophet John the Baptist and now Jesus himself had proclaimed it
But the people of Israel led by their religious leaders rejected him, they refused to come to the feast through Jesus.
How do we respond to God, and to those who he sends? Do we hear and ignore, or listen and accept and obey?
And what about the guest who came to the banquet and was thrown out for not wearing the right clothes, it might seem to us that the host is being a bit harsh. But the wedding garment being referred to here represents the righteousness of Christ. Those who seek to hear God’s call and accept the good news of his kingdom, and who hope to take a seat the great banquet must surely be prepared, be clothed correctly – the commentator Matthew Henry says ‘those who put on the Lord Jesus, who live by faith in Christ, and to whom he is all in all, have the wedding garment ‘
The great news is that the invitation to the kingdom of heaven is open to everyone. Anyone can accept the invitation, should they choose to. How we respond to the invitation is a different matter. How we clothe ourselves, too, is a different matter. That’s why many are called but few are chosen.
Let us pray
Loving God, you gather us together tenderly
as a shepherd gathers their sheep;
you bring us together to feed us
and to strengthen us with your living water.
In you we find peace.
Help us to accept the invitation to come to you;
make us willing to respond to your call,
and ready to receive you now.