The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
St. Joseph-St. John, Lakewood
Proper 23, A; Pentecost+19
October 15, 2017
is not friendly to preachers.
Today we have a parable
that Luke tells too.
But in today’s parable
Matthew’s anger at the Jewish leaders
shines through even brighter than last week’s!
First, we need to set the stage
for this passage.
Like last week,
we’re getting a snatch
of inside baseball.
The way the Jewish leaders
ask Jesus very intense questions
was extremely culturally appropriate.
Rabbis arguing with one another
is something we ourselves know.
Discernment happens in community,
and sometimes the discernment sounds harsher
than it actually is.
In Matthew’s writing
the Pharisees are already looking
for a way to have Jesus killed
but they’re scared of the crowds.
As I pointed out a few weeks ago,
these passages are from
late in Matthew’s Gospel.
The narrative is building
to the Crucifixion
and then the Resurrection.
And we have Jesus
Matthew — angry at the Jewish leaders —
is recording those stories,
axes to grind and all.
This is a story that seems odd.
This is a story that seems full of hope.
This is a story that takes
a really weird turn at the end.
Jesus tells us about a king
who is throwing a wedding banquet
but none of the invited guests want to come.
Some of the guests
ignore the messengers
while others kill them.
(Matthew is pointing out
the persecution early Jesus Jews faced
at the hands of some Jewish leaders.)
How does the king reply?
By sending an army
to kill the guests
who refuse to come to the wedding
and then burn their city down.
What kind of host does that?!
I think it’s safe to say
that imagery of God
is a human projection,
banked in imperial control and violence,
more so than anything Jesus teaches
about himself or God’s reign.
After this king has killed the original guests,
burned their cities
and probably salted the fields
so no one else can live there,
he tells his slaves,
“Go round up anyone you can.
Those guys weren’t good enough anyway.”
Anyone can come at all,
good or bad.
Good or bad is even in the text,
as long as there were people there
to celebrate the feast.
The king who has
killed all the original invitees,
burned their city to the ground,
and now invited anyone at all
He saw one person not dressed right.
The king asks the guy how he got in
not in the right clothes,
and the guy is speechless.
What do you say to someone
asking how you got in
when there was an open invitation?
No clothing strings attached?
In the guest’s speechlessness,
the King has him bound
and thrown into the outer darkness,
“For many are called,
but few are chosen.”
Y’all, this is a roller coaster!
And the Church over time
decided and maintains
that it’s Good News!
In Luke’s version of this story,
and Matthew and Luke
borrow a lot from one another,
there’s no killing the invited folks.
There’s no burning their city
or probably salting their fields.
There’s no throwing anyone out
for not wearing the right clothes.
But we’re working with Matthew’s text.
One reading of
“Many are called, but few are chosen”
is that no matter what we do,
God still handpicks people
to see the ultimate banquet of Heaven.
That is not our tradition!
To find the Good News in this passage,
I think we can look back to last week.
Last week Jesus said,
“The kingdom of God
will be taken away from you
and given to a people that
produces the fruits of the kingdom.”
Having Family Housing Network
with us for the last week —
even through community dinner
when our space was used completely! —
is evidence of the fruits of the kingdom
being produced among us.
are we answering Jesus’ call
to make disciples?
Not people who come to church,
not people helped by our good deeds.
Disciples of Jesus Christ
who confess the faith of Christ crucified,
proclaim his resurrection, and
share with us in his eternal priesthood.
Our Friday Fourth Day group
and bible study afterward
are certainly part of that.
I’m looking forward to much sooner than later
expanding our offerings
for adult Christian formation.
As Episcopalians we have our own Good News narrative.
I do! There are a host of reasons I’m Episcopalian,
and I’ve been Southern Baptist
and United Methodist!
I’m looking forward to inviting you
to deepen our faith together
in weekly formation offerings
and sharing the Good News of the Resurrected Christ
with those in your lives
who need a friend,
who need some Good News,
who need a preview of heaven.
When that invitation is given,
I hope you’ll answer it.
I hope you’ll not only answer it.
but invite others to join you —
so that like in today’s parable,
our hall is full.