Sermon Trinity 19, 15 October
Readings: Is. 25 1-9; Phil. 4. 1-9; Mt. 22. 1-14
Theme: God’s Invitation
The theme of our readings for today is God’s invitation. We are each invited to partake in his messianic banquet. This is spoken of in the first reading from Isaiah as ‘a feast of rich food’ and in the Gospel as the parable of the marriage feast. The servants or slaves sent out by the king to invite people are the prophets. Time and time again in Israel’s history, God sent his prophets to invite the people of Israel to partake in the messianic banquet, but they refused and ended up maltreating the prophets and rejecting their invitation.
When Jesus comes this same pattern repeats itself. He invites but is rejected by the Jewish authorities and so they neither take part in the messianic banquet nor listen to his message of invitation to do so. The parable of the marriage feast illustrates the persistence of God’s invitation to his people. He repeatedly sends his servants to invite people, but this invitation is clearly not welcomed as it should have been. So, the king instructs his servants to go out and to invite others to the wedding feast, good and bad alike. The invitation once rejected will be given to others to take up as the wedding feast is ready and it is God’s will that it be celebrated.
The notion of God’s invitation in these passages is one which reminds us that in our relationship with God, it is God who takes the initiative. God is the host and we are the guests at the wedding feast. So, whilst for much of our life we may be seeking God and trying to work out what our relationship with God should be, it is good to remind ourselves who takes the initiative in this relationship. God seeks us out and it is God’s personal invitation to you and to me which initiates this relationship. So, when we embark on the journey of taking our faith seriously, we should do so knowing that we have already received an invitation to the wedding feast.
This analogy or parable of the wedding feast stands for the kingdom of God and so when we hear these passages from Isaiah and St Matthew, what we are hearing is God’s invitation to take our place in God’s kingdom. And, as in the parable, the feast has already been prepared, it is ready. We should therefore proceed with a sense of urgency lest the ‘food get cold’, so to speak. Such urgency is meant to indicate the priority that this should take in our lives. It is not as if we can live our faith as if it were only a part of our lives. No, the urgency of the call to the wedding banquet is meant to convey to us that our lives should be oriented towards this feast and all that we do should be to enable us to take part in this feast in a worthy manner.
As the invitation is to everyone it is possible that we too might become like the man who was found at the wedding feast not wearing a wedding robe. The wedding robe here is traditionally interpreted to represent the symbol of the converted life which manifests itself in good deeds. In a life which is fitting for one who has been invited by God to the wedding feast. Whilst saints and sinners are invited to this wedding feast, this part of the parable is meant to act as a warning to us that though God invites us all to the take part in the kingdom, this participation requires of us that we take this invitation with the seriousness that it merits. Each and every one of us should take this call to conversion seriously, so that when we come to enter the wedding feast, we are not caught out without a wedding garment.
What might this wedding garment be for us? What does it mean for us to get ourselves ready for God’s invitation to us to partake in the kingdom of God? We might single out two things that should be present to us when we think of this. The first is that each of us should know who it is that is inviting us. Our responsibility to come to know the king in the parable means that we should take time to study the sacred scriptures and to encounter the Lord in the sacraments. Both word and sacrament are privileged places for us to come to know who it is that is inviting us to the feast. Ignorance of the word of God is often a cause of our ignorance of God. We should take time to allow the word of God to speak to us, so that through its inhabiting of our hearts, we can hear the Holy Spirit speak to us of God and the things of God. So too with the sacraments. Our initiation into the faith in baptism introduces us to the second aspect we should be aware of, namely, the responsibility of being a Christian, which in the liturgy of baptism is beautifully expressed at the end of the service in the words, “Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father”. In other words, being part of the Christian family requires of us that we reflect the light of God, often symbolized with a candle at baptism, to others in the world. This is one of the ways in which we make ourselves ready for the kingdom and so allow ourselves to be clothed with the wedding garment of the Holy Spirit.
So, we should think of our lives as a process of being clothed by the Holy Spirit with this wedding garment. Each act of coming to know God through the sacred scriptures and the sacraments, and of reflecting the light of God in our lives is our preparation to take part in the messianic banquet. Such a process of preparation gives a certain unity to our lives which can otherwise seem rather disparate. Once we become clear about this focus, then the orientation of our lives is always to building up God’s kingdom on earth, so that when we finally come to God’s kingdom in heaven, we are able to take part with the joy that only those who know that they are invited to the wedding feast really understand.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.