Sunday Pentecost 19 A Banquet

First Reading: Isaiah 25:1-9

1O Lord, you are my God;
  I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
 for you have done wonderful things,
  plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
2For you have made the city a heap,
  the fortified city a ruin;
 the palace of aliens is a city no more,
  it will never be rebuilt.
3Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
  cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
4For you have been a refuge to the poor,
  a refuge to the needy in their distress,
  a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
 When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
  5the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
 you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
  the song of the ruthless was stilled.
6On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
  a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
  of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
7And he will destroy on this mountain
  the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
  the sheet that is spread over all nations;
  8he will swallow up death forever.
 Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
  and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
  for the Lord has spoken.
9It will be said on that day,
  Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
  This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
  let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Psalm: Psalm 23

1The Lord| is my shepherd;
  I shall not be in want.
2The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures
  and leads me beside still waters.
3You restore my soul, O Lord,
  and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.
4Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil;
  for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
  you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
  and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

Second Reading: Philippians 4:1-9

1My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

  2I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
  4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14

1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, 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.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
  11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

CHILDREN’S SERMON: Do you remember some of those pithy little sayings your mother used to say when she wanted to teach you.  I can still hear my mother saying,  “A stitch in time saves nine,”  “The early bird catches the worm,” and “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  I would end with “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”  What did she want me to learn?  Show respect for others and to those I  might work for but necessarily agree with. This was a  guideline on how to behave when I was dependent.  It applies to our text today.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my rock and redeemer.


According to the Jewish Wedding Guide, one of the holiest days of a person’s life is the wedding day.  The wedding banquet is full of symbolism and meaning.

         “The dawning wedding day heralds the happiest and holiest day of    one’s life. This day is considered a personal Yom Kippur for the       groom and bride, for on this day all their past mistakes are forgiven   as they merge into a new, complete soul.” 

For those who have never married this may sound a bit superlative, over the top and perhaps you refer back to your baptism when a similar union happened between you and God.  Or perhaps the memories of the dreams of the wedding day are tinged with memories of the pain of divorce.  This is a parable that teaches us about the kingdom of heaven.

         In today’s text, according to Matthew, Jesus has entered Jerusalem and is the last week of his life.  His time is limited and he does not mince words.  “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to…”  We have gone from a parable about a distant landowner who seeks to settle with his vineyard and his tenants, to a wedding banquet that symbolizes a union, a commitment of relationship, a culmination of a journey and it involves community.  The wedding banquet is the bringing together of two flawed people to become one and start clean, forgiven, a new start.  Our modern age carries a more individualistic idea of fulfillment but let’s ponder the story. 

         In Jewish tradition, the parents write a contract a year earlier, making the commitment. Mary was betrothed to Joseph and the bride is expected to live another year with her parents having no relations with men.  At the end of the year, the groom comes when he has prepared housing, when she has remained committed, and the wedding banquet takes place.  The community rejoices with the couple and a new start is begun.

         As with all Jesus’ parables there is a problem.  The king announces the banquet for the wedding of his son by sending out his slaves but people do not respond.  They turn down the invite.  How can that be?  In 1994 we were stationed in Nairobi for 6 months and my husband worked in the Bishop’s office learning the job from the man he would replace after furlough.  One day a letter arrived at our apartment with a blue and gold strip across the corner of it.  Returnee was State House.   When my husband came home I showed it to him and asked what it was about.  We opened it and it was an invitation to a party at State House with the President of Kenya.  It was an invitation to the White House to dine with the President.  Questions flew – who?  Me, the daughter of a US Postal inspector?  What do I wear?  Oh my gosh, our rattle-trap car would never do to drive up to the White House!  My husband assured me it had nothing to do with me but his job, a routine invite, but indeed it was an invite to the White House. 

         The king in this parable offers a wedding invitation to come to his house and the people refuse.  Perhaps it is a scam – can the king have a son without a wife?  Perhaps the people saw themselves as unworthy and that the invite went to the wrong address.  Perhaps the king is a Democrat and they are a Republican.  Perhaps the people truly had other demands on their life that seemed to need immediate attention – health, finances, family duties.  The invitation did not fit their agenda.  One writer suggested that the king was known to be strict and like the man who hid his one talent, these folks were scared and hid from the king.  For whatever reason, the people who were first invited refused to come to the banquet.

         But there is a second type of refusal.  The king is furious and determined to have people at his banquet so sends out a second wave of invitations.  One man is invited to the banquet, goes, but insists on doing it his way.  He does not have on the wedding robe that is given at the door.  How did he sneak past the slaves?  Perhaps he is like the people who cry “Lord, Lord,” but to whom Jesus says, “I never knew you.”  They talk the talk and say the right words, go to the right places, but their hearts are far from God.  They want the feast but they do not love the feast giver.  This man is thrown out.

         The parable seems clear that the kingdom of God is composed of people who want to be in relationship with the king and live under his reign and those who are not interested in his banquet or want to do it their way.  We might whine that it seems very severe but as far as I know, I must pay the entrance fee to get into Disneyworld, I must register to vote and be an American, and I must pay into an insurance program if I want them to help with bills.  Relationships have boundaries and guidelines, that’s basic to our understanding of how systems work.  When those rules show favoritism and exclude segments of society we object.

         So how do we understand this challenging parable and find grace:  One very Lutheran way to look at Scripture is to ask oneself what I am being told about law versus gospel.   Law and Gospel are always in tension even as God’s sovereignty and people’s free will are in tension.  Law is the aspect of the passage that drives us to repentance, drives us to Jesus.  As I face Scripture I realize my short comings and my need for grace.  I have not loved God with my whole heart, mind and soul and I have not loved my neighbor as myself.  We started service confessing this as we come into God’s presence today.  Gospel reveals the grace and goodness of God and gives me hope.  My sins are forgiven.

         Let’s start with law.  Where am I convicted by this parable? 

Relationships are not one-way affairs!  Just because I am invited does not mean I have to go.  RSVP is often at the bottom.  An invite is not a court order.  God will not force us to live in his kingdom if we don’t want to.  So, if relationships are two way, I must ask myself, “Is my cell phone charged?”  Am I fulfilling my end of the deal?

         Rejection hurts.  We are not talking about an impersonal “Force” like in Star Wars but we are talking about a God in whose image we are created, a being with emotions, with thoughts, with expectations. He is outraged when his servants are hurt or when we refuse his goodness.  Is there some aspect of God’s personality that I take for granted?

         Actions have consequences.  God is not Santa Claus.  Few of us have received coal in our stockings and we somehow think God’s love ignores our shortcomings.  We trust God will understand our limitations.  God somehow becomes a cosmic teddy bear that will do good to us in the end. This parable shatters those cozy ideas of God that soften our fear of an angry judge.  God does expect us to RSVP and show up and respect his representatives.  God is not a neutral Force.  And God is not Santa Claus.  The parable confronts me with my sinful tendency to take God for granted and expect his goodness.  I am called to repent of my self-centeredness and turn to God-centeredness.

         Enough for law.  Where do I find Gospel, the good news, the hope for living life?

         The king does not show favoritism but invites all.  I do not see any indication that some are chosen and others are not invited based on some standard known only to the king.  All are invited but the choice to respond is upon us.  But I must point out that I am saved by the King’s grace, not by my cleverness to accept the invitation..  I love to say that when I am old, when I am sick, when I am blinded by Alzheimers or mental illness, God hold’s on to me because he is faithful, not because I have a great abundance of faith.  He is faithful.  HE is the king.  The good and the bad are invited.  Those who started work early in the day and those that came at the last minute.

         Do you notice that the king is not defeated in his goal by the resistant townspeople nor our arrogance.  The banquet is prepared!

         God sees and cares that his servants are mistreated.  It is easy to whine when we are down and think God is busy over somewhere else and does not see the injustices of life.  This parable talks about a king who sends servants, cares how his servants are treated and who will execute justice some day.  Mercy is a gift, not an expectation to be assumed.

         The last line of the parable is Gospel, I think.  “Many are called but few ae chosen.”  We are a chosen people.  None of us will run for President, I don’t think, but all of us are “chosen.”  That’s a pretty big word.  God invites us to his banquet.  God provides all the food.  It’s not a pitch-in or left overs.  God provides just the right outfit for us to wear.  And God himself comes to the banquet to meet with us.  Wow!  The banquet is the start of a whole new stage of life when we are whole with God.  Our past faults are forgiven.  We are invited to a wedding banquet.  Let us rejoice and share the invitation.

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