Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
This Faith Matters article was originally published on October 20, 2014.
The gospel reading for last Sunday morning sounded all too familiar. It was the story of a king hosting a wedding banquet for his son. What was familiar about the story was not the party, the food, or the celebration, but rather the reminder that at weddings anything can go wrong. At my own wedding it was the readers who missed the ceremony altogether because they were killing time at Walmart. Awkward.
I think the king would have invited my wedding problems. His, you see, were far worse. After making all of the preparations, slaughtering the fatted calves, preparing the hall, and inviting the guests, this king settled in for the wedding celebration only to find that none of his guests were coming. Not losing heart, this king decided to invite them again. This time, however, not only do they not attend—some going to their farms and others to their businesses—but they seize his servants carrying the invitations themselves. But this king would not stop. Next he sent more invitations out, but this time not to those formerly invited, but to others right off the street. Before he knew it the hall was full. No more worries, right? Yeah right! At last the king enters the hall only to find that at least one of the guests wasn’t dressed for the wedding. I know plenty of brides that would have had mental breakdowns if they encountered anything close to that, and who could blame them. Nothing went right.
Jesus says the kingdom of heaven may be compared to that king throwing a wedding banquet for his son. So what’s Jesus trying to say? That heaven is like a wedding where nothing goes right? Let’s face it, those are fun to watch on Youtube, but not so fun to live. Of course Jesus isn’t saying heaven is like that. Jesus is saying that God is like that king—that God will stop at nothing to gather us at the celebration that has no end.
God is throwing a party. The book of Isaiah describes that party as “a feast of rich foods and well-aged wines” where death is swallowed up and God wipes away our every tear (Isaiah 25:6-8). It’s an awesome picture of life and salvation, and the best part is not that God is merely throwing that party for us. The best part is that God may be compared to a king who will stop at nothing to fill the hall.
The king in Jesus’ parable should have stopped. But this king, this persistent king, just kept inviting and seeking until the hall was full. And so it is with God. By our standards, God should have given up on us long ago. Instead, we have a God who keeps coming to us, who keeps extending his hand, who seeks us out from every shroud that attempts to cover us. We have a God who will stop at nothing to gather us at his table. Thanks be to God.
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