The kingdom of heaven is like the wedding a slave owning king put on, that no one wanted to attend!!!
If I’ve learnt anything since my ordination, it’s the difficulties involved in organising a wedding. And for any of you who have been through this process, you can sympathize with the situation the king in our parable is in.
You might think that the most difficult part of arranging a wedding is dealing with the particular wants of the bride and groom. But it isn’t. One of the pieces of advice my old incumbent gave to the groom was ‘Remember, this wedding isn’t about you, you are the least important member of the wedding party, as long as you do and say nothing that will upset the bride or her family you might just survive this!’
The trickiest part of organising a wedding are the invitations. Who needs to be invited, and who should be left out?
Where should the all sit, and what protocols should be followed?
Who are the most important people and need to sit near the top table, and who should be sat in the far back corner of the room?
Who can’t sit next to who because they’ll fight, and who will sulk if they don’t get a seat to match their imagined importance.
And for those of you who thought organising your own wedding was stressful, try organising one for the son of a king!
So the RSVPs start coming in, and the invited guests are all declining the kings invitation. The wedding of the year and no one wants to come! The oxen and the fatted calves have all been killed and cooked for the occasion, and it looks like no one is coming. Disaster!!!!!
There are a great many excuses in the building pile of declines. A farmer sends his apologies, he suddenly finds himself with too many chores. Likewise for the business owner, whose work comes first, before the king’s function.
We know all too well that there are times in life when we are just too busy to go accepting other invitations. And all those times when the possibility of encountering God arises, and yet we find good excuses for ignoring such moments. We don’t intentionally make light of these invitations, we just give more weight, more attention, more time into other things.
Although their excuses were all valid, the first century hearers of this parable now expect the king to lose his rag.
The kings of the day were political leaders – and figures the crowds would have been familiar with – kings being petty tyrants generally who would happily burn down houses and whole villages if their will was refused. And this is what the king does.
But, there is a twist.
The king also sends his slaves out and issues an open invitation to all – with only one catch.
You have to accept the invitation to join. Apart from that, there is no fees and no catches, you just have to show up. And we hear, the good and the bad show up and the hall was filled with guests.
The kingdom of heaven is like a wedding party that everyone is invited to.
And how could people not accept this offer? When all we have to do is say yes – but like the kings invited guests, things get in the way. Jobs and careers, families, hobbies, excuse, after excuse, after excuse.
If we jump back to the parable for just a moment, there is a problem. We’re told that one of the guests is not dressed properly,
‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’
And he gets thrown out of the party.
A little harsh we might think, but as many commentators remind us, most wedding guests didn’t have a large wardrobe and the guests would have been provided a robe by the host.
So wearing one of the provided robes would have been a response to the hospitality offered.
But he doesn’t respond.
And God is simply asking him, “Why are you still sinful, still refusing my love, still unrepentant, still cold towards me?”
‘He was speechless’
Who of us really has an excuse when confronted by God?
We are surrounded by God’s providence, we are taught by the church, those around us and the scriptures, we are fed by Christ’s flesh and blood, guided by the Spirit, and sought, and pursued in a million ways. What explanation could we possibly give for our ultimate failure to comprehend this invitation?
God invites all human life to experience the presence of the divine. And there is a welcome for all who want to be there. None are forced.
But there is a choice to be made.
Join the party or don’t. Accept all our host has to offer, or don’t.
There are no hurdles to jump or obstacles to overcome, expect the ones we place for ourselves.
The kingdom of heaven is like a wedding party that everyone was invited to, rich, poor, healthy, ill, good and bad, and all they had to do was accept.
You are invited. What are you going to do?