The Kingdom of Heaven is like…….. Matthew 22.1-14

The kingdom of heaven is like the wedding a slave owning king put on, that no one wanted to attend!!!

Thankfully not.

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.

Tricky stuff!!!!!

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?

Jesus says ‘‘fear not – it is the father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom of Heaven’.

Jesus says ‘‘fear not – it is the father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom of Heaven’.

God wants to give us the very best things in life. The greatest thing which we should be searching and longing for. But do we have the time? Do we give God the space in our lives? Do we give Him the time? Does it fit into our busy lives?

God wants to give us his kingdom, that place where joy, happiness, peace, freedom, kindness exists continually. But do we make the time to accept this gift? And if not, why not?

A Story of Priorities
A man had some sand, which represented those small trivial things in life, some pebbles which represented those more important things, and then some rocks, which represented those most important, those crucial things in life.

He got a jar, and started by putting all those insignificant small things in, the sand, then he put those more important things in, the pebbles, and finally topped it off with the rocks, but found that the rocks didn’t fit. These was no room for those most important things.

He took a second jar, and started off by putting in the rocks, starting off with those most important things, secondly the pebbles, and finally the sand the trivial. By prioritising he was able to fit everything in, but when we get things in the wrong order, we miss out on the best.

The Kingdom is ours, but do we have time to receive it? Do we keep our lives so full and busy in the trivial things, that we miss out on what counts, we have no time to sit, and be still before our God, we don’t have time to pray,or read the scriptures, we don’t have time to be a part of the church,the body of Christ?

Are we too busy?
Do we miss out on the most important things in life?
Do we truly know the love, joy and peace in our friendships?
Do we pray?
Do we read the scriptures regularly?
Do we find time to meet with members of the one body?

If not, do we have our priorities right?

The Kingdom of God Has Come Near: Luke 10:1-11 & 16-20

Many of you may know what I am about to tell you, but for those of you who don’t know what I am about to confess to you, I hope you don’t think worse of me and that none of you take offence . . . but . . . I don’t like tennis.

I don’t understand the hype, and why it’s taken up so much people’s attention this week. I don’t see the attraction in watching a two people hit a ball from one side of a net to another. I don’t understand how there can be so much money involved in sports, how players can be paid so much for playing a game.

However, saying all this, I can appreciate that some people are very talented at sports and there has to be a huge amount of motivation to train, especially when things are going well.

And I have wondered how some of them keep going when all seems hopeless and they’re failing, but I guess regular motivational speeches and pep talks, fame, glory, money and pretty much anything they want makes it much easier to carry on.

The first missionaries of the church did not have the same motivations or comforts. Today we heard in our gospel the 70 disciples being sent out by Jesus to spread the gospel to towns and villages. They are commanded to go empty handed, without basic provisions necessary for the road. They did not take money, bags or even a spare set of shoes.

Jesus knew how hazardous the work of the gospel could be, but still sent them out with very little to aid them on their way. The disciples knew they would not gain fame, or money or power for the work they were about to do but they were willing to give up their jobs and families to share in the work of Jesus and the spreading of the Gospel.

The 70 went out in pairs into the dusty roads empowered in the knowledge that the peace they will give will be the peace of Christ.

This knowledge was all they needed. All the encouragement they needed was to know that the work they were doing was the most important thing they could do at that time.

There is something about the Christian faith that needs to be lived out to be understood.

There are some truths within the gospel that only make sense in streets, in the homeless shelter, and at the hospital bed or anywhere were people are crying out for mercy, bread, compassion and justice. Perhaps this is why Jesus sent out his followers with only the message that the kingdom had come.

At times we might disagree with this message. Sometimes it is hard to believe that the kingdom has come. When we turn on the news or open a paper and scan the headlines it is easy to come to the conclusion that we do not live in the kingdom. Wars rage with little sign of stopping, poverty and hunger claim the lives of so many while others live in great comfort without want or need. Many are unsafe even in their homes while others enjoy security behind walls and fences.

These are not the signs of the kingdom that we would expect. In fact, if the kingdom itself knocked on our door with no sandals, no food, and no money-we might be tempted to ask it to leave us alone.

But Jesus is persistent. The seventy are to proclaim to those who receive them and to those who do not that the kingdom is near. How could they do such a thing? If the kingdom has indeed come near, what are the signs of its coming?

Let’s look again at the instructions Jesus gives to the seventy missionaries: they are to enter a town, and where welcomed they are to stay-that’s Christian hospitality. They are to eat what is given to them-that’s fellowship. Then they are to cure the sick and care for the poor-that’s compassion and care. Finally, they are to proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near.

Could it be that in the faithful and loving ministry of the disciples the kingdom of God in fact comes near?

If we use these messages and tools in our lives and try to live them out, can we along with those first missionaries bring and live in the kingdom of God?

Many Christians in our own time speak of the kingdom of God as a idyllic symbol of life as it will never be. But this is not Jesus’ message to the seventy as he sends them out. Instead, Jesus declares that, within the mission and ministry of these believers, in their work going out into the world, the kingdom of God will come near.

There is something about the Christian faith that must be lived in order to be understood. Jesus knew this and sent his disciples out into the world with the only thing they needed.

Some Christians today can use their theology as a bludgeon with which to beat others who cannot share in the faith we have. Some believe that we can make people believe by shouting louder or speaking longer then others. Some never step out of their comfort zones and insist on being that person who shouts the loudest and beat their views into others, but how can we spread the gospel and the good news of Christ if we refuse to get our hands dirty, if we never take that step out of ourselves and share in someone else’s life, if only for a few minutes. How will we ever be able to show Gods love to those around us if we don’t take the time to share our message.

How can we show to ourselves and others that God is here, and we are living in his kingdom?

Jesus has called us to be his messengers in the world, to show the love he has for all by caring for those we meet.

He has sent us out into the world like sheep in the midst of wolves, but we have all we need. We are not without protection, we have all we need, we have the message that the kingdom of God has come near. Amen.