October 12, 2014 A Horrible Parable
Brothers and Sisters,
You will notice that we are not doing the Gospel lesson this week. I have chosen that for two reasons. First, the theme Bible passage is from the fourth chapter of Philippians. Secondly, and more importantly, the message of the Gospel lesson is not the Gospel.
The Gospel story is Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet, and as I read the commentaries this week I realized why that the parable has troubled me greatly. A king burns his city to the ground because his subjects will not attend his son’s wedding? Absurd! Ant the fact that they would not come to a king’s invitation, doubly absurd. And finally, a guest comes in without wedding clothes and the punishment is not escorting him to the door but to the dungeon?
Really? What kind of king is this? And who would want to be his subject?
And that is exactly the point. When I was younger and believed the lie that God was vindictive and punishing, ready to send the least offender to hell for disobedience, I liked this parable. I, of course, was one of the righteous guests who had comes to the king’s banquet. If others were too stupid to come, then that was their look out. But, who wants to go to a party where the host watches the guests with an evil eye, ready to pounce on the first one to misuse the wrong fork? I sure didn’t and that was my problem. I did not want to be anywhere near the Host but could not stay away. So I had an attraction/repealing relationship with God.
And many people preach this parable in exactly this way.
But the commentaries said, “This parable is a reaction by the Jewish Christians of Matthew’s era who were being rejected, persecuted, and cast out of the Jewish faith. They understood themselves as good Jews, that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and that this was a party to which all Jews ought to respond with joy, not with indifference or rejection. And just as we in our sinful humanness will react in the same way that we are treated, so too the Jewish Christians reacted by telling this parable against the Jewish leaders.”
The grace of Jesus is that all are invited to the banquet. That part rings true.
The grace of Jesus is that it is a banquet. To be in the presence of God is to be in the place of absolute fun, party, and delight.
The grace of Jesus is that even when we rudely, carelessly, or ignorantly ignore the invitation to party with the Host, the one who gets killed and thrown into the out darkness is not the guests but the Son.
The grace of Jesus is that the lie of the vindictive God is replaced with the truth of the loving Father.
This the Gospel that gives life.