You Are Invited
She was so proud to show me the photo of her in a very special sari. She was all smiles both as she showed me the picture and in the picture of her getting ready for the wedding. It was a big deal. This was a major event. In her late 80’s Agnes Mae looked fantastic decked out in the special attire for her great granddaughter’s wedding.
This weekend in Matthew 22 we hear Jesus tell a parable of a king who invited guests to a wedding banquet for his son. They didn't show. They were distracted, busy, uninterested. It doesn’t turn out too well for them.
When dear Agnes Mae told me about getting all decked out for her great granddaughter’s wedding, she shared the joy of how A LOT of people got together to celebrate. She shared how important it was for her to be there. Showing up matters.
After much planning and preparation, anticipation and invitations sent, there can be some anxiety that nobody will show to a special occasion. There have been many a Sunday mornings over the years where I wondered if anyone would show. Over a year ago some one wise kindly reminded me that worship wasn't "my party", it is God's.
The gospel of Matthew was written (80 CE) after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (70 CE). The conflict and anxiety in that early Christian community over who was in/who was out, who was invited and who wasn't often centered on the Israel's heritage who could claim they belonged. There was debate over Christians relationship to Judaism and the inclusion of Gentiles. Some in that Christian community believed Gentiles needed to become Jewish others didn't think that was necessary. In Matthew's gospel there is also emphasis on forgiveness, righteousness, Jesus' authority, and believing. Into a conflicted community the good news is that Jesus is fulfilling God's promises from of old.
The gospel of Matthew has some great treasures like the Sermon on the Mount and great challenges like the parable of the Wedding Banquet. We hear this parable as Jesus is on the way to the cross and his death. The "weeping and gnashing of teeth" and "many are called, but few are chosen" are challenging to understand and ultimately we may not really be able to "make sense" of them. A note in the sidebar my study bible reads, " ...Many interpretations who've been offered, but none has a clear basis in the text. It is best left as a warning without explanation.". A warning without explanation? This weekend we will read alongside this challenging text the well know and beloved Philippians 4:1-9
Paul wrote to the church at Philippi about how to show up as followers of Jesus. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice (Philippians 4:4). He doesn't say it just once, he says it twice. At a wedding banquet, when hosting a party, when gathering people together that is what the host wants- rejoicing. In a time where the list of what is anxiety producing, challenging, hard, overwhelming, outside of our control... on the one hand we have Paul enoucaraging rejoicing and a gospel text that includes a warning that may be best left without an explanation. So what is the invitation?
I would like to invite you to consider this: both. The invitation is to both acknowledge the challenges of the Matthew 22 gospel reading and hear the invitation in Philippians 4 in the verses that follow the instructions in verse four to rejoice:
5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, 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.
9 Keep 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.
When Agnes Mae shared additional details about this special event she also shared the struggles, the long travel, the cross cultural challenges in this marriage, her uncertainty about her ability to attend... both joys and challenges. Things understood and things uncertain are part of this life of following Jesus- both. You are invited into both and the One who invites you is also the One who will guide you and care for you along the way. So you are invited- God is extending to you an invitation to join in the party.