Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Wedding Banquet

1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, 'Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.' 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests."

11"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' 14For many are called, but few are chosen."

- Matthew 22:1-14

Traditionally this parable is interpreted as the kingdom of Christ (that which he has come to the world to offer to all of us) being rejected by the Jews and being proclaimed to the Gentiles. The slaves are his disciples, proclaiming the good news and inviting all to the wedding feast. They are persecuted, and they go out and abroad (the "main streets" sometimes interpreted "highways") looking for more guests who wish to come. The burned city has been interpreted as Jerusalem which was destroyed by the Romans. The going out into the highways or main streets is the disciples taking the gospel to the Gentiles. Everyone is invited to this wedding feast.

Frequently, Christ's church has been likened to his bride, and Christ the bridegroom. The wedding feast is this great union of kingdom to those who choose to be a part of it. Ancient tradition in the church also applied this parable to initiation into the church; the sacraments (baptism and chrismation) would bring new members into union or marriage with Christ - a union that must grow and become fully realized in the age to come. But clearly we are all called, we are all invited to this banquet. There are no exceptions.

Finally, we are told that "Many are called but few are chosen." Although we will all be called, we will all be invited to this wedding banquet, we are not automatically a part of this joyful feast. We must prepare ourselves for it. We must be dressed as wedding guests, properly prepared to accept this great feast, and to participate in the celebration of this great union. To be properly dressed, to have on the correct vestments, is a way of understanding preparation, our own work that is to be done on ourselves, or rather, within ourselves. Do we think of how we conduct ourselves, what our choices are? Do we consider our own need to be prepared and ready to accept this invitation to the feast? We have a lifetime for this preparation. It's the great union, and Judgment, likened to a banquet, a feast.

This parable tells me that we are all called - but none of us is entitled. If we think we are automatically a part of this wedding banquet by some form of entitlement or certainty then we should think again. There a kind of bottom line - the invitation includes the understanding that it is up to us to groom ourselves properly, to prepare ourselves. Traditionally, the word for this sort of preparation is repentance - "change of mind," a consideration of how we live our lives, what choices we make, and a willingness to bring ourselves adorned in wedding clothes - this ability to make ourselves present to the word of God, to the teachings that groom us best, our willingness to hold ourselves open to change and transformation in light of the Spirit. This is preparedness. We must value and understand the gift itself, the great gift of this invitation to this beautiful feast.

We may all show up for this banquet, but it's how we show up that matters in the end. It's a gift that must be properly valued and considered, and prepared for. How do you groom yourself for God? In the age to come, what ways do we need to prepare for this great union?

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