Today's Lectionary Text
Matthew 22:2-5“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding party for his son. He sent his servants to call those invited to the wedding party. But they didn’t want to come. Again he sent other servants and said to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look, the meal is all prepared. I’ve butchered the oxen and the fattened cattle. Now everything’s ready. Come to the wedding party!”’ But they paid no attention and went away—some to their fields, others to their businesses.
Jesus was telling a parable to help his hearers better understand what the kingdom of heaven is like. Or was it more about how his hearers were not ready for the kingdom?
I never read or hear this parable without the words of a song by Sister Miriam Therese Winter drifting through my mind. Unfortunately, you can’t hear the tune while reading this unless you happen to know the song (or you look it up online!) but the refrain of “I Cannot Come” (originally published in 1966) sums up the story fairly well.
I cannot come,
I cannot come to the banquet,
Don’t trouble me now,
I have married a wife,
I have bought me a cow,
I have fields and commitments,
That cost a pretty sum,
Pray hold me excused,
I cannot come.
The words are paired with a folk-style tune that is fun and catchy. But the words reflect the reality of how lightly we often take the invitation we’ve been given to enter into the kingdom of heaven. In the parable, Jesus has the invitees turning down the king’s invitation for some rather mundane excuses.
And that is what we often do, as well. Invited to help at the soup kitchen or thrift store? Sorry, I must sweep out the garage. Asked to be an usher or liturgist? Oops, I have something else to do that morning. Invited to join a Volunteers in Mission group? I don’t know how to build anything!
We make excuses to avoid doing things we just really don’t want to do – or are afraid to try. (Well, I have a tendency to do that, anyway.) The people who invite us to do such kingdom building things are no doubt disappointed with our responses. But how much more disappointed must God be when we make excuses to avoid the invitation to become a part of the kingdom of heaven? Because that is what is being offered when we are asked to participate in such activities. It is an invitation to enter fully into the joy of a celebration of God’s love for all of us.
It’s not necessarily about doing what we are used to doing or are comfortable in attempting to do. When we turn away from God’s invitation, we miss the opportunity to grow into a deeper relationship with God. Sometimes that means stretching beyond what is comfortable – just as with any growing relationship.
Not everything we are asked to do for the sake of God’s kingdom will be something that appeals to us or our individual abilities and talents. We are not saved by anything more than our belief in Jesus Christ, but an invitation to a wedding or birthday party means bringing a gift for the honorees. When we accept the invitation into the kingdom the gift, we must offer is ourselves. So, what of yourself are you willing to offer as your gift to God’s kingdom
--Rev. Robbie Fall, retired elder
Prayer for Reflection
We honor you, Holy One, with the gifts we bring for the good of your kingdom. Help us to be swift to respond to your invitation. Amen.
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