28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle A, October 15, 2017
Isaiah 25: 6-10; Psalm 23
Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22: 1-14
"Come to the Table of Plenty"
By Rev. Jack R. Miller
Jesus shares a parable about a king and the wedding banquet he has planned for his son; a feast, a table of plenty. It is Jesus' third encounter with the religious leaders of his day and his story contains two chapters, each with its own unique message.
In chapter one, the king sends out an invitation to the people to come to this magnificent banquet which is already prepared and waiting. The invitation is sent out twice, but the people refuse both requests. Unlike Luke's account (14:16-24) Matthew's version does not provide details about their refusal, but at the second invitation the people mistreat and even kill the king's slaves. In anger the king retaliates by killing those who murdered his slaves and then he burns their city to the ground. To us it may seem to be a harsh response, but in the honor and shame system of Jesus' time, this type of reaction would be expected; for Matthew and his readers, the memory of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. would be fresh in their minds. Chapter one is just another illustration of how Israel has rejected God's promise through the centuries, ignoring God's message and killing the prophets, blinded by the letter of the law, and not seeking or fulfilling the spirit of the law.
A third time the king issues an invitation to the banquet but this time the call is extended all people good and bad alike. Gentiles, foreigners and those who do not know God, are invited to the Lord's table. Finally, the wedding hall is filled.
Now we come to what seems to be a very odd event. In chapter two of our story, the king sees a man present at the banquet who does not have on a wedding robe. This is strange in that everyone would have been given a robe as they entered the hall. The king confronts the man who is surprised and speechless, and then has the man bound up and thrown out of the hall. What could this mean? It means that salvation is not automatic. Entrance into the kingdom of heaven demands change. Matthew 7:21 states, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." The wedding robe symbolizes a new person, a new self-understanding, a new way of living. Our old self must be left behind in the baptismal waters. Christian living demands fundamental change, donning a new robe as our new life begins.
The Christian who does not wear this mantle of repentance and good deeds will suffer the same fate as those who reject outright the invitation of God to the attend the wedding banquet in heaven. As the apostle Paul instructs in Romans 13:14, we must "put on," "clothe ourselves" with the garment of Christ.
God invites all his children to the table. Any distinctions our world may draw based on economic class or influence, discrimination by age or race, gender or orientation, reservations due to mental or physical ability disappear. Regardless of our circumstances, despite our doubts and sense of unworthiness, God says "Come;" Come to the feast.
The parables of the king’s wedding feast and wedding garment confront us with the reality that we cannot be Christian without conversion; we cannot come to the feast of heaven while remaining indifferent to the empty plates before so many of the world's children; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we cannot love those we can see.
Our daily lives are pieces of cloth that we sew together to make a garment fitting to wear at God's wedding banquet. They are made from the fabric of our kindnesses, our caring, our compassion; they are sewed together with the thread of gratitude, respect and humility. God's invitation should fill each of us with hope despite the obstacles we encounter on the way; making our lives into a proper garment for that banquet should give a sense of direction and meaning as we make our way to God's heavenly feast. Let us accept God's invitation today. Let us clothe ourselves in Jesus and sing with the heavenly chorus:
"Come to the feast of heaven and earth, come to the table of plenty.
God will provide for all that we need, here at the table of plenty."