Nowadays, (at least in pre-covid days) it is quite common that those who are to be invited to a wedding are sent a ‘save the date’ card.
It alerts guests to the upcoming celebrations and to mark the date in their calendar. In the time when the parable is set which Jesus tells at Matthew 22:1-14 there was a similar practice.
The king had sent out notice that there would be a wedding; and to celebrate, there would be a banquet to which they had been invited.
When all preparations were complete, the king sent his servants to each guest with the formal invitation; the royal summons. Disappointingly, no one arrived.
Some came up with a weak excuse, while others turned their anger on the servants and even killed them; a response which did not go down well with the king and ended badly for them.
At that, the king threw the invitation to the banquet open to everyone. From the highest to the lowest in society, the richest to the poorest, the good and the bad alike. They were delighted to come.
In this parable, it is apparent that God is the King and Jesus is His son and that this is a celebration, already planned in heaven.
This story is about the coming of God’s kingdom and, in particular, the arrival of the Messiah. Although, initially, many weren’t interested, thankfully, that wouldn’t be the end of God’s invitation.
Messengers were again sent out, but this time to everyone and anyone. A clear reference to Jesus going out to all; including the disreputable, the people from the wrong parts of town, the blind and lame; the people who thought they were forgotten.
After being told by the religious establishment for so long that they weren’t good enough, they were thrilled that God’s message was for them after all. This was good news.
And it is good news for us, because Jesus is telling us that God’s invitation extends to all; it extends to us, no matter what state our lives are in.
No matter what sort of relationship we have, or don’t have, with God, we are invited! God’s invitation is gracious and generous; it goes out to any and all who will listen and accept.
Taken at face value, however, this parable also has a problem. God appears to have taken a very hard line with the man who arrived without wearing the proper wedding clothes. He was thrown out. Hardly the actions of a kind, loving God.
But in the parable, this generous king, not only provided the invitation and the feast, but also provided wedding robes for all his guests to wear.
By this man’s refusal to change into the good clothes the king freely gave him as a gift, he is saying that he wasn’t going to change for the king, or anyone.
God invites us to come to Him just as we are. But God also calls us to change; to allow Him to work in our life, to transform us, to change us into new people.
The people Jesus called, no matter what was wrong in their life, he invited them to come. And when they came, he forgave them. Then said, “Go and sin no more”.
He didn’t say, “You are forgiven, just go and carry on the same life you led before”. No! He asked them to change, which, with his help and in faith, they did, and turned their life around.
This is a parable which tells us that God’s invitation is to the world. But when we come to the feast we are expected to participate. Come ready to change, come prepared to be different. It is a time of joy and rejoicing; a celebration of God’s love for us.
Not entering into the spirit of the party is as bad as refusing the invitation. We can’t come and remain the same.
The Grace of God is a thing of joy and wonder, the invitation is free but when we come, we have to enter into the spirit of the party and be changed by the grace of God.
So then, let the world see by our lives and in our living that the good news is at work within us; changing us to be the people God calls us to be.
God of grace, you invite us to a banquet, and we don’t even respond. You set us a place at the table, but we find excuses not to come. You lovingly prepare for our arrival, yet we ignore Your efforts. Forgive us, Lord.
We are surrounded by conflicting voices pulling us every way. By contradictory voices so loud that Your still small voice is drowned out. Help us ignore all that would distract us from You; to listen for You and hear Your call clearly.
As You once again call to us, help us to respond in faith. Forgive our failures and help us learn from them. Change our hearts and minds as we hear Your good news proclaimed.
Help us to taste and see the goodness You have prepared for us, and for the world. May we grasp that peace which is beyond understanding, but which holds us secure. For joy, which defies description, and for new life with You.
Amen, and as You have invited us Lord, may all come.