Year A Proper 23
A Song of Praise to God
25 Lord, you are my God.
I honor you and praise you.
You have done amazing things.
You have always done what you said you would.
You have done what you planned long ago.
2 You have made the city a pile of rocks.
You have destroyed her walls.
The city our enemies built with strong walls is gone.
It will never be built again.
3 People from powerful nations will honor you.
Cruel people from strong cities will fear you.
4 You help the poor people.
You help the helpless when they are in danger.
You are like a shelter from storms.
You are like shade that protects them from the heat.
The cruel people attack
like a rainstorm beating against the wall.
5 The cruel people burn like the heat in the desert.
But you, God, stop their violent attack.
As a cloud cools a hot day,
Lord, you silence the songs of those who have no mercy.
God’s Banquet for His Servants
6 The Lord of heaven’s armies will give a feast.
It will be on this mountain for all people.
It will be a feast with the best food and wine.
The meat and wine will be the finest.
7 On this mountain God will destroy
the veil that covers all nations.
This veil, called “death,” covers all peoples.
8 But God will destroy death forever.
The Lord God will wipe away every tear from every face.
God will take away the shame
of his people from the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
9 At that time people will say,
“Our God is doing this!
We have trusted in him, and he has come to save us.
We have been trusting our Lord.
So we will rejoice and be happy when he saves us.”
What the Christians Are to Do
4 My dear brothers, I love you and want to see you. You bring me joy and make me proud of you. Continue following the Lord as I have told you.
2 I ask Euodia and Syntyche (Sinteech) to agree in the Lord. 3 And because you serve faithfully with me, my friend, I ask you to help these women to do this. They served with me in telling people the Good News. They served together with Clement and others who worked with me. Their names are written in the book of life.[a]
4 Be full of joy in the Lord always. I will say again, be full of joy.
5 Let all men see that you are gentle and kind. The Lord is coming soon. 6 Do not worry about anything. But pray and ask God for everything you need. And when you pray, always give thanks. 7 And God’s peace will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. The peace that God gives is so great that we cannot understand it.
8 Brothers, continue to think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. 9 And do what you learned and received from me. Do what I told you and what you saw me do. And the God who gives peace will be with you.
A Story About a Wedding Feast
22 Jesus used stories to tell other things to the people. He said, 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son. 3 The king invited some people to the feast. When the feast was ready, the king sent his servants to tell the people to come. But they refused to come to the feast.
4 “Then the king sent other servants. He said to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited that my feast is ready. I have killed my best bulls and calves for the dinner. Everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’
5 “But the people refused to listen to the servants. They went to do other things. One went to work in his field, and another went to his business. 6 Some of the other people grabbed the servants, beat them, and killed them. 7 The king was very angry. He sent his army to kill the people who had killed his servants. And the army burned their city.
8 “After that, the king said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready. I invited those people, but they were not worthy to come.9 So go to the street corners and invite everyone you see. Tell them to come to my feast.’ 10 So the servants went into the streets. They gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “Then the king came in to see all the guests. He saw a man there who was not dressed in the right clothes for a wedding.12 The king said, ‘Friend, how were you allowed to come in here? You are not wearing the right clothes for a wedding.’ But the man said nothing. 13 So the king told some servants, ‘Tie this man’s hands and feet. Throw him out into the darkness. In that place, people will cry and grind their teeth with pain.’
14 “Yes, many are invited. But only a few are chosen.”
So it seems like we have some more servants getting killed this week. Last week it was servants going to check on the vineyard and the winepress, this week the servants are going to invite people to a feast. I find that this story is rather odd, or at least the way the people act is. Think about this, first, people are refusing to come to a wedding feast when they are invited. Second, the person holding the feast is the king. Third, the king sends a second invitation and it is also refused. Finally, the king allows the servants to invite just any old person they find in the street, but the king gets mad that one person comes dressed improperly so has him tied up and thrown out. Why do the people refuse the first invitation, and the second? Why do the people refuse the kings request? Why does the king throw the man out for not being dressed properly?
First let’s talk about the man who arrived dressed wrong. He was unprepared to attend a wedding, which might be because he was invited randomly in the street, but all the other guests who were not planning on attending managed to come prepared. What kept him from dressing correctly, from being prepared to attend a wedding feast? He might say that he didn’t have to time to prepare because he was at work, or was just invited minutes before. Maybe he will say he does not own the proper clothing, or some other excuse. The problem is that all of the other replacement guests were invited on short notice, they too were at work, and yet all of them managed to be properly prepared to attend a wedding. In any case, the man had as much opportunity to properly prepare as the others, and he did not.
What about the invited guests who kept refusing to attend the wedding? Why did the refuse, twice? Did they not like feasts? Did they not like the king? Maybe they knew how the king might react if they were not properly prepared to attend the feast? Perhaps they did not think they could do what was needed of them and they were afraid of being thrown out into the darkness. That could be why they were so angry at the servants who invited them, and beat them and killed them. Whatever their reasons, the refused the invitation and did not share in the feast.
Now we have to remember that this was not really a story about a wedding feast. Jesus was telling a parable, just like the ones about the sower, or the great pearl. Each of these is about the Kingdom of Heaven. If Heaven is the feast, who is the king that is inviting people? Who are the guests refusing to attend, and killing the king’s servants? Who are the servants? Who is the man who showed up unprepared? What does it mean to be properly prepared for Heaven? These are all questions that might be raised, but I do not think the answers can easily be obtained, and maybe they are not really important. What I think is important is a question that is unasked. The question of, who do you want to be in this story? Do you want to be a guest who refuses an invitation from your King to Heaven, or someone who shows up unprepared and is thrown out?
I think I would most like to be one of the King’s servants, inviting people to come to the feast. I want to be like Euodiaand Syntyche, serving faithfully with Paul, telling people the Good News. It might be that I invite one of the angry guests, but I cannot worry about that. As Paul tells the church in Philippi, “Do not worry about anything. But pray and ask God for everything you need. And when you pray, always give thanks. And God’s peace will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”