Pentecost 19 Proper 23 October 15, 2017
Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
Inviting the Gentiles to the Kingdom of Heaven
In this morning’s gospel we have the story of a king preparing a wedding feast for his son. When the meal is ready the king sends out his messengers to tell the guests that all is ready, but the invited guests will not come and when he sends out the messengers a second time some even kill the messengers. The king is outraged and kills the murderers and then sends out his servants to invite people, good and bad, that they find in the streets. The king comes to check out who has come and finding a man inappropriately attired, casts him out bound hand and foot.
Today’s gospel can be interpreted as allegorical. The kingdom of God is compared to a wedding feast. The king is God, the son is Jesus Christ, the messengers are the prophets, the invited guests are the Jewish people and the people called from the streets are the gentiles. The Jewish people were God’s chosen people, but as can be seen by our Old Testament reading for today, the people often rebelled against God. God sent Moses to rescue his people from slavery to the Egyptians. They escaped from Egypt and passed through the Red Sea leaving the Egyptians who pursued them to drown. They were thirsty and hungry and God provided water, manna and quail. Yet in today’s story when Moses goes up the mountain to talk to God, the people grow restless and demand that Aaron provide a visible god that they can worship and Aaron complies creating the golden calf.
In today’s gospel the problem is Jesus Christ. The Jews have been anticipating the coming of the promised Messiah, but when Jesus arrives, claiming to be the Messiah, the Religious leaders and the political leaders cannot and will not believe that Jesus is the long expected Messiah. Jesus is not who they expected. They were looking for a powerful leader and soldier who would restore them to the former glory of King David. They are not expecting the gentle son of a carpenter bringing the message of love, mercy and grace to be the promised Messiah. Jesus is rejected as the Messiah and crucified as a common criminal.
For today this story can be reinterpreted as again the king is God, the son is Jesus Christ but the invited guests who refuse to come are the Western church, North America and Western Europe and the people in the streets are the church in the South and East, Africa and Asia. In seminary we were taught that the most fertile ground for proclaiming the gospel is Europe and North America. Today missionaries come to the places where missionaries were traditionally sent from.
My family came to visit this week and we were talking about the church and my sermon. Today people are expected to work very long hours including weekends, not just eight hours five days a week. For many families both spouses work so whatever time they have off, family has to come first. How can I argue against this and yet is this not the excuse of those initially invited to the wedding banquet, that they needed to attend to their businesses and their farms? And Jesus, can you really believe that Jesus was the Son of God, that Jesus is God incarnate? Jesus came proclaiming a new gospel, a gospel of love where neighbors looked out for each other, where the poor were fed and the good news preached of the grace and mercy of God. Jesus preached the great commandment that we should love God and love our neighbor as our self. Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, our savior?
October is Stewardship month, when we talk about how we are going to support the church with our time, talent and treasure. Will we sing in the choir, participate in or even lead Christian Formation, do we have time to prepare the altar for Sunday Eucharist? We prayerfully consider how much of what God has given us that we can give back to the church. These considerations are all critical to the life of the physical church, but Stewardship is so much more. Stewardship is about how we live our lives. God gave the care of our planet, the environment, and the living beings into our care, not for exploitation to our own benefit and selfish interests, but as those who love our earthly home and want to preserve it for future generations, for the wellbeing of the planet itself. Stewardship is about how we love and care for our neighbors. Can we help with the Albion Reading Camp or the Albion Community Garden? But stewardship is also about how we react to the injustices we see around us such as health care, education, affordable housing and a living wage.
So what does this morning’s gospel have to do with Stewardship? Stewardship is also the faithful sharing of God’s story, the telling of the Good News of Jesus Christ, to our children and our grandchildren, to our neighbors and to strangers. It can mean evangelizing; proclaiming the gospel from the pulpit and the grocery store, but it can also mean how we live our lives, living our lives faithfully as though we believe in a loving God that sent his Son to live with us, a son who showed us how to live faithfully as God’s people, a Son who loved us so much that he was willing to die to reestablish our relationship with God.
So this week I encourage you to take some time to consider what stewardship means to you and to prayerfully consider what you will do to contribute to the growth of the Kingdom of God. Amen.