“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.” (Matthew 22:2)
And so begins another of Jesus’ great party parables.
‘The Kingdom of God is a party’. It’s a familiar theme. Jesus talked a lot about parties. Jesus attended a lot of parties. Jesus evidently loved parties, as do we all.
I can say with pride that I hosted some great parties for my kids when they were little – parties featuring jumping castles, face-painting, clowns, and Ariel, the Little Mermaid. Those parties were fun, but not all parties are pure fun and games.
I once attended a dinner party at Bishop’s Court. That was the kind of party where you watched what you said, made sure you used your cutlery correctly and passed the port in the right direction. Unfortunately, my main memory of that night was my wife tripping and splashing wine on to one of Bishop Court’s enormous paintings, and she did it in front of the archbishop’s wife. Our host was very gracious about it but we were never invited back.
Not every party is frivolity and laughter. Some parties are serious parties, and the party Jesus introduces us to in Matthew, chapter 22, is a very serious party.
“[The King] sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again, he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city”. (Matthew 22:3-7)
I’ve attended parties where violence has broken out, normally because people have had too much to drink. In this case, the violence breaks out before the party begins!
Evidently, there was trouble in the kingdom, and the party invitation brought it to the surface. Parties work that way sometimes, with all sorts of hidden protocols and other things going on in the background. I was once asked to deliver an invitation to a European church leader on behalf of a religious leader in Syria. The problem was that I couldn’t be given the physical invitation until we knew that it was going to be accepted. That’s ‘party politics’, and it’s serious business.
“Then [the king] said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so, the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (Matthew 22:8-10)
The king now invites everybody to join him – the good, the bad and the ugly! It doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or Roman, rich or poor, religious or irreligious! The king wants everyone to come and join his party, and he wants them NOW! And so, the story ends with the king entering the palace and smiling at all the guests – a sea of multicoloured faces, representing every layer of society and every culture and language-group – and then the king notices a guy who is not wearing a tux!
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 22:11:13)
This is not the end we would have liked. It’s an uncomfortable ending to a discomforting story. It’s not only those who refuse the invitation who offend the king. All of us, it seems, are capable of making a mess of this party. There are lots of ways of offending this king.
This is not my favourite parable. Indeed, it’s not even my favourite ‘Parable of the Wedding Feast’. There’s a similar wedding feast parable in Luke where a lot less people get killed.
‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame… Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.’ (Luke 14:21-23)
The parable in Luke is told as part of Jesus’ explanation as to why he hangs about with so many social dropouts. In Matthew though the story is told to a different audience and is serving a different purpose. This is not a parable aimed at helping us understand God’s love for the weak and the marginalised. This parable targets the presumption of the civil and religious elite! This story is not about comforting the afflicted. It’s about afflicting the comfortable!
“The Kingdom of God is a party”, says Jesus, but it’s not a night out on the town with your mates. It’s a serious party. Indeed, it’s so serious that it makes a night at Bishop’s Court look like drunken frivolity! It’s not the sort of party where you turn up when you like, dressed as you are, to do as you please. It’s the king’s party, so you’d better treat both the king and your fellow guests with respect. There’s room at this party for us all. Even so, while “many are called, few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
Our Sunday Eucharist
Last Sunday was the last of the three Sunday Eucharists where I was not able to be a part of the live broadcast. A big thank you, once again, to Father Mark and Rob for keeping us online during my sojourn in the UK. Once again, the lads did a great job, and I’m especially grateful to Rob for taking time out of his epic trip around Queensland with his mum. I don’t know where Rob and his mum were when they stopped to focus on the Sunday Eucharist but it was a big ask, especially as they struggled to get good reception. I am deeply grateful.
It was actually providential that we had Mark at the helm last Sunday as his experience with Israel and Palestine made him the ideal person to update us on the situation developing there. Mark is President of Friends of Sabeel, Australia (as I once was) which is the Christian end of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and self-determination. I commend Mark’s words to you, and I hope he’ll continue to share his wisdom with us over the coming weeks as we work and pray our way through this latest wave of violence.
This coming Sunday I am back, and I’m hoping to have Karyn and Sam with me on the panel, with Father Ola contributing a pre-recorded homily on Philippians 4. Of course, I’m trying to organise all this from an airport lounge at the moment, so we’ll see how we go.
So … tune in from around 11.45 am this Sunday via www.thesundayeucharist.com or via Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn. or Streamyard. I am sincerely looking forward to sharing this Eucharist with you. 😊
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- Sunday, October 15th – Our Eucharist from noon via thesundayeucharist.com or via Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn. or Streamyard..
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Yes, I’m hitting the ground running when I return.
We’ll be continuing with the boxing @Legends Gym this coming week, and it will probably be our last week there. A big thank you to Bobby Habib for keeping things going while I’ve been away, but I expect we’ll make the move to Balmain PCYC the following week when I start my new coaching position there. I need to work out the schedule with the team there but I’m thinking to go back to Tuesday and Thursday nights as our main Boxing Academy training sessions. Let me know if other days or times work better for you. I’ll be hammering out the details over the coming week.
Peter and Pauline Trama have continued to do a wonderful job at Binacrombi while I’ve been away and I’m expecting to have a strong contingent join me for the weekend of October 20 to 22. I look forward to getting back into the rhythm of training, praying, and celebrating with those who are able to join me over coming weekends. Book your spot at Binacrombi now.
I can’t conclude today without saying something about the drastic situation in Israel and Palestine. I’ve put together a 15-minute video appeal, outlining my own understanding of the situation there and I commend it to you. The video is below, and you can find the full transcript on my Israel and Palestine site. Click here.
I must mention too Joel Jammal’s reflection on Philippians 3, broadcast on The Sunday Eucharist last Sunday. That’s now been published separately to the member site with a full transcript. Click here.
The only misgiving I have about this trip is that I didn’t get to see our brother, Julian Assange. I tried to organise a visit with him, firstly through his family and then through the Prison Chaplaincy. I’m not sure why it didn’t work. Was it the prison that barred me, did I not get the support I needed from my bishop in Sydney, or did I just not give them enough time to process my request? I’ll probably never know. Even so, we don’t give up. We keep praying and believing for justice and for a better world
May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.