Readings for the day (Sunday, October 15, 2017:
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Well that went quick. Nearly five years of partnered ministry together has already past. We’ve tried different things, some have succeeded while others have failed. We’ve had to make compromises, just like any good relationship has to. And yet, there is still so much more that we can do, all for the sake of the Gospel.
We live in a different world, though, than we did when you were growing up; even when I was growing up. Spirituality was different. Religion was different. Politics was different. Parenting was different. We live, work, play, and do ministry in a different world than what we grew up with. And many times when everything else around us is changing so rapidly, we long to hang on to someone that remains constant, stable, and unchanging.
For us Christians, God is that rock, that stability, that constant for us. But often we struggle with allowing the approach of our ministry to change. Our message of Christ crucified for the sins of all, doesn’t change. But we can’t do ministry like we used to because the world that we live in now is not what it used to be like. We live in a completely new world. A world that questions everything. A world that longs for proof of anything. A world that is so fed up with the church’s extreme social justice left and the Bible thumping right that instead just gives up on the church all together. Like I said, a whole new world. You can’t assume that someone you meet is Christian or that they even know the story of Jesus. You can’t even assume that they believe in God.
So what are we to do about all of this? Talk to Pastor Eric, maybe he has the answer. And when that doesn’t work, we turn to Scripture. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus has been having a busy week with these Pharisees. After His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus has been speaking in parables and the Pharisees just adore these parables. No, just kidding. They actually hate them. And with each parable Jesus tells, they get increasingly angry. They haven’t arrested Him yet, but they are getting close. And with each parable that He tells, they get closer and closer to saying enough is enough. And today’s text is no different; Jesus shares with them his third and final parable before the Pharisees will go off and plot to arrest Him.
In this parable, the king’s wedding banquet for his son is all ready to go. The decorations are hung. The tables are set. The food is prepared. The bridegroom is ready. Now all that needs to be done is to fill the banquet hall with guests. The king sends out the invitation, but all those who are invited ignore the kings invitation because they are “too busy” with other things. Doesn’t that feel like doing ministry today? People are “too busy” for church. If only all those “busy” people knew what Jesus was actually talking about here. Jesus is talking about the kingdom of heaven and the great never ending wedding banquet that we are looking forward to. He’s talking about the celebration of the marriage between Himself, God’s Son and His bride, the church. The bride and the bridegroom, coming together at last. And at the joining of these two for all eternity, God is throwing a really big party. The Prophet Isaiah describes this party as “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, a feast of the greatest’s, richest foods.” And this is never ending; for all of eternity. So amazing! What a wonderful thing to look forward to!
And this isn’t just good news, its great news! This is what has kept our churches doing ministry for 118, 122, and 143 years, not to mention 5 years of partnered ministry together. This is why (I hope) that you keep coming back week after week, to be reminded of who and what we have hope in. This is why Marilyn found that organ bench 50 years ago and has never left. Because this is great news! When the party is ready, we get to be included in the festivities.
So when we go through those dark valleys of life of seeing our world shaken by tragedies like the shooting massacre in Las Vegas, or the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. Or when those dark valleys hit home and we have to say farewell to dearly beloved friends and family members. Or we watch as loved ones battle depression, addiction, and mental illness. Or we hear of a friend falling off of a grain bin with multiple traumatic injuries; all we can do is look towards the hope of the wedding banquet to come. Because everything else just leads to despair.
With all of the unbelief out there, coupled with all of the tragedies of life around the world and directly effecting our lives, it can be hard to find the energy to continue doing ministry, doing the work that God has called us to do. Because what’s the point in trying if people are “too busy” for church, or who have given up on the church? In the parable Jesus says, “Then [the king] said to his slaves (that’s you and me!), ‘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.’” There’s your purpose. There’s your mission. It’s not going to be easy. It’s a different world out there than what it used to be, but we keep trying different things. We keep trying to reach those who desperately need to hear these words about Jesus and that there is a wedding banquet to come, and God desires their presence in the banquet hall with the rest of us. Many of our attempts to reach the unchurched and those who have fallen away will fail, but hopefully by the grace of God, some of our attempts will succeed. And we will certainly have to continue making compromises as a parish as we work on the next 5 years of our partnered ministry together. And Marilyn is just gonna have to keep playing for another 50 years.
So let me end with a word of encouragement. Notice in this parable, the wedding banquet was ready, but the guests were not. So the king invites everyone to come; both good and bad. So no matter how messed up you think your life is. No matter how unfit you feel you are in carrying out the ministry of Christ’s Church. Remember this…God loves you. God cares for you. God is obsessed with you and He wants you at His wedding banquet. You will not be thrown out of the wedding hall, as mentioned in the second part of this parable. For unlike the man who attended without a wedding robe on, you already have your wedding robe on. You got it when you were baptized. Being clothed with Christ through the waters of baptism is your wedding robe for the banquet. You’re ready to feast. You’re ready to drink. You’re ready to dwell in the house of the Lord, forever. Amen.
© 2017 Anthony Christoffels. All rights reserved.