Helen Holley
Sunday, October 11, 2020 - 9:30am

May the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart, be pleasing in your sight O Lord.

My online search for reasons for declining an invitation was quite fruitful, and varied …  some were highly creative, like this one:

Sorry I can’t come I’m busy teaching my ferret to yodel … 

Some were pretty lame:

I am so sorry I can't attend your wedding (3 months away in September), but my cat has just had an operation and I will be looking after her all summer! 

And some were just rude:

That sounds really fun but I’m going to be busy not doing that… or

I plan on coming but I am sure my 4-month-old baby will be sick and so I probably won't turn up on the day. 

What is it with invitations?  It’s always so lovely to receive one isn’t it? To be one of the included on someone’s guest list for a special event or occasion. They offer the prospect of fun food and celebration in convivial company something which at present we can scarcely dream of (!!) but they do carry with them a requirement to respond, a commitment to come, a prioritising, a deferring to another in matters of our own schedule and agenda. Clues perhaps to why they can prove problematic

In our Gospel reading today we have a parable all about invitation and response. Jesus is addressing it to the religious leaders of his day who are rejecting him as God’s Messiah. Through its telling, Jesus is presenting an allegory of God’s Big Story - His invitation to salvation and the human response. It timelessly highlights where we all stand with regards to that invitation and whether we can accept the rule of God and his kingdom in our lives. The original hearers would have been familiar with the idea of God’s kingdom being depicted a banquet – it was recurrent in Jewish literature and Scripture. Referring to the fulfilment of His coming kingdom, Isaiah wrote of the Lord preparing a feast of rich food  for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine the best of meats and the finest of wines.’          But the parable Jesus tells jostles with 

conventional expectations -it’s bizarre in places, melodramatic, almost panto- like with its twists and turns. It too depicts a King hosting a banquet - a wedding feast for his son for which the ‘save the dates’ have gone out ….but crazily when the day arrived and all was ready, the invited guests, in a grave snub to protocol and the King himself, declined to come. You see by declining, they behaved as if they had no king – as if they were free to act autonomously in any way they chose, without regard for the King’s rule. They minded more about their own concerns – albeit legitimate ones – running a farm, sorting business - and they gave priority to those things and made light of the King’s invitation to feast and celebrate.

The point was unequivocal – Ancient Israel were God’s chosen and invited ones and now His Son and Christ had come to them, represented by the Bridegroom in the story, the religious establishment were rejecting him and God’s abundant offer of salvation. 

The wedding feast however was going ahead –– and poor ransacked street-guests were to become the new invitees of the King’s benevolence and generosity. 

But still a response was needed – they had to come, to leave behind the city’s carnage and posture themselves ready at the banqueting table. Here lay the problem for the unrobed guest at the end of the story – who came too casually without giving any thought to preparation, as symbolised by his incorrect attire.

A warning was being sounded to Gentile, non- Jewish believers, just like ourselves, those who’ve received God’s wider invitation of grace. Through baptism and faith in Christ we have accepted the invitation to become a part of this wonderful community of joyful hopeful celebration …but members of this community it suggests here, must desire to evidence the virtues, behaviour and values of God’s kingdom. Implicit in the coming is an inclination to live lives worthy of the King, …to seek to honour Him, the one we give our allegiance to, recognising we are not our own but that his ways and renown are our priority. That other things, even legitimate one, won’t come before Him and his call on our lives

So day to day, how might we accept God’s invitation to celebrate his kingdom  and what might living to honour the King look like in practice? That’s something for each of us to determine by faith, but essentially, I’d suggest it a calling of love, a way of humility and service, embodied supremely in Christ Our Servant King. 

Maybe it’s a responding to that prompt to pray for ourselves others or our world, being still in God’s presence

Maybe it’s simply calling someone who’s having a hard time, or in need, doing an act of kindness perhaps, being generous with what we have

Maybe serving with our gifts and abilities supporting financially a project or charity that is making a difference for good. 

There are countless way we can avail ourselves of the grace to live the kingdom showing mercy and not judgment, by going the extra mile, by being a peacemaker and by choosing to forgive and not take offense. 

Here at St Mary’s how do we look to offer welcome and acceptance to all in this area, extending God’s invitation to come and join in his banquet. 

(Indeed, what a happy day it is for us Ivy as your parents and godparents have come here today to respond to God's invitation on your behalf.) When we take the Eucharist together shortly do we come with grateful hearts (not lightly) but full of gratitude for God’s overwhelming generosity and love.

So may we be responsive today – and accept his invitation to come. May we live lives that celebrate his kingdom, throwing wide his invitation to all. Writing of the fulfilment of this kingdom John describes a glorious end of time wedding banquet between Christ and His Bride the Church and issues this call: 

‘The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes let him take the free gift of the water of life’ Rev 22.