Exploring the Word:
Sermon – October 12th 2014
17th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)
By Roland Legge
Not Jesus meek and mild again this Sunday. Matthew continues to reflect the tumultuous times he was living in. Today’s Parable of the Banquet tries to make sense of the events of the time.
First, remember that Matthew is a Jewish Christian. The original guest invited represent the Jews who do not accept Jesus. Matthew was grieving that so many of his Jewish brothers and sisters were not accepting Jesus as the Messiah. He couldn’t understand why when it was so obvious to himself. He wants his Jewish friends to realize that there are serious consequences if they cannot see Jesus as he truly is for Matthew.
The second set of guest represent the Gentiles. Matthew is also trying to make sense of the many Gentile converts. I expect he is so excited by their interest in Jesus. Yet he is confounded that they too don’t always totally get Jesus. Matthew wants them to know that there are consequences for their sinfulness.
So again this is no justification for hurting our Jewish brothers and sisters. It is more about the radical call of God that invites all to the great heavenly banquet where all are welcome! Where all will be held accountable!
As today is, Thanksgiving Sunday, I think this is a great day to reflect on the Banquet we are being invited to participate in. First, I do not believe in a God of wrath. The God I believe in welcomes us all to the table. The God I believe in calls on us to practice radical gratitude. To recognize that of God in each and every person we meet no matter what prejudices we may hold.
I think my Mother had it right. She knew about the Banquet! Every special day of the year such as at Thanksgiving she would always invite someone from the Friends Meeting church to come and have dinner with us who otherwise would have been alone. As a kid I didn’t understand this. I just wanted dinner alone with my family. But now I see the love of God in my mother. She welcomed people to the Banquet throughout her life.
What does this Banquet look like here at Foam Lake United Church? Every Sunday should be like the Banquet. Do we make it clear to our community that everyone is welcome at our church and really mean it? Do we take an interest in everyone that is connected through our church? Do we tell them how glad that they are with us? Do we thank them for all they do? Do we make an intentional effort to welcome those who are more isolated in our community such as people living with disabilities and or mental illness? Do we show the children how much we love them? Do we show their parents the love support they need as they raise their children in a crazy world?
Living in the way of Jesus is a lifelong goal. We are living in the Kindom of God and yet it is still to come. We are at the Banquet and yet not all people have been welcomed to the Banquet!
There are so many people who have been kept out of the Banquet. I think of the millions of people in the Middle East who are forced into living conditions that are hell right here on earth. We in the west have much to atone for. Right now our government is participating in the bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq. While I have no easy solution to the problems in the Middle East I know that the bombing is only going to make things worse. The only way to resolve things is for us to have people in the Middle East working with their own people to resolve conflict through non-violent means. It means stopping the trade in armaments. It means ending the manipulation of Super Powers in the world. It means ending poverty! It means ending the abuse of power by a few people. It means naming extremist for what they are! It is about bringing the religions of the world together to build peace and justice.
It is going to take people like Malala Yousafzai who just received the Nobel Peace prize for her work in calling for all girls to receive a good education. That girls should be able to live free of fearing sexual abuse and rape. Malala is inviting people to the Banquet.
It is going to take people like you and I practising Radical Gratitude really being thankful for all that we have been blessed with. It is going to be important that Congregations like Foam Lake United Church focus on what we have rather than what we don’t have. It is going to be about practising real community where we really care for each other. Where we go out in to our community and let others know how much they are loved by God and that we really care about them.
Over the years I have had glimpses of the Banquet that Jesus is talking about. I remember one summer when was I working in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. I remember going to a funeral for a fellow who lived on the streets. I was surprised by how I was moved to tears by this service. Many people got up and told stories about this person and what he meant to them. It was beautiful!
I experienced the banquet when I was welcomed into a First Nations family home because I had the opportunity to be part of a program where parents who are in prison can give Christmas presents to their children. It was an honor to be in their home and receive their hospitality. It was an honor to hear some of their life story. I learned that they are not much different from me.
I experienced the Banquet through the people I have met through the Enneagram. I have been welcomed into a community where every person is honored and encouraged to be their true Spirit selves. It is a place to be real. It is a place to be vulnerable. It is place to allow your emotional walls to come tumbling down and be received by the community in love.
I experience the Banquet every Sunday when we come together to worship the Creator. I especially feel it when we share the Peace, sing together, enjoy a pot luck meal and when we share communion.
How do you experience the Banquet? How do you experience the Love of God? God wants us all to wake up to our higher selves. God wants each of us to find meaning and joy in our lives.
I want to end with these questions. How is God calling us to welcome people to the Banquet? How is God calling us to host the Banquet in Foam Lake? What are we doing to make this happen? How can we welcome more people to the Banquet?