(watch here: https://youtu.be/XCTvz_NTG4M)
1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again 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.” 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. 13Then 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.” 14For many are called, but few are chosen.’
Our parable for this morning reminds me of the one about two old friends who met each other on the street one day. One looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?” The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you: three weeks ago, my uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.” “That’s a lot of money.” “But you see, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand dollars, free and clear.” “Sounds to me that you’ve been very blessed.” “You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “Last week my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million from her.” Now the man’s friend was really confused. “Then, why do you look so glum?” “This week…nothing!”
Oh, how easy it is to not realize all of God’s blessings. Either they seem to be coming in such regularity that we’ve come to expect them or they’ve become so good that we can’t see all the smaller blessings. That friend missed out on the joy of his blessings because they kept coming to him better and better until they no longer came at all. Rather than being grateful for all that he was given he was saddened by not receiving any more. An absurd but all too common response to God’s blessings.
The guests who were initially invited to the banquet failed to realize the blessing. They all seemed to have an excuse not to come to the feast. Some of them even had the nerve to abuse and kill those who extended the invitation. Certainly not the appropriate response to receiving such a blessing. Maybe weddings were so regular that they had become more of a social burden than a blessing. Maybe the guests were unimpressed by what was being offered at the banquet. Whatever reason, their response of not coming or hurting those inviting them clearly conveyed a lack of gratitude. They were unappreciative and undeserving of the blessing. And they weren’t the only ones. What about the man who came to the feast without the appropriate attire? Again, someone who failed to honor the blessing by receiving it the way it was intended to be received. Wedding guests were expected to wear certain attire as a way of celebrating and supporting the marriage. By not wearing the expected attire, the man was in effect conveying to the wedding couple that he neither celebrated nor supported their union. He, too, was ungrateful and undeserving of the king’s blessing…an all too common response.
Of course, Jesus’ parable wasn’t just a story about a wedding banquet and its ungrateful guests. It was a story meant to describe God’s kingdom of heaven. We’ve reflected on several of Jesus’ parables concerning the kingdom of heaven lately and they’ve all had unique themes to them. Some were about forgiveness. Some were about justice and righteousness. I think this week’s is about gratefulness. We’ve all been invited to the kingdom of heaven, the good and bad alike. And not because the initially invited guests failed to realize the invitation for what it is as a blessing. No, I like to believe that God realized his guest list was too limited. It wasn’t that God chose to invite the wrong guests but rather He didn’t invite enough guests. Or maybe He chose to initially invite the ungrateful guests to justify inviting guests we would expect to be ungrateful. We would expect the liars and thieves and murderers…the sinners among us not to be grateful for an invitation to the kingdom of heaven. But aren’t they the ones who would be the most grateful? They know just how awesome such an invitation is! And besides, we are all sinners in our right! None of us deserves the kingdom of heaven. It is a gift to us all from our good and gracious God.
It is a gift to be received with a truly grateful heart. Hebrews says, “therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe.” (12:28) The invitation is extended to all but only the grateful can accept it. Those who think they can wear whatever they want, fail to honor and respect God with proper gratitude, might somehow slip into the banquet but they won’t go unnoticed. No, God will ferret them out and cast them out into the outer darkness as we hear at the end of the parable. Yes, we are to carry grateful hearts for all the blessings we receive in this life, especially for the blessing we are to receive in the life to come. Paul writes in his letter to the Thessalonians, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (5:18) God wants us to carry thankful hearts. God wants us to realize all the many blessings He gives us including the magnificent blessing of heaven.
As we continue through this season of Lent, let us be mindful of all our blessings. God has been pretty good to us. Just look at all the flooding around the state that somehow didn’t affect us the way it did 4 years ago. God has been good to us indeed! Let us be faithful. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (2:8) Faith and grace are gifts from God and they open the gates of heaven. So let us be oh, so grateful for all God’s gifts and blessings. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.