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Message for Sunday 11 October 2020: “Banquet Etiquette”

Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 22:1-14 involves a monumental invitation. Jesus’ metaphor of a king sending slaves to invite people to a wedding banquet is code for God’s historic connection to the Jewish nation, and the celebration for the king’s heir is a reference to Jesus as God’s son.

The metaphorical wedding invitation in Jesus’ story refers to the Hebrew people, God’s chosen. However, Jesus suggested that the Jewish nation had rejected God and will be judged. Over the centuries, many nations and leaders have picked up on this, creating an ongoing drama of anti-Semitism, which is based on the assumption that Jewish people have faced persecution because God has forsaken them. History proves that anti-Semitism is a horrendous, recurrent crime against humanity. Paul the apostle reminded his readers early in the first-century that the Jewish nation are the first-born of God and should not be despised.

What about the non-Jewish people in Jesus’ parable? The king’s invitation had been accepted by the first tier of guests but they offered weak excuses for not attending. This accounts for why Jesus cautioned his countrymen that they risked alienation from God’s kingdom. Jesus’ story implied that rejecting him was the same as rejecting the king’s wedding banquet (a fatal choice which will lead to destruction).

After the original guests made excuses the outraged king resorted to inviting everyone in the area (including non-Jewish people), believing that there will be a more positive response. The invitation of other guests to the wedding banquet represents God’s message becoming universal, shifting toward a more diverse, receptive, and non-Jewish audience.

As the new round of invitees arrived, the king came to inspect the situation. The custom of the day was for guests to wear a distinctive wedding garment, which an unfortunate guest did not have for some unknown reason. Perhaps the garment was out to the cleaners, or had simply been forgotten. Whatever the reason, the furious king told his angelic enforcement squad to bind the offending guest’s hands and feet, and throw him into outer darkness. The problem with all this is that the king in this tale is equated with God, and the story implies that God will judge most harshly those who arrive unprepared.

All the wedding banquet guests were supposed to wear the proper uniform, which is a metaphor for readiness (e.g., proper thinking and behavior). The story ends with Jesus’ intriguing statement: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Simply because a person has been invited to a banquet doesn’t mean that they arrive either prepared or worthy. Guests—those welcomed to the kingdom of heaven—are obligated to take their invitation with life-and-death seriousness.

A final, significant aspect of today’s message is that many people are invited into God’s kingdom. When a person takes her invitation and responsibilities seriously then she will arrive prepared and eternally blessed. The gist is that rather than make excuses for not accepting God’s call, people are encouraged to do their part and show-up ready and equipped.

As God’s child of faith you are invited to a marvelous banquet, a never-ending spiritual feast. This wonderful status involves both a better life on earth and a magnificent destiny. Grasp the reality of your invitation to God’s kingdom and do your part to make it an eternal celebration.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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