Getting in touch with the power that drives the Universe...
I have really enjoyed using Pastor Jerome’s Practicing the Way of Jesus devotional studies of Mark and Matthew. It never ceases to amaze me how familiar Bible verses can take on entirely new meaning given changing life circumstances and perspectives. Recently I was studying Chapter 22 of Matthew, where Jesus tells the parable of the wedding feast. It particularly resonated with me because my younger son Casey had just recently become married.
You remember the story, right? A king has prepared a banquet to celebrate the wedding of his son. He initially sends an announcement of the impending ceremony and reception as was the custom of that day. Nobody responded. He then sends another announcement through his servants that all preparations have been made and that the time is now for the invited guests to come. He makes a special point of describing the delightful party that he has prepared for them. This second announcement was customary for those times.
But nobody came.
Still the king persists by sending yet a third contingent of messengers to announce the feast once more.
Some of the guests were indifferent; they simply went on with their daily business. Others were more irritated with the whole affair and decided to maim or even kill the messengers. The king responded with righteous rage and he sent out his army to destroy them and their cities completely.
WOW! So much for ignoring his RSVP!!!
But then came this wholly unexpected turn of events. The king tells his servants to “go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.”
“So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
Anyone. All. Good and bad.
I can scarcely imagine such a scene!
Knowing all the painstaking care that Casey and his new wife Lindsey took to invite and see to the needs and happiness of their own wedding guests, I am astounded by the patience and graciousness of the king in Jesus’ parable. I can’t imagine that many, or any, of their guests would ignore their RSVP, and I certainly can’t imagine their wedding venue filled with complete strangers participating in this most personal, joyous event.
Another key part of the parable is the unusual guest who has refused to “dress up” for the feast. While this might be understandable for today’s relaxed standards for dress, what we might not know is that in Jesus’ day, the host of a feast would actually provide refined clothing for all his guests. So this guest isn’t just ignorant, he’s being downright rude to refuse the king’s offer of clothing.
The take-home story for me is that as a servant for Jesus, the King of kings, I need to be out on the culture inviting any and all into His kingdom feast. I shouldn’t be biased or judgmental about the nature or circumstances of the people I meet. I should invite all.
During City of Refuge overnight mission trips we encounter many of the same types of people as seen in this wedding parable. To be sure, there are people who are indifferent to our overtures of love and concern. Take Ken, the Navy Seal/Army Ranger guy who loves to spin tales of his exploits on the streets, his soured relationships with his family, his martial arts prowess and so forth. He never stops to inquire about us or ask why we’re there. He’s a never-ending story machine! It’s fairly painful to sit and listen to him until we recognize that maybe we’re the only ones who do. We also find lovely, peaceful people like Sean, a 30ish young man and “Miss D”, a kindly middle-aged woman. Each searches in their own way to put their lives back together so that they can return home and be the unique person that their families need and love. We can’t help but feel hopeful as they speak into our lives. Brenda perks us up with her initial friendliness and her gracious conversation; but then when talk turns to her struggles, she sometimes becomes embittered and vengeful. Thomas, the resident bookworm, can thoughtfully discuss pretty much any book we’ve ever read. Sonny once shared his gospel message with us and his struggles with drug addiction, imprisonment, and medical problems. We felt like he was ministering to us! We were inspired by his indomitable spirit and obedience to God. He was a blessing placed there especially for us. And of course, we see the indifferent, if sometimes curious passers-by who don’t linger long enough to inquire or learn more about what we’re doing, or who these homeless people are.
They’re all invited to God’s wedding feast for Christ, the bridegroom. Good or bad, indifferent or engaging, foul-mouthed or gracious, weak or strong, hopeless or hopeful, we invite them all because we don’t want them to miss out on the feast. We can’t make them rsvp, but we certainly can let them know that the King welcomes them in.
If you’d like to learn more about the homeless issue, or if you just like to share the love of Christ with people, come join us for one of our 24 hour missions. It’s near, it’s doable, and it’s comfortable. His yoke is easy.