Your Wedding Invitation

Sunday October 11, 2020 The Twenty eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A)

The tie in between today’s reading: Election

Psalm 23:1-6, Isaiah 25:6-10, Philippians 4:12-20, Mathew 22:1-14

How we respond to a wedding invitation depends entirely on the importance we place on the inviter. The expense of a destination wedding for a distant relative you barely know would hardly get a check in the “Can’t Wait” box no matter how good the filet mignon might be. But get an invite from your favorite President or the Queen of England and you’ll respond with an emphatic “Yes!”. Costs be damned. If you’re like me, I’d not only respond by next day delivery return receipt but frame the thing for my living room. With that in mind, we’ve got to get excited with our Old Testament reading in Isaiah 25:6-10. This foreshadows the Marriage Feast of the Lamb as seen in Revelation 19:6-9. It’s the anticipated table in our reading in Psalm 23:5 and the most awesome reception party of all time prepared by the Almighty, Himself. Here, at God’s lavish banquet, His guests can get their fill of the best food and drink imaginable. That’s not all! Our Father will wipe away all our tears, take away our guilt, and destroy death for us forever. All this and heaven too! It will be grand! It will be glorious! It will be the one-time event spoken of throughout the ages! And, according to our gospel reading, Matthew 22:1-14, none of the invited will want to go.

Jesus’ parable of The Wedding Feast is a real head scratcher. Not only does everyone ignore the king’s “save the date” postcard, but some beat and kill the slaves who invite them to the banquet. Talk about shooting the messenger. The only thing that makes sense so far in this parable is that it’s not such a smart idea to be on the bad side of a king with an army. The would-be guests are all annihilated. In a strange application of “waste not want not”, he then orders his slaves to go out and gather in the riff raff off the streets to fill his hall for the party. Having done this, the king sees a man sticking out like a sore thumb because he’s not wearing wedding clothes. It’s been a long day and his Majesty, in an apparent case of overreaction, binds the man hand and foot and throws him out into a place that can only be represented by hell itself. What gives? The key to understanding the story is in Jesus’ conclusion: many are called, but few are chosen. The word chosen here is the Greek word: ekletos, which means elect…God’s elect. This is a parable about predestination.

Predestination is the doctrine we love to hate. It attacks our idea of free will. It destroys our sense of fairness. It chafes against the concept of the Lord being a loving all forgiving Father, especially when framed from the abhorrent argument that the Almighty actively decides on who will go to hell. But, on the contrary, if it weren’t for predestination then no one would choose to go to heaven. The problem is that we are too immersed in the elements of the doctrine to see it clearly. The Chinese have a saying “if you want to know about water, do not ask a fish.” Election gives us God’s stand back, objective perspective of our situation. The better we know it the more we can understand ourselves, salvation, and grasp a deeper appreciation of grace.

Concerning our parable, Jesus is pointing out that none of us on our own would answer yes to the straightforward question, “Will you come?”. In fact, our responses to His call range from benign neglect to outright hostility. But, leaving that aside, Our Lord points out that even in His church, the ones who make it into the hall, there are problems. The second half of this parable is better understood when you know that in those days each wedding guest was given a garment to wear to the feast by the host. In this case, it’s the robe of Christ’s righteousness referenced in Isaiah 61:10 and Revelation 19:7-8. So, God the king confronts the speechless man who prefers to wear his own tuxedo over the righteous robe of Christ and throws him into hell for the unbeliever that he truly is. Only the chosen, only the elect, only the predestined remain. It is a mystery like the Eucharist and the Trinity. In the end, no matter our feelings about it, the Bible drips with this doctrine and must be incorporated into our theology.

Election can be a confusing paradox. It challenges us to respond Jesus’ worldwide gospel call for us to come unto Him while at the same time integrating His teaching that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws them. It seems that salvation is as an elusive a proposition as trying to volunteer yourself to be a contestant on Cash Cab. Since the stakes are so high it can be a frightening doctrine. Don’t ever forget that Jesus will never turn away anyone who comes to Him. The key is to realize that it is the Father who gives you the “want to” to come to Christ in the first place. So, if you’re searching to be on Cash Cab, know that the Father has already pulled His taxi up to the curb in front of you. On Judgement Day no one will be able to say that they wanted to go to heaven, but God kept them out. No! God just left you to your own free will choices that you have always been clamoring for.

There is a comfort that comes with election. Speaking about it, In Romans 8:31-39, the Apostle Paul challenges the universe with the question. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” The answer is that we are more than conquerors in Christ. With this in mind, King David can say, in Psalm 23, that goodness and mercy will follow him all the days of his life and he shall dwell in the Lord’s house, forever. In our reading in Philippians 4:12-20, St Paul declares that, despite his circumstances, he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. He also encourages the believers in Philippi in their sacrifices by assuring them that God will supply their needs according to His riches in Christ.

So, it’s time to take stock. In 2 Corinthians 13:5, St. Paul says that we should examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. 2 Peter 1:10 tells us to make sure of our calling and election. Are you one of the elect? Only you can answer that for yourself, but there are clues. Are you in love with Jesus? Do you want what He wants? Do you want to know more about Him, be like Him, and be with Him? If not, there is still time for you to ask God to have mercy on you, a sinner and know that He will hear you because He is involved in the plea that you are making. The King has sent you an invitation. Come to the banquet.

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