Monday, October 6, 2008

Ready or Not, You're invited Matthew 22:1-4 Philipians 4:1-9

Jesus parable about a wedding feast that the invited guests chose not to attend is rich with images and power.

The first image in my mind is of invitations being sent out by the King to the Wedding Feast. As pastor I get wedding invitations many times a year. The invitations arrive in special envelopes with beautiful fonts, fancy hand writing, and special inner envelopes and even extra sheets to keep the words clear and un-smudged.

Couples who send invitations out for their weddings expect some of the people they invited to come. But in Jesus' parable no one came when the King invited them. So the servants were sent to remind the guests of the feast. But the servants were received rudely and even brutally mistreated.

The King responded with rage. He sent soldiers in to the city to wipe out the murders. Then he send out the servants into the streets.

Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Matthew 22:9-10 NRSV
Many came but one man wasn't prepared. Part of me asks how could he be ready. He was out on the street and the slaves invited him in. Some will say this is where the story breaks down; but maybe this is the point when the story is most poignant. The King's invitation comes ready or not. Perhaps we assume we'll have time to prepare and get everything in order; but the truth is we don't and we can't.

Context and Time

People are talking about money and finance quite a bit these days. There's deepening anxiety around the coffee tables where seniors, who depend on investments, visit. There's panic in the homes of parent's worried about their mortgages and jobs. We've been caught, as a global consumer culture, unprepared for this moment. We aren't ready. We don't have the right plan or the right garment. People know this experience first hand today. In time some may just view today's struggles as a blip; but for many others this is no blip. Houses are on the line, jobs are on the line. It feels for many like the world they know it is over. They weren't ready for the economy to collapse and now they fear the outer darkness where people gnash their teeth and weep.

This coming Sunday has been set aside, by the Stewardship Team in the congregation I serve, to invite people to make pledges for the next year. Talking with other Lutheran preacher in Minnesota it seems like the October's the month when we Lutheran's talk about money. Part of me says this isn't the time; but part of me says this exactly the moment to talk about money and ministry.

Institutional churches are struggling to stay relevant and in some cases financially viable. This financial crisis will push many of us into uncomfortable situations and challenge us to focus on outward ministry and not just inward maintenance. The Internet Monk has an interesting commentary (written in response to Chris Sander's Life After Church) that seems to fit this week as our congregation discusses budgets and ministry in this unique moment in history.

Some wonder if the church is still relevant; I believe we are, if we meet the world as it is, not as we think it should be. We need to stay focused on mission when everything distracts us from serving Christ. We still need to be..
the church that visits the nursing homes, provides major funding for the community pantry, builds and maintains a youth center, pays a Christian counselor and has its pastors doing a remarkable amount of pastoral care in the community. In other words, the landscape may look bleak as Sanders describes it, but for pastors and area ministers on the ground in the traditional church, there is real ministry happening, and much of it commendable
People who've been caught unprepared need to hear the Good News. Pastors and parishioners both will be hungry no just to hear the CNN, NPR, or FOXNews headlines repeated. Let them know the Good News,
The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philipians 4:5-7 NRSV
Its not time to panic; its time to preach Christ.

1 comment:

Nancy Marshall said...

Excellent entry in your blog today. It's refreshing ...both your comments on invitation to the wedding feast passage and your thoughts on financial priorities.
Thank you