1 You Have Been Invited To A Banquet Matthew 22:1 14 When you look around at people who go to church, do you see people who are rejoicing, people who are happy, people who know how richly they have been blessed? Or do you see long faces, and hear complaints and grumbling? And when you talk to other Christians, do you sense in them real joy over what they believe in? Or do they only talk of the wonder and peace of heaven as if were something that can only be experienced in the future sometime after you die? Do you yourself rejoice in your faith? Or do you see the gospel of Jesus Christ as a burden? A burden you carry because you think it is the right thing to do? There are many who do see Christianity as a burden, they do not understand faith is liberating, and being a member of God's kingdom of God's church, is like being part of a wedding banquet instead of a funeral procession. Too many people think of the Christian life as a series of do's and don'ts that are designed to get them pie in the sky by and by. They regard the life of faith as only a bunch of shall's and shall not's there to teach them how to treat their neighbors, and so they miss out on the fullness of the Christian life.
2 They miss out on the fact faith is meant to lead to more than good behavior and a place in heaven later on... That it is meant to lead to joyous living to abundant life to a life, that while not free from troubles, is rich and deep and full of peace, that peace which Paul calls "the peace which passes understanding". Today's parable from the gospel of Matthew compares the Kingdom of God to a wedding banquet. Think of the wedding banquets you have attended for a moment were they not times of celebration? times of rejoicing over the love between the bride and groom? In light of that what is missing in so many people's faith, that it ends up as something that kills joy rather than brings joy? The problem for many of us is our faith is incomplete, we become mired in the notion all we have to do is show up and follow a bunch of rules. And because of that, we end up failing to cloth ourselves in the clothing that our God provides for us, just as the man in today's parable, failed to wear the wedding suit provided, and so ended up being evicted from the banquet. Recall how in this parable of the wedding banquet, after many of the invited guests refuse to attend, the king opens up his house to everyone his servants can find. He throws open the banquet hall and everyone, regardless of whether they are good or bad, is invited to come and share in the royal wedding banquet a banquet like that of Prince Charles and Diana many years ago which, had we been invited, we surely
3 would have attended. These lucky new guests went and met the King's son and sat at the King's table. And then, the king himself comes in to see the guests and he notices a man is there who is not dressed as he should be, he has no wedding clothes on, and he asks that man "How did you get in here without wedding clothes" The man is speechless, he has no answer for the king, and he is evicted he is thrown out of the house. Why do you think that the man was speechless??? Looking at it from his point of view I think he expected everything was OK. He was an invited guest, and all kinds of people were there, some of them with very unsavory backgrounds, so what did it matter what he wore? The host surely wouldn't care about that after all he had thrown his doors wide open... But that view point is not really reasonable, is it? When you go to a wedding do you not put on your best clothing? do you not go prepared to celebrate, do you not go prepared to enjoy yourself, prepared to help the hosts rejoice? We here today, have been sought out by God and invited to his banquet of life, a banquet in honor of his son Jesus.
4 We have been invited to richly enjoy life, both in this world and the next, and we have accepted the invitation. We have come to the wedding banquet of our King. Are we prepared to celebrate as God wants? Do we have the faith we need? Have we put on the clothing of righteousness Christ offers to us? Have we changed for the feast? Or do we try to wear our old clothes and live in the old way. We have been given everything we need or could want, it has been placed in our hands, and we have been invited to enjoy it. But for some reason we do not look into our hands, we do not take what God has given us, and actually use it. Every one of us here today is near to God, Every one of us here today has been invited by God to meet him and his Son, and to enjoy his wedding banquet. I know when I am down, when I am getting lost in my own tiredness, troubles or fears, when someone reminds me God cares for me, that God is near to me, I can't hold on to those things. When I really think about it when I am reminded by someone of the love God has for me, or when I begin to think about what Jesus has done for me for us I am moved towards joy. I begin to rejoice.
5 Rejoice in the Lord. I will say it again: Rejoice! The thing that binds so many Christians, the thing that prevents us from putting on the wedding clothing of God and enjoying his banquet is anxiety and fear. The Christian life is not a problem free life, bad things still happen; but my friends God is near to us and while He may not prevent those bad things from happening, he can and he will help us through them. But we need to ask, for it is in asking, which we do by prayer, that we allow his presence to lift us up.
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