October 11, 2020

Thoughtful spot – Trinity 18 – Revd Michael Beesley

Passage: St Matthew 22 vv.1-14


Isaiah 25 1-9: Isaiah praises God for destroying the power of ruthless nations, and providing shelter, comfort and a life of well-being for the people of Israel. He says they should rejoice that the Lord has come to save them.    

Philippians 4 vv.1-9 St Paul encourages the Christians in Philippae to remain firm in their faith, to support especially two women and a man who’ve worked with him to spread the Good News of Jesus. He says as they rejoice in knowing Jesus is always close to them, they must keep their minds focussed on prayer, thanksgiving and all that keeps them true to their faith.

St Matthew 22 vv.1-14: Jesus uses a parable to tell us what God expects of all people in society. A king invites high class guests to a banquet to celebrate his son’s wedding. They make excuses for not coming and even mistreat his servants. The king punishes them; and then, in their place, invites from the streets all the people there. When they’re all at the table, the king rejects a man who’s not bothered to put on respectable clothes to mark the occasion.

In our readings today, we’re challenged by one of Jesus’ parables. It contrasts people who reject God’s invitation to do His will with those who respond faithfully, and rejoice that God’s loving presence is always with them.

Leading up to the parable, we heard Isaiah declare that God had saved the people of Israel from ruthless nations and given them a life blessed with everything they needed to live well. He says they should rejoice, knowing and experiencing how God had come among them to save them from evil.

In a similar way, St Paul encouraged the Christians in Philippae to remain true to their faith in Jesus. He says they must show it especially by supporting three of his fellow missionaries who’d had a hard time helping him to spread the Good News of Jesus. He reassures the Philippian Christians that Jesus is always close to them and, as they pray and give thanks for this, they will be blessed by God’s peace. He goes on to say they must always keep their minds focussed on all that is true, honourable, pure and excellent.

Then, we heard Jesus’ parable about the king who wanted to celebrate his son’s wedding with a banquet. He invited to the banquet people of the highest standing in society. But they made excuses, and insulted the king, telling his servants they had more important things to do, and even killed some of them.

The king punished them for their insulting and appalling actions.

Then, the king sent his servants out into the streets to invite to the banquet any people they could find…. and so the banquet began.

But, then the king noticed someone who’d not bothered to dress appropriately for this royal occasion. The king threw him out.

In the next part of this chapter in St Matthew, we read how people of high standing in Jerusalem, the Jewish Pharisees, and the Roman Herodians, realised this parable was about them, because they were rejecting Jesus’ invitation to welcome His Good News of God’s Love and Forgiveness. .

They got together to try to trap and discredit Jesus with a trick question about paying tax. Should Jewish people pay or not taxes to Rome?

They reckoned whatever his answer, He’d be condemned either by the Jewish Pharisees who hated the tax or the Roman Herodians who imposed it.

In His reply, Jesus challenged them to think more deeply about what they were asking. He said whatever they owed to the Romans they should pay, but more important, they should pay whatever they owed to God, which is the whole of their life.

Now, let’s consider what Jesus parable has to say to us.

It is very challenging. Do we, like the Pharisees and Herodians, claim to have high standing and be superior to others because of our Christian faith?

And, do we sometimes, like the Pharisees and Herodians reject God’s invitation to be and do what we know God wants us to be and do?

If so, what goes on in our minds and what excuses do we make?

Do I sometimes reject God’s will if it means giving up things I enjoy?

Do I not want to make the sacrifices necessary in what God wants me to do?

Is life is too busy with what family, friends and my work expect of me?

Do I want to satisfy my own needs and desires before helping anyone else?

Don’t I want to be the odd one out with different moral standards from others?

There are so many excuses we are tempted to make to reject God’s invitation to the King’s banquet. I know I’m guilty of them all at times.

Hopefully, most times when God sends out His servants to call us to His banquet, we do respond willingly.

We feel blessed to be a part of His divine community, with our eyes fixed on the wonder of God’s presence and His will at the heart of it.

Then, we do commit ourselves to do what we know God wants us to be and do, despite the sacrifices we may have to make.

But, unlike the inappropriately dressed man at the wedding banquet, we must make sure our minds are rightly clothed with the mindset of wonder and gratitude that God has called us to reflect his loving presence in all we think and say and do.

So, in a minute of silence, as we reflect on Jesus’ parable, let’s be honest with God about the excuses we sometimes make for rejecting Jesus’ invitation to His banquet, when we don’t follow His teaching and example….;

Then, let’s tell God how we will commit ourselves to respond to His invitation in the best ways we can so that we reflect His love and HIs will in all our thoughts, words and actions.

So, in the next minute, bring to mind ways you sometimes, for whatever reason, reject God’s invitation to follow the ways of Jesus.

Then; pray that God will empower you with the right mindset always to accept His invitation to do His will in all you think and say and do.

Finally, let’s pray the words of this verse from this well-known hymn:

O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;

Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend;

I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side,

Nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my Guide. Amen

(John E. Bode 1868)