Guests in God’s Kingdom

The Wedding Banquet Parable (Matthew 22:1-14)

22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 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.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The Wedding Banquet parable is one of the most difficult parables to interpret and fully understand. In the Christian faith, we wrestle with the cognitive dissonance of grace and judgment. On one hand, we have a King who offers lavish invitation to everyone especially to those we most likely would not expect and on the other hand, there is clear judgment to those who choose not to come and those who come unprepared.

In reading Thomas Long’s commentary of Matthew[1], he notes that this parable has two parts. The first part can be seen as an allegory for the history of God and Israel. Each character and event serves a purpose and meaning. In this Story the King is God, the banquet is the Kingdom of God, the servants are prophets, the guests who declined are Israel and the destruction of the city is the destruction of the temple in 70AD.

As we look at the second half of the parable we do notice the extravagant grace of the King to invite everyone. Throughout the parable, the servants were sent out several times. We know that some people will reject the invitation and even hurting or killing the servants. The guests who eventually arrive at the end of the parable are labeled as both bad and good. The servants were called to invite guests regardless of their status because the king asked for everyone. The task of invitation is the continual role of the servant in God’s Kingdom. As the church today, we are called to invite people to the banquet, as expressed later in Matthew in the great commission.

This invitational task is important, but significant questions arise when we look at the guest who was rejected. This last guest is thrown out for not have a wedding robe. Our immediate reaction is that the King is harsh because how can a poor person be expected to show up to a party with a wedding robe. The wedding robe must have more significance as everything else in the story is ripe with meaning. Thomas Long[2] points out that the wedding robe could be the new clothes we receive in Christ Jesus through Baptism as noted in Galatians 3:27. Additionally, In the Africa Bible commentary[3], the author notes that cultural expectation for most weddings were already known and required of a person invited to a banquet or party. Dressing well and behaving appropriately were assumed. The guest obviously did not meet expectations. For this guest, maybe it wasn’t just the robe but how he was acting. Looking at these two things in regards to the guest who was rejected it raises questions about how the others in the story interacted with the thrown out guest. It raises questions for us about how we communicate the gospel invitation to the feast as servants and how we treat others as fellow guests at the feast.

 

A good task for exploring scripture and particularly parables is to look at each of the roles and imagine ourselves in those roles and then ask good questions.

 

Take a moment to read each question and ponder the answer. Take your time. If you want you can read the parable again. Since we all guests at God’s Banquet Feast let’s start there.

Who invited you to the feast? How were you greeted? Did you know what to wear? Or how to act? Who gave you or how did you get your clothing? Who told how to act? What did the other guests say to you?

You are now the servant.

How do you invite others to the wedding feast? What did the guests need to know? What did you assume people knew about the feast? Did you not invite people for whatever reason? How did you greet the guests as they entered the feasting hall?

And lastly as the rejected guest.

Who invited you to the feast? How were you greeted by the servants? By the others guests? Did you feel out of place? Why didn’t you have your robe? Who taught you how to behave at a wedding?

 

The scripture does not offer concrete answers for these questions but, often in asking questions it leads us to the answers we might be seeking. It is good to ask questions of ourselves. It is good to ask questions of those we hope hear the invitation to the feast that is the church. What burdens or expectations do we or should place on our guests. What does it mean to be a guest at God’s Feast?

Prayer

Lord, King of the Banquet Feast,
You call us as guests to your feast even though we may not be worthy. You call us as servants to invite others to your marvelous feast. Help us to be mindful of other guests so that they too may be worthy and join in the festivities of your love. Forgive us if we neglect to tell, show or teach of your love to others. For you desire everyone to partake and desire not one to be rejected. Amen.

[1] Long, Thomas G. Matthew. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997. 246.

[2] Ibid., p. 247.

[3] Adeyemo, Tokunboh. “Matthew.” In Africa Bible Commentary, 1157. Nairobi, Kenya: WordAlive Publishers ;, 2006.

Seneca Rocks Hike and Reflections.

I took a trip to Seneca Rocks on my Sabbath Day and I reflect on what I’m learning so far during my internship.

Tour of my Internship Site

Enjoy the Tour of the parsonage and Grace Lutheran Church in Petersburg, WV.

 

A Transformational Year

The transformation of what I think I am Consciousness is the witness (and the source) of my toughts</a>HKD</p> <p>Dieses Bild veranschaulicht den Wandel meines Denkens bezüglich dessen, was ich bin.</p> <p>Anfangs die materialistische Einstellung: Materie erzeugt Geist. Diese wechselte in Geist über Materie und endet schließlich im Prinzip des Bewusstseins welches alles ist, Geist und Materie.</p> <p>Das Licht in diesem Bild steht als Platzhalter für Bewusstsein. Das Bewusstsein als solches oder die eigentliche Quelle der Wahrnehmung, der „Geist“ kann nicht bestimmt werden. Wie der Begriff des Tao bleibt er ohne letzte Definition, denn er ist alles und nichts gleichzeitig.</p> <p>HKD</p> <p>Transformation for me is a very important meaning of my life.</p> <p>HKD</p> <p>

Transformation

Originally uploaded by h.koppdelaney.

As I reflect on the fact that I have now spent 29 years on this planet, I have realized that my life has been anything but boring. I am at the point in my life where I can see where I’ve been and imagine what I want my future to be. I have my share of regrets and but overall I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I’ve graduated from high school, earned a bachelor’s degree. I’ve spent 3 years living and teaching in Slovakia. I’m 2/3 through my master’s of divinity program (I didn’t even think grad school was for me). I am spent a year working as a Chaplain and I’m off to start my internship with Grace Lutheran in Petersburg,WV. I’ve been able to meet people and go places others have only wished about. I am truly blessed.

There are still things in life I want to do. I want to travel, I want to have a family, most important I want to know I’ve made a mark in the universe. I am looking forward to completing my training as a Lutheran pastor. I look forward to sharing my life with somebody and being a father. I look forward to having a legacy.

As I look back on the year in particular, It has been marked extraordinary transformation. I feel my eyes have been opened. In my ways I’ve feel I’m finally a man, rather than a scared little boy. I’ve had quite a few bumps and bruises as I’ve spent the year looking at my self. Coming to terms with the flaws of my family, the flaws in myself. I have learned to embrace myself as a flawed man striving for God. I’ve had to learn to love me as God loves me and reclaim what I want for myself as a man.

This revelation has been because of 2 things, my work as a Chaplain in my CPE residency and the break-up of a significant relationship.

My work as a Chaplain at Palmetto Health has been very demanding. I have experienced pain, suffering, joy and sorrow that most people never get exposed to. I’ve seen people die in the trauma bay, I’ve been with families as loved ones die, I’ve walked with patients who were critical and now are healed. It has been basically an emotional rollercoaster. It has been an exhausting year. My work as a Chaplain is in coordination with a chaplain training education CPE. This process involved intense group work that digs deep into understanding who you are to better serve and be with patients. There have been moments this year where I have discovered things about myself I didn’t like. I have had to learn to love parents as flawed humans being rather than the perfect examples of life I have held them up to be. I think the biggest thing I’ve had to do is dig deep and learn to love me for who I am rather what everybody else says. I spent the first half the year living into patterns of self-sabotage. Allow myself to live in shame and fear. I don’t want to do that anymore. I do have a choice and I’ve learned to recognize those patterns in my life and now I can do something about it. I can choice who I want to be rather than blaming my parents or my circumstances.

The second thing this year that has had major impact was the break-up with my girlfriend. I was in a very emotional place when she decided to end our relationship. She was a source of strength and joy especially as I was trying to rediscover who I was and coming to terms with understanding myself. I was devastated. I can blame her for a lot of things (which is unfair on my part) but in many ways her ending our relationship was a catalyst for me to figure out who I really am and learn to love myself rather than relying on somebody else. I went through anger, sorrow and feeling like I was unloved and unlovable. For a while I resented her but I figured out it was easier to continue loving her from a distance than to hate her. I still care for her deeply. Despite her reasons for ending our relationship, I still think we could have had something great. I know I’m flawed but I know she made me a better person. I think about her most moments of the day. I still love her more than she’ll ever realize but maybe my love wasn’t enough for her. I’m still hoping she’ll figure it out. I hope she can learn to lower her guard and let somebody’s love be enough.

God has used this year despite all its deep valleys to make me a stronger person, to mold me into a man who is ready for the challenges the rest of my life will bring.

Zombies, Star Trek and Jesus


#zombie #startrek
Originally uploaded by Arrian Wells.

The other day I was watching an interview with LeVar Burton, Bill Nye and Larry King. The were talking about the future of education and what it means. They asked him about what Star Trek means He mentioned that with all the popularity of dystopian future, Star Trek was a beacon of hope that our future might just look a little better than it is right now. Then Bill Nye mentioned Zombies.

Anyway, this thought connected well what I have been reading in “To know as we are known.” In the book Park J. Palmer talks about how young people are increasingly optimistic about their own personal futures but pessimistic about the world around them. He states “They believe as, I once did, that they can ‘win’ whole everyone around them is losing.” In terms of Zombies, If survive a zombie hoard what’s the point if I end up alone, I’ll end up a zombie anyway. There are numerous sources that state the Zombification of America is a result of the over commercialized, materialistic and consumeristic culture. We have become self absorbed and self obsessed. The Zombies are meant to be a metaphor for modern society. What do you think? Maybe that’s why it is so popular and people relate to it. It is no longer a metaphor but a reality. The problem with our obsession of a Zombie apocalypse is that we slowly begin to dehumanize one another and start to see each and every person as less than human. Frankly I want to obsess about a future in which every person is more human not less.

In the United States, I think we are at a crossroads between a future in which we dehumanize each other like zombies in hopes of surviving the mess and in the end becoming zombies ourselves or; we choose to live and support one another for a better future. Gene Roddenberry describes this idealized vision of the future.

Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”

Roddenberry’s vision for the future was one in which we acted as a community to celebrate similarities and differences to solve problems. We took delight in one another rather than fight or hate each other. Star Trek however is a fictional utopia. I can only hope it is possible. It is a hopeful future but I place my hope in Christ and the future he has planned for us.

When we look at the Resurrection of Christ, we need to realize that his Resurrection what not just a bodily resurrection but a spiritual one. Christ was no Zombie. Christ was fully human and fully divine. He lived fully and was resurrected fully. The zombie virus is not just physical, it is spiritual. When we look at zombies, they have lost touch with their humanity. They have no ability to connect and relate to others. They have lost their spirit, they have become soulless. They are physically there, but spiritually dead. Maybe that sounds familiar. The Christian message of hope is that as humans we are meant to live in community. Community with God, with one another. In baptism, we participate in Christ’s death and Resurrection. We longer die alone or live alone; we are with Christ, forever! Because Christ died we can live.

Through Christ we are restored to the “Image of God” we were originally created to be. If there is a cure for the Zombie virus, Christ is It. His example of life, love and sacrifice draws all his disciples together in love to do as the Lord’s prayer  tells us to Let God’s Kingdom Come, on earth as it is in Heaven. A future we do not have to fear of is a Zombie Apocalypse because Christ is the victory. The future we hope for is not Star Trek but God’s Kingdom on earth.

Amen!!