Today we have yet another parable from the Matthaean community. In the story proper, a king is giving a wedding banquet for his son. Those whom he chooses to invite make excuses for not attending. They have things to do at home, or have to get to the office, or whatever. When challenged, they inexplicably turn violent towards the king’s royal servants; and he, in turn retaliates, sending out troops to level their city! Then the king instructs his servants to go out and invite everyone they can find to attend the banquet.
Clearly we are reading about God’s invitation to enter the Kingdom — the Reign of God, in which God’s will is done on the earth as in heaven. The religious establishment do not take that invitation seriously. Instead, like some religious leaders in our day, they focus on building their own wealth, power, privilege, and influence. They are following their own agenda, not God’s. So, God’s new servants invite people into a New Israel, open to all humanity. Most importantly, it will welcome the least, the last, and the lost. Those former “outsiders” who have been excluded by religionists because of their unclean occupation (e.g. shepherd, imperial tax agent) or condition (handicap, poverty) will now be insiders. As we heard Saint Peter exclaim from the pages of Acts only a few weeks ago, “Now I get it! In every nation the one who respects God and does right is acceptable.” Indeed, we are all God’s beloved children, all called to the Banquet to celebrate citizenship in that Kingdom in which people put each other first, and all are taken care of.
In a second vignette, the banquet has begun, when the king espies a man in leisure clothes, castigates him, and has him thrown out. Message: It is far better to decline God’s invitation than to accept it and then never to follow through. Saint Paul today reminds us that reliance on God brings a peace that is beyond comprehension, a peace that pervades both heart and mind. It is good to know in this uncertain time of pandemic that reliance on God means a heart that lives in faith and not fear, a mind that is settled, not in anxiety but in quiet confidence.
Let us ponder this week the question of what may stand in the way of our reliance solely on God. Do we rely on our own skill and wits, our family, power or connections? Is our “Golden Calf” perhaps gold bullion or other earthly security. Today’s collect reminds us that we are to be “continually given to good works.” Do these other things keep up from truly sacrificial giving to God’s work through our parish and other agencies, or from our offering personal time to help worthy causes in our community? If so, we are not demonstrating the reliance on God, and commitment to God’s own Kingdom of love, peace,and justice, that his gracious invitation commands.