The King said, “invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” - from Matthew 22:1-14
<This sermon contains the text of my pastoral letter dated 10/12/2017 and a word on Matthew 21:1-14>
Dear People of God at St. Peter’s
You may have heard a little about new things at St. Peter’s, including The Way of St. Paul. This letter is to share news and invite your questions and feedback. I also write to ask for your prayers – and your participation.
Over the past year since I arrived as Rector, we’ve listened, prayed and served together. More than half of St. Peter’s families welcomed me into your homes, and I am still making home visits. Others have seen me beside your hospital bed. Some of you have come in for a talk, or found other ways to share your hopes and concerns for your life, your family, your church.
I thank you for your generosity and your honesty. I thank you for your openness to be pastor and people together. I take your time and trust seriously. I thank God for this too.
You have told me a few unexpected things, but what I have heard from you largely matches what you wrote in St. Peter’s parish profile when you searched for a new rector.
You have prayed to God much or all of your life.
You believe God is making something new at St. Peter’s.
You hear a call to connect with God, one another and our neighbors in new ways.
You are hopeful, because this call is of God.
You are concerned, because the way forward is not clear.
You are seeking a way forward, what our ancestors called “The Way.”
You ask me to walk with you and lead you.
That’s a solid start on any journey.
We have spent this year getting to know one another. We have made some changes. Just having a rector again after three years is a change. Meeting a new priest who is not Rev. Dennis Nichols or Rev. Gerald Reiss is a change. Early on, we introduced the healing service into Sunday worship in response to your requests. We are making new connections in the community and the wider Church, with more to come. Our presence on the internet has never been stronger or easier to find. We have rebuilt our finance team and taken a firmer hold on how we raise, spend and invest the money entrusted to the Church. We are trying new things in stewardship and fundraising. We have our first new worship leaders at 7:30 and 10:30.
We are beginning to look beyond ourselves in new ways. We are learning to meet our neighbors again, and to listen to them for their part in God’s call to us. We are learning to share Good News with our neighbors more often, earlier and in more targeted ways.
We still have much to learn. Things to try. Some will succeed. Some will inevitably fail and we’ll try something else. And that’s OK. That’s being church.
The Way of St. Paul is a help in all this. I like The Way of St. Paul because it supports what God and we are doing. It helps give shape and consistency to the things we are already doing, and the things we will do, all rooted in the call we hear to be God’s people in the world. It asks the right questions and invites our answers in prayer and action.
As we seek to grow in faith and number, The Way of St. Paul reminds us that we are not alone. It brings the help of our Diocese and the companionship of other parishes who are going through these same questions. It reminds us we are not the first or only ones to walk this road.
It reminds us we are going somewhere Good.
A copy of the Way of St. Paul pamphlet you’ve seen in the Sunday bulletins is in our bulletin again. I invite you to take a look at it again, and say a prayer as we take each next step in the journey God has put us on.
We will have a parish “kitchen table talk” on The Way of St. Paul, and our efforts to grow the church generally, at coffee hour on Sunday October 29.
You are invited. I hope you will mark your calendar and join the conversation. I am available to discuss your questions, hopes and concerns.
God loves you and so do I.
<end of pastoral letter>
A word on today’s Gospel passage.
This parable from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus talks about the feast that the king has set. In it, Jesus takes a prophetic role in denouncing the religious leaders of his day who abandoned their mission and been corrupted by the ways of the world, by collaborating with the occupying Roman government, by being greedy, by doing everything except sharing the banquet that God had set for his people.
In this story you heard about the guest who did not wear the wedding robe. In Jesus’s day, the host of a wedding banquet would provide special dress robes for a major feast like a wedding banquet. They were considered part of the hospitality of hosting the banquet. To decline the robe was to decline part of the hospitality. It would be kind of like crashing a party just to show up for the food.
The prophetic voice that Jesus offers, the condemnation of those who would not accept the hospitality of the wedding robe, are harsh words. They remind us that Jesus’s first hearers took this call to Kingdom, and its consequences, seriously, and we have every reason to believe Jesus did too.
But I want to focus on the words spoke by the king himself. Do you remember them? They are my Scripture sentence today. “Invite everyone you find to the banquet.”
“Invite everyone you find to the banquet.”
The king has set a feast. When we gather at this altar to share the bread and the wine, we have a taste of that feast. We take into us, we become, part of God, part of the Body of Christ, as we take the Body of Christ into us. This feast is given freely and joyfully and in abundance by our God. It is always with us. It is his great desire, his eagerness even, that we be at the banquet and we share it. Share it with God and share it always with others. The kings said, “Invite everyone you find to the banquet.”
Today's Gospel - Matthew 22:1-14
Once more Jesus spoke to the people 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.’ 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.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 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.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
All Scripture for this service