Vicar David Sivecz
Matthew 22:1-14 “Don’t Miss Out”
Tiffany and Brian were a young couple. They were in love and enjoying wedded bliss. Their fifth wedding anniversary was around the corner and they were so excited. Believing this was a special occasion, they decided to throw a party. It was going to be joyous and fun.
So, they picked out their favorite Italian restaurant, found the best pianist, and had the money to pay for it. They also wanted to invite their closest friends and family. These were people who supported them and cared about them since they got together.
Over the next couple of days, Tiffany and Brian got on the phone and called each person. To show their excitement and enthusiasm they really tried to sell it. Thinking people would be happy for them they thought plenty of people would come.
The first person they called was Tiffany’s Maid of Honor. They really thought she would be the first to come. But when they asked she said, “Umm, well, my brother-in-law's friend's father's grandmother's sister's aunt's turtle died, and it was a tragic death. I simply cannot go into the details! But, I’m unable to be there.”
A bit surprised by the response they continued to call others. The next person was Brian’s brother. He turned around and said, “I promised to help my wife clean the toilet at that same evening. She doesn't like doing it alone; she gets nervous that she will fall in! Some kind of toilet phobia. But I’m unable to be there.
A little shocked, they called Tiffany’s close cousin. Again, with excitement in their voices, they invited her. “It’s going be an awesome party. Dinner and drinks are on Brian and me. You don’t want miss out!”
Her cousin turned around and explained, “I am observing National "Don't Go Out at All Week". Haven't you heard of that yet? It’s becoming really popular in Amsterdam!” I’m unable to be there.
As Brian and Tiffany kept calling and inviting people the responses they received became odder and odder. The next person stated, "I need to double check all of the expiration dates on my milk. You can never be too sure. And I love my Cheerios in the morning!
Another person explained, “Unfortunately there is a disturbance in the force, and it is not with me right now. I never go anywhere without the force, Skywalker strongly advises against it.”
The final person even mentioned, “The president is coming over tonight for some tea and crumpets. At least that is what his text stated. And like they say, never ditch the President, he likes his tea time!”
Why miss out? Why miss out on a free dinner and drinks with close family and friends? Why miss out on something so fun, and incredibly joyful? Better yet, who came up with these reasons to miss out on such an invitation?
There’s even a greater invitation that God doesn’t want us to miss out on. It’s an invitation that completely changes our lives for the better. It’s an invitation that can make impact on us on a day-to-day basis. This invitation doesn’t just alter our individual lives, it touches the lives of everyone around us. The invitation that we don’t want to miss out on, is found in our parable for today.
For the third week in a row, we receive a parable, or a story Jesus shared to illustrate a certain point. In our Gospel lesson, we heard about a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out his servants to invite others to be a part of this joyous occasion. When his servants came back they informed him that those who were invited didn’t want to come. Why miss out?
After one rejection we would probably just give up. We would be mad but do our best to move on without those people we invited. Yet the king didn’t just move on. Again, he sent out more servants. For a king to do this would be the equivalent of him getting on his hands and knees and begging. This was unusual behavior for someone of this stature. Still, the king wanted these guests to attend his son’s wedding banquet.
This time, when he sent his servants out, he tried to make the party even more enticing. He gave them a glimpse of the menu. He wanted to give them something to look forward to at this banquet. He explained he was going to provide his best food. It was his oxen, fatted calves, and all the sides. Why miss out?
More importantly, in those days, eating was considered to be one of the most important contexts for social relationships. It was not just a time where people were physically refueled but it was their entertainment, their time to build relationships, to relax, and find solace. Dining together was intimate; it was where people shared a meal and conversed with one another.
Apparently, this wasn’t enough to entice those invited. As we heard, they gave an abundant amount of excuses. They wanted to work and they wanted to tend to their farms. Some were so adamant on not coming they mistreated and killed the king's servants. Why miss out?
Do we ever do this? Do people invite us to a birthday party, anniversary, graduation and we say we can’t make it? Or, do we ever just completely avoid answering them? Is it because we have better things to do? Is it because we are overbooked? Is it because we haven’t set our priorities straight?
What about being a part of a Christian community? What are some of the reasons we, or others, don’t want to participate in one? I did some research, and here are a few reasons some gave. “I already asked Jesus in my heart; what else do you need?” “I have children.” “I don't have to go to church to be a Christian but I have to go to softball practice to be on the team.” “The preacher preaches too long.” The last one, "I already went last week.” Why miss out?
This is where our parable can make us uncomfortable. It might hold up a mirror. After those who rejected the invitation, the king sent out his military to wipe out those people. There’s no easy way around it. Talk about your wedding drama. Then the king went and invited everyone off the streets.
He invited both the good and the bad. The people who were invited by the king weren’t the first chosen; rather they were just common folks. Some of them were ordinary people who took life day by day. They probably were peasants who didn’t have money. The others were considered outcasts we wouldn’t expect to find at this wedding banquet. They could’ve been tax collectors, prostitutes, Gentiles, as well as other marginalized people.
Among those, who the king invited, there was one in particular who was called out for not having a wedding robe. How was someone, who was brought off the streets, expected to have the proper attire? In those days, even when people were invited to a wedding they were given a garment to cover up their daily attire. Why didn’t he take the attire? Why miss out?
Instead of trying to come up with a reason on the spot, he had no response. He didn’t give an answer or excuse. It is though he is caught red-handed and feels ashamed. With no sympathy, the king throws him out.
That’s the challenge of this parable. It’s the challenge of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. We are not only invited to God’s heavenly wedding banquet but are given the attire of being one of God’s children. This is not about what happens after we die. Entering into the kingdom of God, right here right now, means we can’t remain the same. As God pulls us into this new way of life it’s impossible not to be transformed. That’s the challenge. That’s the challenge of being a Christian. Maybe that’s why people want to miss out.
That’s what Emily missed out on for many years. Emily for the longest time didn’t consider herself to be much of a Christian. Her family only went to worship on Christmas and Easter, but outside of that they weren’t involved. When she got older she entered in the world and worked as an engineer. She had to fight for everything she earned. Many times she had to overcome sexism just so she could earn what she believed to be rightfully hers.
Full of strife, hyper-vigilance, and a constant battle to protect herself from the world, she did everything to put herself first. Around every corner, she believed was a moment full of potentially unknown dangers. If anyone crossed her she made sure there was a consequence for every action.
Because of this battle, she grew not to trust anyone. It was a lonely life and typically pushed away her loving, caring extended family and great friends. For as much as she tried to hide her fears and anger, one of her close friends, Diane, finally approached her one evening. She sat Emily down and asked her if she was alright. Of course, Emily put up a front. Then her friend came straight-out and told her, You seem to have a “free-floating anger around you.”
After this, she broke down. She didn’t know where to go or what to do. So, her friend invited her to church. Emily responded with laughter. “Church! That’s not me. I’m not a goody-goody.” I don’t see myself as a church-goer.” Diane didn’t push anymore but just left the invitation open. A few months passed and Diane checked in with Emily one more time. Again, Emily declined. After a year of trying to figure out how to let go of her anxiety and anger Emily finally gave church a try.
What difference did it make in her life? Through time she learned to let go of everything she had been holding onto. She was free righting every imagined, or real, wrong done to her. She was free to be the person God wanted her to be. She was free to find the joy in each day. She even was free to accept the kindness of others and friendship at face value, without consideration of possible ulterior motives. She became free to know and accept that even though her path would not always be clear and smooth, she knew she was never alone. Why miss out?
Perhaps, we are missing out because we’re looking at the Christian community, whether here at Zion or somewhere else, like all the events we partake in throughout the week. We come, absorb, and leave. What if we didn’t look at being part of a Christian community in this way? What if being part of a Christian community was a separate entity that we can’t find anywhere else in the world? What if it wasn’t about what we “get out of it”, what we “do”, or who we “are?” What if it’s just about being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
So, why would we want to miss out? Yes, being a disciple of Jesus Christ is challenging. It does require something from us. Sometimes it can difficult. Other times it can be extremely difficult. Would we want to take the easy way out? Do we want to make excuses and avoid it? Do we want to place our hope and trust in ourselves? Do we rely upon earning God’s love?
If we are, then we’re missing out on the new look that’s a life filled with grace, mercy, and acceptance. We’re missing out on becoming a deeper child of God. We’re missing out on being transformed from the old way of life into a new being. If we don’t miss out that also means we get to be free from caring about how others judge our parenting, careers, grades, or whatever else. We get to live without the anger, the fear, the selfishness that controls our lives. We get to live without feeling unworthy, lonely, or hopeless. So, don’t miss out. Don’t miss out being wrapped in the God-given garment of mercy. Don’t miss out eating at God’s grace-filled heavenly banquet.