Invitation.

Matthew 22:1-10

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

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.

Philippians 4:1-9

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

Exhortations

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

1 John 4:7

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

This passage from Philippians is a letter to the church in Philippi.  It’s a great letter, I’d encourage you to read it, it seems like Paul had a special place in his heart for the Philippians.  And, it was a letter.  One of the few letters that we can say with a bit of certainty that was actually written by Paul

It reminded me of a letter that I wrote in my late 20’s.  I may have shared this piece of the story, but many of you may remember me sharing about a road trip I took with two of my best friends, Jeff Tait and Jay Borck around 1996.  We travelled all of the western US and Canada.  We kept a very colorful collective journal.  One night, we were driving through Montana.  I was sitting in the back looking out at an amazing evening sky full of what I call “pensive boy” vibe.  I ended up writing a letter in the collective journal to God saying that I was either going to marry Debbie or I was never going to get married.  The letter was about 5 pages long.  I got made fun of by my friends…but, Debbie and I reconnected that fall and were engaged soon after!  

So, letters can be powerful, and full of possibilities.

This letter from Paul is full of interesting and encouraging words.  First of all, he mentions these women, as we talked about in our church’s Bible study this past week, women in leadership was not just accepted, it seems to be more of the rule in the early days of the church.  Considering this was a patriarchal society, the Jesus movement was revolutionary in that it was fueled, maintained, and grown through female leadership.  This was certainly in the way of Jesus.  Jesus broke down in very relational and beautiful ways the power structures of his day by lifting up those on the margins…which is also the biblical trajectory from the beginnings of the Old Testament, the Hebrew scriptures, to Paul’s and others letters and even today in theological thinking.  

Then, he moves into this poetry around “rejoice”.  The Philippian church was being persecuted, they had unjust rulers and a religious power system that was keeping them down.  But, Paul is telling them to be encouraged by their gentleness, to not worry, but to pray and to supply what they need to move towards peace.  

Peace in this context would be from the Jewish understanding of “shalom”.  Shalom means:  peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility.

I also found this online in describing “shalom”:  In the book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, author Cornelius Plantinga described the Old Testament concept of shalom:

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.

Paul is inviting us to live in God’s peace out of God’s love for us.  

The Gospel lesson in the lectionary is from Matthew 22:1-10, it is the story of God inviting us to a banquet, to the Kingdom of God.   In the story, the wedding banquet master invites folks, but they don’t want to come…they are comfortable…they don’t want to be bothered, even though the master is inviting them to a great feast.  So, he invites those on the margins.  This is keeping with the previous stories in Matthew around the status quo being shaken.  The Gospel writer is conveying to us a message from Jesus that we forget sometimes:  that God is loving us and trying to communicate that to us by inviting us to this feast of love, to participate in love that brings peace that passes understand.  To know what it means to have love that does win.

We are kicking of stewardship season today and our theme is “3 great loves”, which are love of children, love of creation, love of neighbor…

In effect, we are inviting everyone to a great banquet built on this love, will we come?  

In so many ways, our church has already accepted that invitation, especially in this season of covid.  As you consider your pledge in time, talent, or treasure in the days to come, you’ll hear testimonies from church members on how Fleming Road UCC has shown this kind of love, extending shalom to all, living out the Kingdom of God and inviting folks to God’s great banquet.  

This verse from 1 John 4:7 sums up what it means to live in peace, to participate in God’s banquet:  

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

Let us continue to find ways to grow in that love and to spread that love to those around us and in and through this church!

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