RCL Year A Proper 23
Isaiah 25:1-9, Psalm 23, Philippians 4:1-9, Saint Matthew 22:1-14

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.”[1] And thus Jesus begins another parable about the kingdom. This time, he compares the kingdom to a wedding banquet, and that comparison is the major meaning of the parable. Heaven is like a wedding banquet—people enjoying themselves, eating, drinking, talking with one another, and their needs being met. Heaven is like that Jesus says.

But within that major meaning, I believe, we have a narrow meaning, a meaning drawn from the emphasis upon the invitations and the responses to them.

The responses fall into three categories. The first group refuses to attend. One goes to his farm, and another goes to his business. Still others seize the slaves bearing the invitation, and mistreat, and kill them. The early church understood that the slaves thus killed were a figure for Jesus who himself was mistreated and killed through the combined efforts of Israel’s leaders and Israel’s Roman occupation. The king in the parable is enraged at the death of his slaves and burns the city. In a similar way, the early church understood the burning of the city to be a figure for the destruction of Jerusalem, including the Temple, by the Roman army in 70 ad. So, the first group of responses are those who refuse the invitation to the wedding banquet which is heaven itself.

The second group of responses are to the second round of invitations. The invitations go to everyone, good and bad, and the wedding hall is filled with guests.

And among them is the third group of responses, a group of one man, a man not wearing a wedding robe. For this he is bound hand and foot, and thrown into the outer darkness.

What does this parable have to do with you and with me? First of all, we are not among those who went to our business or our farm. And we have not killed the messenger. Group one is out for us.

We are in group two, those who answered the invitation. But do we have any resemblance to the man not wearing the wedding robe? The nub of the parable is just this question. We are to put on Christ, like a garment, in Baptism, and we are to work out our salvation, week by week, and year by year. We are here to do just that.

Sometimes in the Choir Room before the Eucharist, I tell the choir and the servers that what we are about to do is just a rehearsal, a rehearsal for heaven. And it is. It is up to us to be ready, to participate in the Eucharist so we are ready for the heavenly banquet.

[1] Saint Matthew 22:2.