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

Most of the things that I said last Sunday about the Parable of the Vineyard[1] could very well be said about the Parable of the Wedding Feast. The vineyard and the feast are figures for the people and the kingdom of God.

The fact that Jesus tells very similar parables and the fact that we have them two Sundays successively, these facts alone, call for their own interpretation. And the interpretation I give to these facts is like the interpretation that Joseph gives to Pharaoh’s dreams.[2] A dream about seven cows followed by a dream about seven ears of corn is very like a parable of a vineyard followed by a parable of a feast: the fact that God in Christ tells two parables so similar means that God really is intending to perform them. The doubling conveys both intentionality and consequentiality.

The burning of the city of the guests who refused the invitation to the feast corresponds to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 a.d., figured also in the Parable of the Vineyard. Other similarities between the parables include the sending of two groups of servants, the murder of the servants, the punishment of the murderers, and the entrance of a new group into a privileged situation of which their predecessors had proved unworthy.

This last similarity is most important. God really intends to give his kingdom to those who really want to be part of it, who want to be part of it enough to do his will, or who want to be part of it enough to repent. God really intends to give his kingdom to those who really want to be part of it.

God’s kingdom, like the vineyard and like the feast, has a double aspect. It can be entered now by those who wish to enter it, and it will be entered later by those who inhabit it now and who withstand the scrutiny of the final judgment. The kingdom is described in both parables as God’s judgment of Israel and God’s warning to all who enter it.

I can think of no better enterprise than taking to heart God’s intention to welcome those to his kingdom who have determined that they truly want to be there. I don’t believe anyone will arrive in heaven by accident, as if someone made a wrong turn. Your and my bona fides, your and my passport, will have to be up-to-date and stamped. For those who truly want to be there, as the Psalmist says, “will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”[3]

[1] Saint Matthew 21:33-46.

[2] Genesis 41:25.

[3] Psalm 23:6.