Summary: A vision of worship based on the picture of the Kingdom of God as a wedding banquet
A Galactic Gala – Becoming A Festival Pt. 4
Matt. 22:1-14 February 22/23, 2002
Friday September 6th was a very good night to be a football fan in Edmonton. The Eskimos pounded the defending Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders 45-11 to sweep the two game Labour Day series and improve their West Division leading record to 9-2-0.
A crowd of 61,481 jammed Commonwealth Stadium. It was the largest crowd ever to watch an Eskimos home game (until last year’s Grey Cup final, with 62 531) and the largest crowd to ever attend a CFL regular season game.
I was one of those 61 481 people, sitting in our unofficial “Laurier” section, giving Neil Attwell a hard time because he had “Go Stamps Go” written in black marker across his belly. There was something unique about that experience. Every touchdown the Eskimos made the crowd jumped to their feet in wild excitement, every good tackle or defensive play was applauded. Now, I’ve been to plenty of other games where that wasn’t the case – where it was actually kind of boring, the fans were apathetic, where there was more booing than cheering. And those games weren’t much fun. But Sept. 6, 2002, was a different story. 61.5K people joined in one really big party.
I think that atmosphere is getting close to what we will experience as we worship in heaven. Oh, I don’t think there will be football teams taking the field (are Calgary players even allowed into heaven??). And I’m quite sure that there won’t be people throwing food and getting drunk and smoking pot. But there will be an immense crowd, focused on the main activity, heavily invested personally, erupting with praise at times while at other times watching in stunned silence. And there will certainly be celebration.
Is that only a vision of the future? Of the next life?? Of worship in heaven???
I want to look at a parable Jesus told in Matt 22. As you are looking that up, let me sketch the context. Jesus is speaking to a group of Pharisees in the temple, during the last week of His life. He has marched triumphantly into Jerusalem, has torn through the temple throwing out the money changers, and is now confronting the Pharisees directly. The parable in chapter 22 is the third of three, each making the same point: the Kingdom of God is being given to those who will receive it rather than to those who reject it. Let me read vs. 1-14.
Understanding the Parable:
It is a fairly straightforward story, but let me fill in a little background to help us understand what Jesus is saying.
o “kingdom of heaven”: What is Jesus talking about? This phrase is exclusive to Matthew – Mark and Luke tend to use the phrase “kingdom of God.” They are synonymous terms, meaning the same thing. The key word in the phrase is not “heaven,” which we tend to think of as a spiritual place that we go to when we die. The key word is Kingdom, which began with the coming of Jesus, which Jesus preached about constantly, and which sort of “officially” got underway with Jesus’ resurrection. Of course we don’t yet experience the Kingdom of God in its fullness, but we are living in it right now. It is to be part of our earthly experience as Christians. We eagerly await its fulfillment at the end of time, but we do also participate in it now. This is significant because I want to underline that what Jesus is talking about is for us today, not just for when we get to “heaven.”
o The wedding banquet: the subject of the parable is a wedding banquet. The image still speaks today – we still celebrate weddings with a big party, often with feasting, we still make a big deal about them. Royal weddings all the more, as I’m sure we will discover if and when Prince William or Prince Harry ever get married, or if Charles and Camilla ever legitimize their relationship… And if you think we make a big deal out of weddings today, you might be interested to know that in Jesus day, a wedding banquet was seven days long. These people knew how to feast! It was a week-long party. Today we feel more freedom to choose how we might like to respond to a wedding invitation unless of course it is someone close to us, but in Jesus’ day, the invitation was not often refused – and if it was a royal invitation, refusal would be far more than an insult, it would be a treasonous rejection of the king himself.
o The wedding clothes: the last part of the parable talks about one particular guest who shows up dressed poorly – “without his wedding clothes.” The whole section seems to not quite fit with the rest of the parable, and it is certainly making a different point than the first part. We maybe can’t sort out all the confusion, but we can make note of this: this guy was the exception. The others, who were also gathered from the street corners, “bad and good” alike, managed to come dressed appropriately. Some suggest the king gave out the good clothes and this guy refused, others suggest that the other guests made some kind of effort to at least wear their clean blue jeans, we don’t really know. But we do know this guy was singled out because he hadn’t bothered to do what everyone else had done – namely show respect for the King by dressing appropriately for the occasion. So he was judged harshly, and kicked out of the party.