Summary: The sermon looks at Luke's Parable of the weddings guests who compete for the best seat at the table. Jesus makes it clear that everyone should be invited (poor, lame etc.), not just the rich and powerful. Such is the kingdom.
Everyone’s Invited To The Reception
If you've lived through a wedding you know, they are of all things most stressful. What few people realize is how stressful weddings are for the clergy. Although we will never say it with parishioners around, when clergy get together, we inevitably share horror stories and express disdain for weddings.
I’ve experienced that firsthand when a wedding goes wrong. When I say wrong, I really it was a disaster before it began. The mother of the bride deserved her own T.V. show on T.L.C.
She was a Baptist, so she could not grasp why the Episcopal Church had this, prayer book that defined the order of a marriage ceremony. She didn't keep her frustration to herself either. She said. “This is my daughter's first wedding, and you mean to tell me she can't write her own vows?” I said, “This is an Episcopal church, and we stick closely to the prayer book."
On the day of the wedding, I walked in the vesting room to find the groomsmen and the groom, drunk. With two flasks and the remanence of a twenty-four pack of Bud Light in the trash can. Lovely.
Finally, we made it to the place in the ceremony itself where I asked for the rings. And the best man reached in his pockets, and he hesitated for a moment as if he lost the rings. I didn’t flinch because it’s the oldest trick in the best man book.
But then he turned and asked the other groomsmen if they had the rings. They kept looking but couldn’t find the rings either. So I said, “Do any ladies have two hair ties we can use as rings? We’ve got to get these two married.”
Finally, the best man realized he left the rings in the glove box of his truck. After the wedding, I took a few pictures with the wedding party, and I said to the bride, "I'll see you guys at the reception." And to my shock, she said, "It's at the country club, and it's by invitation only. Sorry preacher, we didn’t send you one.” “Preacher” huh… okay then.
That’s when I realized I was simply a necessity so they could use the church for a photo-op. Needless to say I was so happy to get away from them that I didn’t care they didn’t even tip me.
Jesus didn’t have to deal with modern wedding planners and cameras, but he knew how some people act when they are the center of attention. The Gospel reading centers on a wedding with some dramatic characters too... In that setting, people were vying for the best seats at the reception because it made them feel important.
But Jesus had a very different view of weddings: Open the reception to all!
However, some people resist his inclusivity.
We see the resistance to openness in the Gospel reading. Jesus went to a dinner feast, and he noticed guests vying for the most important seats. Since Jesus was the guest of honor, it’s possible they argued who should sit next to him.
So, he confronted their competition. He opened Emily Post’s etiquette book and flipped to the chapter on weddings. Sometimes people forget the rules, so Jesus reminded them where they should sit. “Do not take the best seats at the head table. If so, you invite embarrassment when someone attends and you have to move.”
That sounds like good practical advice. However, there's something more because Luke said it was a parable. Jesus didn’t tell parables for behavior modification; he focused on matters of the heart. Jesus wanted to invite everyone to the Kingdom of God, and this parable is no different.
From the beginning to the end of Luke's Gospel, there is a consistent theme where God invites outsiders into the kingdom. When Luke wrote his Gospel, the church was on the brink of a split. Acts chapter fifteen describes the tension. Some early Jewish Christians did not think non-Jews were welcome in the community of faith.
We’ve all met those people before. If you do not meet their standards, or you’re not part of their clique, you are not welcome at the altar rail.
However, not all exclude the marginalized. Some holy people embrace them.
There's a contrast between those who exclude people and the ones who open the party to all.
An open invitation was difficult for some highly religious people to embrace because change scared them, and change put their power at risk.
However, Jesus settled, once and for all, the question of discrimination in the church: He said, "Come to me all who are burdened, and I will give you rest."
The measure of our faith is not how we welcome someone into our congregation when they meet our expectations. Rather, it’s when we treat them after they fail, and disappoint us.