Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like a King...

"Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.'" Most of us are familiar with the story found in Matthew 22, right? We went over it in Sunday School on (you guessed it!) Sunday. But so many new ideas started to reveal themselves to me while I was reading...

The story starts with the king calling on those whom he invited - a typical Jewish custom I learned. So he calls on his friends. They "refused to come." A little surprising to say the least. Let's call this Invitation #1.

More servants are sent, because obviously these people don't understand how good the food is. But they don't really seem to care much. In fact, some even decided that they didn't care so much, they killed the servants (a logical course of action). This made the king mad (to say the least). I mean it's one thing to say no to a party... twice. But it's another to literally kill the messenger. Invitation #2.

The king sends out servants a last time, but this time not to the invited ones. They are told to go to the street corners and invite anyone they can find (Invitation #3). The servants continue to obey - they get good people, bad people, and I assume the okay people (I like to refer to them as the purgatory people... sorry - bad joke).

When the king looks at his guests, he notices a guy who seems to have a wardrobe malfunction, and sends him to hell.

(Actually, if you want to know what really happens, see Matthew 22:1-14.)

So here's what I'm thinking, and I might be way off, or this might really be obvious, I don't know. But as an 18-year-old without any formal Bible background, I gave myself a pat on the back for this one.

The first invite gave me the image of Eden: God setting aside a place for us to have communion with Him. Why would anyone pass it up, right? Well, we all know what happened just two chapters later. Adam rejected the invitation. We rejected the invitation.

The second: Torah. God asks again: "Why don't you just come and join me?" And yet, ultimately the Israelites decide that Torah is not for them. We reject the second invitation.

#3: One needs only a quick peek at the prophets to see that "the king" is pretty mad. So Jesus is introduced. And if you actually read anything about Jesus in the gospels, you will find in no time that he extended this invitation to the poor, to the outcast - the previously uninvited. The call to communion with Yahweh is not only for the select few any more. The select few didn't want to come... we didn't want to come.

So lots and lots of people are coming to the party now... notice: none of them were originally invited (kind of scary, right?). But there is a man who doesn't belong. Somehow he slipped in, wasn't wearing wedding clothes, and the king throws him out. There's lots of directions I could go with just this: who invited him and didn't tell him about the clothes? They must feel bad. Or maybe: is that a description of hell that he is sent to? I don't even want to begin down that road... Wes?

No... I want to focus on the bigger issue of the story. This man missed out on the banquet because he wasn't dressed properly. Bringing in the metaphor: this man missed out on the kingdom of heaven because he didn't take care of something relatively basic.

Now notice the entire time that I have linked "us" with the Israelites. Because it is us that breaks Shaalom. It us us that ignores Torah. It is us that decides that food prepared by the God of the universe is just.... eh - not really for us.

It takes beggars to appreciate this food. It takes the humble to say yes to the invitation. It takes the broken, the outcast, the ones that no one cares about, to admit, "Hey, I could go for a meal right now with Somebody... it's all I have going for me." Maybe this is why a few chapters earlier Jesus said that it is the "poor in spirit" who actually have the kingdom of heaven.

And then there's a poor man who wasn't wearing wedding clothes... Maybe he couldn't afford them. If so, that servant would be responsible for the hell he ends up going through (pardon the figurative language). Or maybe one of the invited would have been able to buy him some proper attire.

Or maybe that's not the case. Maybe the guy was a slob. Maybe he was lazy.

Moral of the story:

Shopping = Salvation

No comments: