Site Overlay

God’s Evite

Matthew 22:1-14

October 5, 2014

Sermon preached by Rev. Donald Ng at the First Chinese Baptist Church in San Francisco.

Evites have become a familiar way to invite people to an occasion. At FCBC, we use it primarily with fellowship groups announcing and describing the upcoming event, showing who have been invited, and a very convenient place to indicate your RSVP: “Yes, I’m Coming; Sorry, I’m Not, or Not Yet Reply.”

This provides a very convenient way for people to say, “Sorry, I’m not coming.” There’s no person on the other end of the computer message. We don’t have to hear any tone of disappointment that would make us feel guilty saying “No.” It’s a modern day invitation that frees us from obligations and indebtedness. And even after you have replied and the sponsoring advertisements come on that paid for this free Evite, you can click them off and go on your way.

Wicked Banquet

Today’s lesson is another one of Jesus’ troubling parables. Jesus sets the scene by saying that the Kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. Naturally, the king wants to celebrate this joyful event, and so he sent out his Evite and then his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet. Although the costly preparations were complete, they would not come.

It’s odd that those invited decline the king’s summons. Presumably, his subjects had initially accepted the Evite, but now they were reluctant. Their conduct parallels that of the second son who told his father that he would go to work in the vineyard, but did not (Mt. 21:30). The guests were possibly some of the king’s most prominent and privileged subjects. How could they, of all people, refuse the king’s invitation? Their conduct was most unexpected and, given the power that kings customarily hold, seems entirely reckless.

Rather than respond rashly, however, the king is patient. He sends out another group of slaves, directing them to say, “Tell those who have been invited, ‘Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet’” (v.4). Once again they snub the king’s invitation: “But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them” (vv. 5-6).

Whereas the behavior of those “who made light of the king’s appeal” demonstrates poor judgment, the conduct of “the rest” is horrifying. These individuals went far beyond human respect. Their vicious defiance leaves the king no choice. For that reason, “he sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.” While equally horrifying in what the king did, his conduct reflects that ordinarily seen in monarchs. They bestow gifts on their subjects, and expect response from them. In this case, having received the king’s invitation, the sensible response would have been to attend. The king said, “those invited were not worthy” (v. 8).

After dealing with the disloyal faction, the king issues another command to his slaves: “Go therefore into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

For many of us, we wished the parable ended here. But before we finish understanding the rest of the parable, what does this mean to us today?

Read Related Sermon  We Have Never Seen Anything Like This

Your Evite

This parable like others talk about how Jesus put it to the chief priests and elders about God’s invitation to Israel to attend the wedding banquet of his Son…about how they offered excuses, and even executed God’s messengers. While this parable has those historical implications, what does it mean to us Christians to follow Jesus with renewed faith and commitment?

First, God is the inviter. God is always inviting us to come: come to the waters, come home, come to the banquet, come to abundant life, come to eternal life, come to worship, come to God himself.

In this story, the king, God is excited about his banquet. The calf has been fattened and prepared, the wine has aged, the tables are set, and the DJ and band have been hired. And God is really jazzed up about the feast. God can’t wait to get the Evites out. God is just that way. This is the God we love, worship and serve—a God who invites us to dance, invites us to be a part of what God is doing. How great is that?

God wants everyone to be present to honor the Son and his bride…God is not willing for any to miss the event. For God, every day is an Evite sent out to you.

But what, exactly, is God inviting us to? What’s in the Evite? The second point is that God is inviting you to service. Before his disciples on top of a mountain, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20).

The king invited the Thailand Mission Team to travel to the ends of the earth. They made disciples by demonstrating in their own words and deeds living in Christ. They taught the children about the Bible and sang spiritual songs. And while there were fears about their mission, Jesus reminded them that he is always with them to the end of the age.

For you, your Evite from God may be an invitation to an abundant life or to worship or to eternal life or to enjoy the presence of Jesus or to experience rest and Sabbath or to pray or to turn to God in time of need. There are so many Evites that God is sending out and they may be different for each of you.

Thirdly, the invitees are everyone with no exception. Martin Marty once shared a story from a Jesuit priest. On a visit to Mexico, the priest happened to observe young families coming up to the cathedral on a Sunday morning. As each man approached the church doors, he handed his wife or girlfriend through the door, then took his place outside among the other men. This group of men stood, smoking, on the steps of the cathedral until their loved ones emerged from the darkness within.

The priest decided he had to address the situation. He walked out through the church door and into the sunlit plaza.

“Good morning, gentlemen.”

“Good morning, Father.”

“I see you escort the ladies to Mass, then wait outside.”

“That’s right.”

“You don’t go into the cathedral yourselves?”

“No, not generally.”

“Well, that’s puzzling. Aren’t you Catholics?”

Read Related Sermon  2004 Annual Report

“Of course we’re Catholics,” one said. “But we’re not fanatics.”

Perhaps this was the problem with the people the king invites to his banquet. They don’t want to be considered fanatics.

Who are the invitees? God’s Evite goes out to everyone. To not go to the banquet, one has to reject the invitation. If you are not at the banquet, it’s not for want of an invitation. For now, everybody who’s somebody gets an invitation. Even if you’re not somebody, but a nobody—you get an invitation. God’s Evite is to all people in the kingdom.

What’s surprising is that some of the invitees reject the invitation. The king is like saying, “You’re kidding, right?”

The invitation is treated casually by some. The wedding banquet of the king’s son is the event of the decade and some people are treating this Evite with nonchalance and even hostility. What could be more important than an invitation to this event?

Those who received the invitation made excuses. They told the slaves to go away and went so far as to mistreat and hurt them. Those on the Evite list did not want to be seen as fanatics.

Dressed Right

There are another 4 verses to this parable. When the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And the man was speechless. At once, the king orders the man to be bound and thrown into outer darkness. The king’s severity is shocking and disorienting. Rather than extend mercy to a man who may have lacked the resources to acquire a proper wedding robe—ordering his attendants to bring a robe for this “friend”—the king shows no pity.

What is possibly the meaning behind this man’s inappropriate dress and the king’s reaction? The Bible is clear that when we stand before God, we need to be dressed in the garments of righteousness that belongs not to ourselves, but to Jesus Christ himself. Our garments are like filthy rags. The apostle Paul says that he is willing to give up anything in order to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God based on faith” (Philippians 3:9).

Throughout the year, we receive invitations to various parties and events—celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, a particular holiday, church fellowship group’s activities, and weddings. All require a reply, a response: “Yes or No,”

God is inviting us to come to his banquet, to be present in what God is doing. The last thing we would want to do is to treat such an opportunity casually, indifferently or even with hostility.

No, we want to RSVP in the most rejoicing terms possible.

“Yes, God, I accept your Evite. Party of one.”

Let us pray.

God of all people, you have lovingly invited all of us to become members of your realm. You suffered to prepare a place for all of us at your table. You have gone to extraordinary lengths to be sure that everyone, good or bad, is on your guest list. Thus we pray that by your grace you would enable us, when you come into our lives, to hear your voice, to respond to your call, and to live courageously as your disciples. Then, having received the gracious Evite to your banquet, help us to go forward and invite others to come to your great feast. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.