Friday, 10 October 2014

Ready or not?

GospelMatthew 22:1-14 


Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

More weeping and grinding of teeth. Matthew will not be leaving his year without making sure we are searching both our hearts and our actions.


The most Jewish of the writers, it has been the desire of Matthew's people that the message of the resurrected Christ would bring about a change of heart in the Temple. Unfortunately the change never came and it was the Followers of the Way who found themselves without a home.


I know that these writings are from Matthew's resentful and regretful point of view. Luke's version opens the invitation to the poor and the unclean but has no need of vengeful anger. His people are more than grateful for the invitation. 


Perhaps the idea of such anger in a Gospel of love is what disturbs me - does Jesus really mean to send people, even foolish people,  into the dark when he is the Light?


That the first part of the parable refers to Israel seems clear; always intended to be the bride never mind the guest; yet when the promised one came she continued to hide behind the protective veils of the Law - it had been such a long time; maybe too long.


So, like Jesus, the king goes out onto the highways and byways and gathers in the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, the tax collector and the fisherman. The invitation is made and accepted; the new guests dressed in their best finery, thankful for this moment when they are seen as important; when they have a chance to shine - except one - and of him is made the biggest example.


Why?


Is it better that we don't come at all than we come unprepared?


And how do you know?


There's a book I have been reading for a long time called The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World by Lewis Hyde. It has taken a long time because almost every page has a thought on it that sets me thinking  - I could well be some time with this book.


 'Gift' is addressed from almost every angle. And one idea refers back to earlier cultures, particularly how much is entailed in  the giving and receiving of a gift (and here I am including the invitation of the king - surely a gift to those previously ignored)


In these cultures there is much ritual and symbolism; it has to be understood that when a person gives a gift - no matter what the object is - they are giving of themselves; a part of their creative spirit is being released to the 'other'.They need to be certain of who they are giving to...


And so for the person who receives; they must understand what they have been given and they must not only honour the gift by taking care of the object but must honour and nurture the spirit in which it has been given - as I do to you so you must do to others- using it to inspire and energise the life of the receiver. Sometimes the object itself is passed on but always it is expected that the spirit will be. It is even intended to find its way back to the giver.


In such a culture the very thought that a gift is left to gather dust  physically or spiritually  is enough to destroy friendships and alliances - even lead to war.


The invitation, the gift that Jesus gives us, in spite of our unworthiness, is the same; it is not meant to be left at home or even left in church. His gift contains the challenge of his own mission.


The gift of grace, forgiveness and love that we have been given no matter who we were, should be part of who we are now and it is meant to be passed on - as I do to you so you must do to others.  


St Paul tells us that when we are clothed in  love we are clothed in Christ - the important question is - can you tell?


wordinthehand2014