The parable of the wedding banquet is one of those puzzling parables, I believe, that the point actually is for us to be offended. At best, the king’s actions are examples of raw, imperious power–and we should be offended by this much misuse of raw, imperious power.
To the people who would have heard this parable at the time of Jesus, weddings were all about joy, and they were all about community–inviting everyone from hither and yon, and generally, everyone came, barring the most imposing of circumstances, and folks had a great time, whether they were rich or poor, relative or townie, tall or small. To the original hearers of this parable, this version of a wedding story would have made no sense as an ordinary life story–opening us up to the possibility that it’s allegory. A parable of a wedding banquet being held in the smoke and ruin of a smoldering ash heap of a city may well have been a political statement of the times. Through this lens, Jesus exposes the lie within the Pax Romana–the Roman version of peace. To Rome, “peace” was more about the absence of conflict–the kind of “peace” that is accomplished by intimidation, terror, and perpetuating injustice. It was about squelching your enemies and showing them who was boss.
Fast forward to today. How can this allegory possibly matter to us? Perhaps because we also live in conflicted, anxious times. When we feel anxious about the affairs of the world, it’s tempting to simply wish things just “went back the way it used to be.” What we forget, is “the way it used to be” might have felt quieter because a lot of voices we now regularly hear were routinely squelched. The voices of people of color. The voices of women. The voices of the immigrant and the dispossessed. The voices of the queer and transgender communities. What we see through this parable, is that the quietness in our memories of “the way things used to be”, is a veneer. It’s fake news, to borrow a slightly overused expression these days.
Stripping off the veneer is messy and uncomfortable–but it is exactly what we’re called to do in the words of our Baptismal Covenant, when we are asked to respect the dignity of every human being and to seek and serve Christ in all people. Yes, it means the banquet is going to be louder and more raucous, but unlike the fake peace that is simply the absence of conflict, the potential to share and experience the love of Christ and the true peace of Christ is absolutely alluring.
Come to the banquet–whether we’re content, uneasy, gratified, or apprehensive. Come to the banquet, not because of anything we did or didn’t do, but to rejoice that Jesus has spanned the gap between the troubles of humanity and God’s eternal love. We are welcome as we are–no special wedding robes required.
When is a time that you settled for the absence of conflict, when in reality, you sought true peace? How did you discover the two were not the same?
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri as Interim Pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd and Chaplain of the Community of St. Brigid, both in Town and Country, MO.