On the surface this is a very dark gospel. Jesus sees Calvary coming. He knows that the powerful are plotting against him. But he does not flinch. Over and over he pounds home his message: Repent and embrace the kingdom of God… or face the consequences. There’s nothing sweet or soothing here. Our loving Savior is saying: Put up or shut up. Turn away from sin. And come to my feast. The choice is ours.
There’s a line attributed to Thomas More that the nobility of England would have snored through the Sermon on the Mount. But there’s nothing sleep inducing here. Today’s gospel is full of some very hard edges… invitation and ingratitude, rejection and retribution. It’s a four-alarm wake up call. Gone is the sunny radiance of the Sermon on the Mount. No more is Jesus punctuating his teachings with crowd pleasing miracles.
In the words of Peter Finley Dunne, Christ has come to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. He’s asking us: Which side are you on? There’s no middle ground here. Every new day presents us with the same question… confronts us with the same challenge. We are invited to live God’s kingdom. We are asked to shed the rags of sin and put on the wedding garment of grace. He is calling us to come to his feast. God’s love is there for the taking…but not to be taken for granted.
In this and in every gospel, Jesus speaks to his immediate audience, but he also speaks directly to us, right here, right now, this morning. For those in Jerusalem who heard and rejected his words, the destruction of the temple and the wrath of God awaits just over the horizon. For those of us who read and accept his words, a life in Christ will be followed by an eternity of joy.
From beyond the beginning of time, God has known and loved us. The Father created us to be happy with him. He preserved his chosen people to hand on his commandments. He sent his Son to die for our salvation. He established his church to teach us and to nurture our faith. All of this was done to prepare you and me for the feast. And every day of our lives we are invited anew… to come, to live, to rejoice in the Lord…to praise God and to love our neighbor. Every day the choice is ours… eternal feast or endless famine. Are you coming to the feast or are you staying in your sin… in your inertia… in your pride and preoccupation.
You’d think that this decision would be the original “no-brainer.” But how often we get it wrong. We are so busy getting and holding, wanting and consuming… that we ignore the invitation placed before us. We are so self-absorbed that we can’t hear Christ’s constant call. Sure, we’ll get to it sometime. But not just yet. We forget that we live in a blink of eternity. The days of our own physical temple are numbered. The days of the wedding feast are endless.
This gospel is a reminder that our generous God is a just God… but, above all, he is a loving, merciful God. He doesn’t give up on us, even when we have given up on him. He doesn’t stop calling when we have stopped listening. Every day he is present to us in those around us. He knows our failings and our foolishness. Yet every day he invites us again and again. This morning, let’s accept the King’s invitation. Let us put on Christ… the wedding garment that we received in baptism. Let’s RSVP. Let’s tell him: Thank you, Father. Joyfully… humbly… gratefully… we are coming to your feast.
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.