HYMN I cannot come
I cannot come to the banquet, I cannot come to the banquet,
don’t trouble me now.
I have married a wife; I have bought me a cow.
I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum.
Pray, hold me excused, I cannot come.
A certain man held a feast on his fine estate in town.
He laid a festive table and wore a wedding gown.
He sent invitations to his neighbours far and wide
but when the meal was ready, each of them replied:
The master rose up in anger, called his servant by name,
said: “Go into the town, fetch the blind and the lame,
fetch the peasant and the pauper, for this I have willed,
my banquet seem so crowded, and my table must be filled.
When all the poor had assembled, there was still room to spare,
so the master demanded: “Go search every where,
to the highways and the byways and force them to come in.
My table must be filled before the banquet can begin.
Now God has written a lesson for the rest of the mankind;
If we’re slow a responding, he may leave us behind.
He’s preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day
when the Lord and Master calls us, be certain not to say:
READING Matthew 22:1-14
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
SERMON – The Wedding Banquet
Perhaps you have heard of the family that moved into the neighbourhood and the little country church decided to reach out to the family. When they arrived at the doorstep the members of the church were surprised to find that the family had 12 kids and were very poor. They invited the family to services and said goodbye. Later that week the church responded to their need. They delivered a package to the family and said, “We want you to know that you and your entire family are welcome at our church anytime. We have bought you these gifts and we want you to feel comfortable and at ease in our congregation. We hope you can use these,” and they left. The family opened the package to find 14 suits of clothing, beautiful clothes for every member of the family. Sunday came and the congregation waited for the family, and they waited. The family never showed. Wondering what could have possibly happened, after lunch the members of the church returned to the home and found the family just getting back, all dressed in their new clothes.
“We don’t mean to be nosey but we would like to know what happened. We had hoped to see you this morning in church,” the leader of the church inquired.
The father spoke up. He said, “Well, we got up this morning intending to come. And we sure do appreciate your invitation. But after we showered, shaved, and dressed, why we looked so proper we went to the Episcopal Church.”
That’s a funny way of talking about a serious problem. Invitations are sent to many to come to church but so few people respond. It’s frustrating. Many of you have reached out to neighbours or friends and asked them to come to church and maybe to Christianity Explored and you know all too well the disappointment, how few respond.
Maybe that is why we find this evening’s parable so familiar. We are told that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and the chief priests in a parable. He said the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who was giving a wedding banquet for his son. The reception that was given was immense. You’ve all been to wedding receptions and you know how they can get out of hand. Imagine one thrown by a king for his son. Invitations are sent to all the friends of the family but they all turn down the invitation, they are too busy to attend.
The king then invites everyone out on the streets and in the marketplaces. The dining hall is filled with guests but there is problem. It just so happens that as the king is mixing and mingling with the guests, he sees a man who is not wearing the appropriate wedding attire. He is wearing an old, perhaps tattered robe, obviously the garb that he wore in everyday life, his street clothes. “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe,” the king asks. The man was speechless, so the king had him bound and tossed into a place called outer darkness. Jesus concludes the parable with these solemn words: “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
On the face of it the story sounds rather harsh, and it is. But if we look a little closer we will understand that in God’s Kingdom:
1. Everyone Is Invited to the King’s Reception.
2. Not Everyone Will Respond to the King’s Invitation.
3. The King Chooses Who Can Stay.
Hymn We come as guests invited
1 We come as guests invited
when Jesus bids us dine,
his friends on earth united
to share the bread and wine;
the bread of life is broken,
the wine is freely poured
for us, in solemn token
of Christ our dying Lord.
2 We eat and drink, receiving
from Christ the grace we need,
and in our hearts believing
on him by faith we feed;
with wonder and thanksgiving
for love that knows no end,
we find in Jesus living
our ever-present friend.
3 One bread is ours for sharing,
one single fruitful vine,
our fellowship declaring
renewed in bread and wine:
renewed, sustained and given
by token, sign and word,
the pledge and seal of heaven,
the love of Christ our Lord
Timothy Dudley-Smith (b.1926)