In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There is a dark side to the Gospel. Everyone is invited, but not everyone comes. Some, mainly in ignorance, love darkness. They insist on going their own way. But for all of that, it rarely seems as though they love darkness. It seems as though they love fields and cattle and wives. They don’t claim to be hostile toward God, but they aren’t joiners. Sunday is their only day to sleep in. They had a bad experience once with a pushy lady in a church, someone was rude to them, and now they can never go back. They prefer to worship god in their own way at their own convenience. But that is love of darkness.
It is hard to know how to respond to such excuses. In the parable we see the Law in full force. The Lord is angry. None of those who rejected the invitation will ever taste the banquet. They will be cast into the abyss where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. We should note, however, that Our Lord told another version of this parable, as recorded by St. Matthew, and the invitation is extended more than once. We do sometimes keep trying to talk people into faith, but usually we just accept their excuses. We act as though there is a legitimacy to what they say. It is far more comfortable that way, but it is really the Neville Chamberlain approach to the devil. There is a danger here. To refuse the invitation is to love darkness.
But that is not the main point in the parable. In a sense, it makes sense that those with options will reject the Kingdom. How difficult it is for those with wealth to enter the Kingdom of God! The invitation goes out to the poor, the lame, and the blind – not in their houses but out on the streets and by-ways. The invitation goes out to beggars. They cannot turn down a free meal. They need what the Lord offers. May God, in His mercy, plant this hunger and need in us!
How difficult it is for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom! Whoever does not receive the Kingdom like a child will not enter it. Come to Me, ye who are weary. God gathers His people from the poor, the lame, and the blind. We are all beggars. We bring nothing to the Kingdom. The party is not more interesting for our arrival. We are, in fact, a drain on the Kingdom’s resources. We aren’t soldiers, we aren’t landowners, we aren’t wise. We are neither morally nor ceremonially pure. We are not ethnically clean. We weren’t born of the right mother. We don’t belong in any king’s house, let alone the King of the Universe and God of Abraham. We are beggars, the poor, the lame, the blind.
But we are invited. The Father delights in our presence. He has fattened up His own Son to die for us, roasted Him on the fire of His wrath, forsaken Him in order to have us. The Spirit, Himself, has interceded on our behalf, found us in our mothers arms, naked and helpless, screaming in selfish absorption, at the Baptismal font and named us as His own. Or else He has found us some other place, on a University campus full of despair and loneliness, at a math camp for privileged children, wherever we were, He came and took us by the ear to Baptism. He scoured the world, the highways and by-ways, for the disenfranchised, the weary, the sinful. He brought us as beggars to the King but not to be slaves or entertainment. Ugly and dirty as we were, He brought us to be the Bride, to join the royal family. And what a surprise to discover that the Lord is a gentle lover and does not force Himself upon us, that He does not use us for His pleasure, but loves us and finds us lovely.
We are invited. We are called. We are loved. We are treated by the Host Himself as though we were movie stars, medal of honor winners, artists and musicians of great renown, the most interesting, intelligent, and beautiful woman in the world. We are beggars all but declared to be God’s own children, His people, the Bride for the Holy Son.
The glory of the Kingdom is grace. It is wasted on those who think they deserve it. Only the sick need a Physician. Jesus receives and eats with sinners only. No holy people are allowed. God’s majesty will not be robbed. He will not share with other gods, being merely the best or the highest god in a pantheon. He is the only God and He is jealous. So also He will not share His power. He saves by His power alone. No one saves himself or helps God. It is a Kingdom for beggars.
What is wrong with our fallen ears that that sounds like damning law to us? It is pride. We want our part. We want control. We want honor. But here is our hope and confidence: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, ESV) To be a beggar, to have nothing, and to receive this gift from God, is the greatest joy on earth and in heaven. May God in His mercy preserve this doctrine and joy among us. We are all beggars, but the Father is merciful in the Son. All is ready. Come to the Feast.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.