Reflection on Sunday’s Reading
A wedding banquet with a difference! Matthew 22: 1-14
The reading this week is a parable which takes us into different dimensions.
We begin with a King who wants people to celebrate with him at a banquet, and he has paid out for it – oxen and fatted calves; that is a lot of meat! He invites the guests but here it gets strange. They not only refuse but are violent to the slaves who bring the invitation. Like last week, the response to the servants is violent and hostile. Both vineyard and wedding feast are theological metaphors for God’s Kingdom, so those who abuse the Vineyard, like those who refuse the wedding invitation are refusing the invitation of God.
Although the food is ready the story takes a diversion as we read that the violent guests are punished. And then there is a second element to the story; now the banquet is full of the ordinary people, welcomed and we presume given wedding garments to wear. But one has chosen to come in his own clothes and he stands out; he is challenged; he is speechless; he is evicted. The people are welcome but not if they don’t honour and respect the occasion and the host.
If the first part of the story reminds us that there are too many who ignore the invitation of God the second part is a reminder to us who have accepted the invitation that we must live as God’s people, clothed in his righteousness – we do not presume to come to God, trusting in our own righteousness but in his mercy and grace. The invitation is lavish, but we must accept it and respond. Have we heard the invitation, do we feel special that we are invited, and do we live in God’s grace or want to continue in our own “righteousness”?
This week we celebrate Harvest, albeit rather differently. It would be nice to gather and together make our churches look good – put colour and variety into them as we enjoy the richness of the harvest of food, both home-grown and what we can buy. We are a society that for too many is more scarred by waste than by want, but we also know that not far away there are too many who are in need and want, dependent on extra food being given them so they can manage through the week. And in other lands, there are millions who are hungry and starving and whose ability to grow food or earn the money has been destroyed by war or famine.
Harvest should be a time for thanksgiving, even partying; historically the harvest was a time to rejoice, and in our Scriptures both Passover and Pentecost were originally Harvest Festivals. Gratitude for what we have in abundance hopefully leads to generosity from what we have in abundance. We will be collecting for Urban Outreach and for Christian Aid. Please rejoice in God’s goodness to us and in all that we have, and please give generously to others.
Our churches will feel and look rather plain – but God looks at the heart.
“Rejoice in the Lord always”, says St Paul; “do not worry, but with prayer and thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.”
And in the coming weeks, we have our Annual Meetings – the church is here for mission, reaching out with God’s love, it is about ministry – caring for each other and caring for all who are in need, but it also needs godly management, so that our mission and ministry can be sustained. Our Annual Meetings should be a bit like Harvests, a celebration of what we have been given, generous in how we want to respond, and rooted in the knowledge of God’s goodness and faithfulness, so we will elect and appoint people to the roles needed, we will look back and look forward, we will say Thank You to those who have given and done, and we will prepare.
Please see the website for details and for the background papers. As part of our drive to be more eco-friendly, and because we cannot share papers, we are asking that everyone who can access the papers and read them online, or print them if they need to.
Some will have seen that the Church of England has been severely rebuked for its lack of care for the victims and survivors of abuse. This is a terrible indictment, but I hope it challenges us to make sure our Safeguarding policies and procedures are not just in place but lived out, and that we will be properly supportive to those who seek our help or our safety having suffered abuse or neglect. As we pray for our leaders to bring proper change, so may we pray for those whose suffering and distress has been worsened by a lack of care, and may we pray that our churches are Safe for all and alert to the needs of the most vulnerable.
Also this week we have received a document from the diocese outlining ideas for new Mission Communities. This could mean quite disruptive and significant changes for parishes, and for how stipendiary clergy are deployed, and therefore for parishes. It is early days, and we must pray for our leaders who are charged with making decisions that they will make right and good decisions for the benefit of all. We will keep the parish up to date, but please do ask your Synod reps what is happening.
Rev’d Peter Reiss: 9th Oct 2020