There is no getting around the discomfort today’s parable churns in the gut of the listener. Jesus tells a story about a determined and fiery king inviting people to his son’s marriage feast. When the first batch of invitees “decline with regrets,” the king sends more servants to try and invite people again. And, in an odd display of violence towards a gesture of invitation, the invitees slay the king’s heralds. In return, the king burns down their cities and invites the outcasts of society to fill his banquet hall. This is all strange enough. It gets stranger. The parable concludes with the king ousting someone who actually did accept the invite because he wasn’t dressed appropriately. This all takes “Bridezilla” to a whole new arena of outlandish behavior! What is going on here? And, what does this have to do with our lives?
We need only read the newspaper, watch the news, or scroll through our social media feeds to see the consequences of a God-vacuum in our culture. When the Word of God is replaced with deceit, when peace becomes about power plays, and when faith is relegated to a social corner of private warm-and-fuzzies, then society breaks apart with dazzling display. In today’s parable, Jesus uses gritty imagery because he knows just how gritty we can become without Him as the center of our lives. When we turn to banquet halls rather than to God’s feast, we might get a full belly, but our lives become malnourished. We see this in the swath of new fads promising happiness, wellness, mindful peace, and new teas that promise wholeness and hair growth. On the less cute side, we see the God-vacuum filled by very violent aggression in society. Because Jesus loves us so much, he cannot stand by without warning us of the consequences of pitching the king’s invite into the rubbish bin. There are cities and neighborhoods that are literally burning because God’s word has become nothing more than forgotten ink in a hotel’s top dresser drawer.
Herein lies the mission and the promise. If we accept God’s invitation and strive to make our relationship with the Trinity the number one relationship in our lives, then we cannot be balled over by the lies in the culture. If we do the hard work of cleaning up our lives with the gentleness of Jesus’ mercy, then this cannot but filter out to those we meet. Will we “change the world”? Well, we probably won’t change the violence happening in Syria. But, we can change the violence taking place in our social media feeds, on our schoolyards, and in our homes. We can say that all these little things in our lives don’t amount to more than a hill of beans. But, God knows that that little hill of split peas can become a heap of dragons. Jesus loves us too much to let those little bean hills keep piling up without his attention. We can let Jesus into our lives, accept his invitation, and feast upon the riches of the true King’s banquet. It will transform everything. Perhaps slowly. Perhaps not slowly. But, it will make the world better, even a little better. And “a little better” is preferable to the “a lot worse” today’s parable unveils as the consequence of even a simple “decline with regrets”.
Peace and All Good,