The Invitation of Jesus Parables
Doug in Riverside
Jesus parables, and Jesus ministry, often have to do with invitation. They
invite us to enter the realm where God and human beings are, by the grace of God, truly
reconciled to one another; where people are, by the grace of God, set free from sin and
free to love; where people are, in the words of C. S. Lewis, surprised by
joy--joy in the presence of God and in the power of love. And what better story to
communicate the grace and joy of God than a story about a wedding feast! What better story
to communicate Gods gracious invitation into Gods realm than a story about
people invited to a wedding feast!
Let me tell you about my daughters wedding ceremony and wedding feast. Let me
tell you, out of gratitude, how the ceremony and the reception brought me gifts of
unexpected grace and unanticipated joy. My daughter Annie was born in 1974. Around the
time of her eleventh birthday, her parents separated and eventually divorced. So for the
better part of her life, Annie has been the child of what our culture likes to call a
broken home. There was a time when she and I were estranged from each other,
separated by both geography and emotion. And gradually, by the grace of God, with the help
of my stubborn love for my daughter, and with Marys persistent help, Annie and I
As is so often the case when a husband and wife drift apart, separate, and divorce,
Annies mother Sharon and I had our difficult times communicating with each other and
caring for our children. Though Im sure we didnt always succeed, we did our
best not to fight our battles through our children. Time has healed many of our wounds.
But time has also put spaces between us and our families. As just one example,
Sharons brother Rick and I had been close hiking and camping companions in the years
before our separation and divorce, but after the divorce, Rick and I also drifted apart.
Then Rick went through a divorce and some very painful times in the aftermath of his
divorce. Rick has recently remarried, and we had the opportunity to meet his wife and her
daughters at the wedding, as well as to spend some time with Ricks now 14-year-old
son Matt. I had a strong, strong sense of relationships being restored, of old wounds
being healed, of old suspicions and doubts being washed away like the dust and grime
washed away by the rains that had fallen earlier in the day. Who knows--there may come a
time again when Rick and I, or Rick and I and our families, will go backpacking together.
I am well aware that not all wedding feasts bring these experiences of healing and
reconciliation. And I am well aware that I am no more or less deserving of these joys than
are other fathers. I do not understand all the movings of Gods amazing grace. I
simply want to give thanks for this precious gift.
V. Called and chosen.
Jesus parable is an invitation into the realm and the reality of grace, where
love is a gift and a cause for celebration. Jesus parable is both calling us into
the feast and choosing us to be members of the household of faith. So we can say, not by
way of boasting but simply out of gratitude, that we are both called and chosen.
Kathleen Norris writes: It seems dangerous to think of being a chosen people. If
we are chosen, does it mean that others are not?...[And yet], every year, when I hear the
prophet Ezekiels proclamation at the Easter vigil--You will be my people, and I will
be your God--I find it irresistible. I believe it as fully as I am able, although I am
increasingly aware that this is an existential reality that will redefine itself all my
It was January, bitterly cold and windy, on the day that I joined the church, and
I found that the sub-zero chill perfectly matched my mood. As I walked to church, into the
face of that wind, I was thoroughly depressed. I didnt feel much like a Christian
and wondered if I was making a serious mistake. I longed to take refuge in Simone
Weils position, that her true religious calling was to remain outside the church.
But that was not my way. I still felt like an outsider in the church and wondered if I
always would. Yet I knew that somehow, in ways I did not yet understand, making this
commitment was something I needed to do....
You did not choose me, I chose you. Never have these words been
clearer to me. And over the years, as Ive built a relationship with the
congregation, with the larger church, and with the scriptures themselves, I find that it
all helps me when the bad things happen. When I become too depressed even to pray. When a
recently ordained Lutheran deacon, frustrated because my talk is not chock-full of the
Jesus-talk that reassures her that shes among the saved, says to me, I feel
sorry for you because you dont know the Lord Jesus Christ...But Im
getting better about loving [people like her] anyway, forgiving them (and myself), and
holding my ground.
In the suspicious atmosphere of the contemporary Christian church, it is good to
know ones ground. When others label me and try to exclude me, as too conservative or
too liberal, as too feminist or not feminist enough, as too intellectual or not
intellectually rigorous, as too Catholic to be a Presbyterian or too Presbyterian to be a
Catholic, I refuse to be shaken from the fold. Its my God, too, my Bible, my church,
my faith; it chose me. But it does not make me chosen in a way that would
exclude others. I hope it makes me eager to recognize the good, and the holy, wherever I
encounter it (Amazing Grace - A Vocabulary of Faith, pp. 139-143).