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Mt. 22:1-14
jg in nj

Suppose you gave a party and nobody came. Suppose you went to a lot of effort and expense to prepare a great party. You invited all the people you thought were your friends. You sent out invitations –regrets only. You didn’t hear back from anyone so you think they’re all coming. Then on the day of the party, you start getting nos. Sorry, I’m too busy. Sorry, I have to work. Sorry, I have some things to do for my family. Sorry, sorry, sorry. And every single person has a good excuse for turning you down. They have responsibilities and obligations that are preventing them from coming to your party and having a good time. When the first refusals come in over the phone, you are sad that they can’t come – but of course you are understanding. But as the phone continues to ring, I bet your blood starts to boil. By the time you’ve heard the same song and dance from everyone on your list you are probably ready to scream into the phone. All good excuses, but somehow they are beginning to ring phony. Don’t they care about you? Don’t they appreciate the invitation?

Excuses, excuses. We all make them. We’ve all heard them. Excuses are explanations for why we can’t or didn’t do something.

What are some excuses you’ve heard at school for why someone can’t hand in their homework? [Let kids answer.] My dog ate it. I forgot it – I left it home. A truck ran over it. My printer isn’t working.

What are some excuses for not showing up for work or school? [Pause for answers.] The car wouldn’t start.

Here’s one that was used by someone who didn’t show up for work: The dog ate my car keys. We're going to hitchhike to the vet.(1)

Here’s one that was actually used for a girl who missed school: Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it Monday, we thought it was Sunday. (2) Obviously, they are not a church-going family.

Excuses. Sometimes true. Sometimes not. An excuse is a reason for not doing something, but usually, not the real reason.

This morning’s gospel lesson is about a king who was throwing a party. Just to clue you in, it’s not really a story about an ordinary king and an ordinary party. It’s about an invitation from God. Anyway, the king sends out invitations for the wedding feast of his son. Now in the tradition of the times, the servants of the king would go out and tell the invitees about the feast. On the day of the feast, when everything was about ready, the servants would again go out to the invitees and tell them that it was time to come.

Apparently, all the invitees had said they would go. But on the day of the wedding feast, as the servants go out with their announcement that it’s party time – they begin to hear excuses. Nope, sorry, can’t come. Busy, busy, busy. Things to do. No, no, no. Sorrrrrrreeeeey!

Needless to say, this doesn’t make the king happy. Even though their excuses may be good ones, they are not good enough for the king. If the king says “Come,” you’re supposed to jump and say, “when.” To refuse a king’s invitation back in those days was a big no-no. And when a whole lot of people refused to do what the king asked, it smacked of revolution.

But this king was a kind and patient one, so he sent out his servants again to tell the guests to come to the feast. This time they got violent with the messengers. This angered the king, so after punishing the offenders, he sends out more servants and tells them to invite anyone and everyone to the feast. The good and the bad. Not just the chosen ones – but everyone. And they come.

The king, as I said before, is God. The people who turned down the invitation were the Jewish religious leaders – to whom Jesus was telling this parable. The ones invited after that were the sinners – the Jews who couldn’t measure up to the demands of their leaders and all those who weren’t Jews – the Gentiles. Us. You and I.

The king doesn’t cancel the party because the invitees don’t come. The party goes on with different guests. (3) And the invitation still goes out today. To all. And still, there are excuses. How often have you invited a friend to church, and they say, “Oh, no, Sunday I have to catch up with my laundry, yard work, sleep – whatever. I’m busy with my job/ my family/ my hobbies/ etc. I’m busy with my responsibilities and obligations. But what we spend our time and energy on is the true measure of our priorities.

I think that the main reason that people say no is that they don’t really know how wonderful the party – and that’s the kingdom of God – is. They think it will be less wonderful than working or sleeping or cleaning their house. They don’t know that the kingdom of God is a place of rejoicing – of praising God and all God does for us. They don’t know that the kingdom of God is a place of healing and growing– where our souls and our bodies are nurtured and nourished. They don’t know that to enter the kingdom of God is to enter into a great big beautiful family. They don’t know that the kingdom of God is a place of peace. Paul describes it so well in his letter to today's reading from his letter to the Philippians. "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." And a lot of people don’t know that the Kingdom of God is not just some place to go to when you die, but it’s a party that’s going on right now, right here on earth. And worship and Holy Communion give us a taste of the feast which is yet to come – when the party will go on forever.

So when we go out and invite people to God’s party, I think we need to let them know how wonderful it is to know Jesus and to belong to his family. Let the joy of belonging to Jesus shine through in all that you do. Oh, you’ll still probably get some excuses. But it’s worth putting up with them, because you will also get some yeses.

And if you have been standing on the outside, watching the party, know that you are invited in. Maybe the last part of the reading scared you. The part about the man who was not wearing the wedding robe being thrown out. But when you enter into the kingdom, you are supplied with the right thing to wear. It’s not a fancy dress or clothes with a designer label. It’s not something that’s the latest fashion or fad. It’s a garment that lasts forever. Paul tells us what that is. “Put on Christ,” he tells us. It is the love and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross that enables us to enter this most wonderful party. It is nothing that we ourselves have done to earn this privilege. It has already been done for us. Good news. Party on!

Let us pray. Gracious God, thanks for inviting us to your party – to your kingdom. You welcome us in, whoever we are and wherever we have come from. And you send us out to tell others the good news that they are invited too. May all that we say and do bear witness to the goodness of your love. In Jesus Christ, Amen.