The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time at St Mark the Evangelist Church in Norman, OK
October 13, 2002
Isaiah 25:6-10 + Philippians 4:1-9 + Matthew 22:1-14
For Jesus it was a parable that left people wondering and asking questions of themselves. He jump-started their imaginations, and he left those who listened with questions about how the Kingdom of God might be like that for them. For Matthew it was an allegory that interpreted their own history in light of their relationship to God and what was revealed to them. For us it could be either, but if we choose to take the allegory, we run the risk of interpreting it to justify ourselves leaving things as they are.
The parable Jesus told probably ended with the banquet hall being filled. The scholars propose that Matthew added the visit of the King to the banquet hall and his inspection of the guests. Matthew was concerned with things eschatological – anticipating the end of time. So our best option is to take this a parable and include Matthew’s conclusion and have our imaginations stirred up and raise a few questions about the Kingdom of God might be like that for us.
The last verse is the point at which our wonder begins: “Many are called. Few are chosen.” In the context of the story, it begins to suggest that none of us can hide in the group, slide in on the coat tails of others, or escape some accounting for our own stewardship when the time comes for the King to enter the banquet to which we have been invited. This is not a saying intended to forecast the proportion of the saved to the lost, nor frighten us with the thought that the odds are against us, but simply encourage vigorous efforts to live in accord with the teaching of Jesus. The garment we put on is Christ Himself: clothed in mercy and compassion, kindness, love, and forgiveness. It is garment of generosity and gratitude that never allows the wearer to forget where they are and where they came from.
The call of God is not something we respond to once and then sit secure and confident until it’s all over. Each of us hears the call every day in the unique events that mark our individual lives, and the parable invites us to take a look at how we are dressed — at how we have put on Christ. Jesus knew that everything he had came from the Father. Expressing that truth was the heart of his prayer and the motive of his life. It made him servant and it made him obedient. It made him grateful and it made him faithful.
It’s autumn now. The days are growing darker; the last of the harvest is in the barns. The north winds and early nights speak to something deep within us about change and readiness for what is to come. The parable today leaves us to wonder about what we have put on for this feast of God’s Kingdom, and how we shall look on the Day of the Lord. There is some higher calling revealed in this Gospel. Just being here, taking up space in this church is not enough. Something more is required of those who come, and today is as good a day as any to ask what it might be.