Mark 13:24–37 (NRSV)
The Coming of the Son of Man
(Mt 24:29–31; Lk 21:25–28)
24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
(Mt 24:32–35; Lk 21:29–33)
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
The Necessity for Watchfulness
(Mt 24:36–44; Lk 21:34–36)
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
This time of year is probably the most exciting, it is the holiday season! It begins with Thanksgiving and for the next month we look forward with the anticipation of the coming of our Savior. There is much to celebrate when we look toward God. Yet often times we get caught in despair and hopelessness. So as we start off this Advent season I want to take a look at some of the traditions that many of us have held so dear.
The Christmas tree is probably one of the most memorable tradition in most of our houses. Most of us have memories of the excitement we had a children of putting up the tree. It has become so engrained in our cultural celebrations of Christmas that it is hard to imagine a time where Christmas trees were not popular. The use of a tree to assist in our celebrations in America is younger than the concept of our nation, but the roots go deep into history.
Winter is a very dark and sometimes scary season, especially if you lived in the far northern areas of the world where during the winter months the sun barely peaks over the horizon if it rises at all. People that settled in those northern places, in countries we now know as Finland, Sweden, Norway and others often lived their lives in fear because there was very little light, and the weather was fiercely cold. But they saw something that gave them hope, a tree. During the winter everything seemed to die, the plants died, animals died, and even people because it was just too cold, but there was one thing that did not die the fir tree. This tree would stay green throughout the harsh winter months so it became a beacon of hope for the hopeless. They would hang a fir tree from their ceilings with the hope that whatever power kept it dying during the winter would be poured out on the family living in the house. We know this to be superstition now, but we must remember that this was a dark time. So the evergreen tree made its debut as a holiday tradition in the homes of the Vikings or Norsemen, but it was redeemed by God like some many things.
The redemption came when a monk named Boniface was called by God to travel all over Europe to share the Gospel and build churches. On one of his journeys he came across a group of men who were about to make a sacrifice according to their traditions, but Boniface ran up to them to save the life of the one they were going to kill. Of course they did not want to listen to him but God has a way to turn hearts to Him. The legend says that Boniface punched the trunk of an oak tree that they were going to use for their sacrifice rituals, and the oak tree fell to the ground. Then when the dust from the fallen tree settled a lone fir tree stood, Boniface then used the illustration of the Fir tree to teach the Vikings about the everlastings hope and love of God that is offered through Jesus Christ, and like St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Irish people of the Trinity, Boniface used the triangular shape of the fir to teach the Vikings. It is said that those men converted and the hope surrounding the fir tree was shifted from pagan superstitions to the hope we have in Christ.
I tell this story because the evergreen firs gave hope in a dark time. In today’s passage Jesus is telling those that will listen that there are dark times in the future. This is not exactly a passage most of us would associate with this holiday season, but it provides us with the reason Jesus came to dwell among mankind.
Jesus was born during a very dark time for the people of Israel, not too distant in their history they had returned from exile, gained their freedom, only to find themselves again under the rule of an empire that rejected God. The people were yearning for deliverance yet for centuries they had not seen the answer to their collective prayers. Just prior to this passage Jesus was teaching that in this earnest hope many would be lead astray from the truth by people claiming to be the messiah or a prophet. Most of these prophets were not sent by God and were actually more concerned with profit than being a prophet.
There was tension in the air, everyone knew that something was about to happen, and that excited them. I say excited, but it was not necessarily a joyous excitement. They knew that things were going to change. Jesus is warning them that this change will not necessarily be what they were expecting, Jesus was telling them that there will be great suffering.
Suffering usually proceeds revival. Revival is a compound word that has the prefix “re”, these two letters have a simple meaning when they are attached to a word. Those two letters tell those of us that read or hear the word that whatever the base word means is going to happen again. The term vival is a word that means life, so revival speak of having life again. To have life again, life must end. Suffering, hopelessness and darkness.
The people were looking to the future hoping that someone was going to change the course of their culture but Jesus is telling them that there will be great suffering first. This is not exactly how you draw a crowd. But there is more to this. Jesus uses apocalyptical language, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the heavens, and powers in the heavens will be shaken. These are not the words of revival but the words of exile. Jesus is telling them that everything they hold to be important will be demolished and their world is about to be turned upside down. Darkness is on the way, but the “son of man” will gather his elect from the world.
I want us each to be very careful with how we read this passage. We may be lead to believe that this is a passage about the return of Christ, but that may not be the meaning especially when in other gospel narratives Jesus says that this will all happen within one generation. When we put all our interpretation of this passage on the second coming of Christ we will run into a problem because we are just a few generations away from the time these words were spoken. Trying to make this passage only represent the second coming leads us into error. Do not get me wrong I do firmly believe in the return of Christ.
About forty years after Jesus spoke these words, the culture of Israel was turned upside down. In 70 AD the Romans totally conquered Israel, their temple was torn to the ground and all the vast wealth of the society was taken out of Israel and used to satisfy the whims of the emperor. The sun will be darkened, the moon will fail to give its light, and the hope of Israel will fall. But through all the suffering God will emerge.
I want us to now consider our own time. Throughout our nation we have seen a continual decrease in the influence of God as we know it. The church as a whole has seen a steady decline in attendance, and it seems as if the culture is falling away from God in every possible way. The sun is darkened and the moon fails to give light. The church is left with a crisis, do we continue down the same path, do we fight, or do we withdraw. Consider this for a moment. Are we on the verge of the second coming, or do the signs we interpret point to something else entirely? Change is in the air, and that change has many people crying “how long”!
Jesus did not return in 70 ad, but something definitely shifted. When the Romans tore down the temple it forced the faithful to rethink how they worship and how they engage the world around them. Without a temple what do we do?
Our world is again being engulfed in darkness, the very things that we as the church have held as important for so long, seem to turn people away from the gospel. But does that mean that the time is near for Jesus’ return? I do see that there are signs all around us, but the signs could mean different things. Our culture is increasingly turning away from God, at least away from the church, but does that mean they do not desire a relationship with God? We again must rethink and approach how we engage the culture. Just like the Christmas tree, once pagan icon, was redeemed by the Church to reach out to an ungodly culture, like the shamrock was used to convince the Irish, we too must understand our culture and use the tools God has given us to assist in the redemption of our culture. Some say the church is dead, I say hardly. Some say that our culture is forever lost, I say our mission has just begun. Some have given up hope but I believe we are about to enter into the largest revival the world has ever seen. But how do we get there? We can crusade around trying to force people to act Godly, but is that what Christ has called us to do? We could withdraw and build a colony separated from the darkness, but does that bring hope to those sitting in their houses hopeless? Now more than ever we need to look to Christ, follow in his footsteps and participate in the Holy rhythm of life he showed us. Now more than ever we need to live a life of prayer so that we can be directed by the Spirit to minister to our community. Now more than ever we need to share the hope we have in Christ as we minister to the people stuck in the darkness. God Father sent his son into this world not to condemn the world but to redeem it, so that His will can be done on earth as it is in heaven. The joy of advent, the hope of the resurrection and the return of Christ is just that, the hope of a restoration and redemption the hope of the revival of people, cultures, and our world.
As we enter into this time of open worship and communion as Friends, I want us each to look at this Christmas tree before us, reflect on the history of this symbol and the memories we have had around such a tree. And let us not forget that God has, can, and will redeem our culture if we are willing to be a person and a church devoted to loving God, embracing His Spirit, and Living the love of Christ with others.
Matthew 25:14–30 (NRSV)
The Parable of the Talents
14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Sometimes the worst thing about the parables of Jesus is that there is just too much information packed into a seemingly short story. Like last week’s story about the ten virgins. Who would have thought that we as a group would be discussing it for a good thirty minutes after the service? But during that discussion something very interesting was brought up, the idea of why the five wise virgins did not share the oil that they had with the foolish ones. That very question leads up to the parable that Jesus spoke just after that story. I want us to consider the oil as Luther suggested, as faith, or in deeper terms the source of faith, which is the very Spirit of God. That Spirit of God that was breathed into mankind on the sixth day of creation that separated us from all other living creatures, setting us apart to be stewards of all creation. The oil that burns in a lamp is the source or the fuel that allows for the energy of God to enlighten us, to burn within us without destroying us. It is drawn through the wick and the light shines all around, the flame, the oil, and the wick all relate to the triune God working together within a vessel of clay. A simple story that we teach to the youngest of ears, yet so deep it can puzzle the greatest biblical scholars, if they are honest enough to admit it.
But even Jesus knew that the story of the virgins could be twisted in some degree to the point that the true message would not be heard. Those ten virgins in the story waited and fell asleep, throughout history many groups have looked at this story and have said as long as you have the oil everything is good. This has left the church peddling a cheap grace, and a distorted form of discipleship. This is the very type of grace we so often hear about in our contemporary culture. As long as you have said the right prayer or attend the right church you are ok. It does not matter if your actions are right, or even if you are awake, the virgins were asleep. Yet Jesus ended that parable and transitioned into his next with one very important statement, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Keep awake. A lamp is worthless unless it is actively burning, oil is just a potential fuel until the flame ignites it, and a wick is just twisted fiber quickly devoured unless it is saturated. Without the flame, oil, and wick a lamp in the first century is just a fancy piece of clay, no life and no purpose only to broken down returning to the dust from which it was created. If the lamp is worthless asleep what does that say about us?
This is where today’s passage picks up. “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to their ability. Then he went away.” The first thing that is striking when we look at this passage in context with the parable just prior to it, is that this basically says we have a purpose for being here. We are here for a reason, to take care of the master’s property. This has been the role of humanity from the dawn of time, this is why we were created in the image of God and given the breath of life. We are the caretakers of His property. Each one of us has a role to play, it does not matter if you believe in God or not, that is our role and our purpose. Have we ever really thought about that? In our ever present quest to redeem the world for the cause of Christ have we actually boiled our purpose down to the very core of why we exist in the first place?
To each of the servants the master entrusts a portion of his property, entrusting them with only enough that he deems they are able to handle, but I want us to consider just how much he has entrusted each of these servants. A talent is a form of currency, its value is approximately six thousand denarii. The denarii in ancient times was a day’s wage, so one talent is almost worth 16 and a half years of labor. In classical Roman times, the age encompassing the time Jesus taught, the average life expectancy was thirty years. So a talent would basically represent the wages an average individual would expect to earn in their lifetime. Think about that for a moment. You thought that this parable was about money, really it is about life.
Jesus goes on to say that the one that received five talents, enough money for five families, quickly went out and used what he had in trade and made five more talents, as did the man with two talents. The man with one talent went off, dug a hole, and buried the talent he had received. At times it is difficult to think of this story beyond what we perceive as economics, but I would really like us to think outside the traditional box we put this story in and think about it as life. One servant was entrusted with the livelihood of five families, another with the livelihood of two families, and the third was given his livelihood. The master granted them with the portion of property that he thought they could handle, what Jesus is saying is that lives are in our hands.
This is what my theology teacher would refer to as God’s economy. An economic system that was not regulated in currency but in something totally different and much more valuable. Jesus did not come from heaven to be born of a virgin, to live among humanity so that we could have a financial return on our investments, but so that mankind could be redeemed from death to life. God dwelt among mankind to restore humanity. Humanity and life is the economy that God cares about. All of our perceived wealth and wealth creation is worthless in the eyes of God, if what we invest our lives in does not promote life.
The servant that was a steward over the livelihood of five families was able to invest the resources he was given to provide for an additional five, the one with two could provide for an additional two. Suddenly the community grew from eight to fifteen, consider that for a moment. We have each been entrusted with life, we each have at bear minimum one talent to invest into this world. We have our one life. The question is how are we going to use it?
How are we going to invest our lives? When we consider our individual lives thing begin to get more complex. How we invest our lives reflects what we hold as most important. Consider a conversation you may have had with someone you did not know before, what are the things you talked about? You probably exchanged names, more than likely right after names were exchanged the discussion moved toward our employment or what we retired from, and generally the conversation dwindles from there. Our identities all too often are attached to our careers, our identity and our social standing is derived from a twisted economy where value is measured by currency and the ability to amass more currency. That part of our lives are tools that we use in bringing about who we truly are. Currency is a tool, wealth is a tool. It is no different than any other tool when we look the bigger picture. The dollar is like a shovel, how many people have devoted their lives to the savings of shovels? But a shovel is an important tool a shovel when used properly can dig the foundation for a house for someone to live in, it can provide an opportunity to make clean water available to a remote village, and it can give someone a way to feed their family.
I bring this up because the resources, every resource we have available to us is important. They are important only because those resources can be invested into lives. And life is what God is interested in. Are we investing our talents into the lives of our community or are we burying our talents in a hole? Along with that question is another, are we actively participating in the investment or are we just speaking words?
This is not cheap grace or easy discipleship, but an actual cross to bear. So often our words are gilded with scripture but our actions speak something totally different. How often have we heard words spoken saying, “I’m Pro-life” yet have not opened our homes to house a child whose parents’ are unable to support them? How often do we hear that we should help the poor from people that would never open their doors or tables up to someone in need?
We are stewards of the master’s property only stewards. We have been blessed with talents to invest not in ourselves but into the lives of other. What will the master say when he returns? To the ones that expanded the influence of the master he said, “Enter into the joy of your master.” But to the ones that bury their resources and refuse to invest in life, those are wicked and lazy servant who will lose everything. What does it cost to be a disciple of Christ? What is the cost of being a friend of Jesus? It takes belief that the belief goes beyond knowledge and trust, the belief that we will entrust all we have and all we are into our master’s business. It takes us learning that business by participating in the very life that Jesus himself showed us. It takes us investing all that we have to bring light into the darkness, hope to the hopeless, and healing to the broken. To be a disciple of Christ our actions and our words reflect each other, our careers are tools that we use to minister, and our very lives are lived so that His will will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. And that starts with each of us individually turning to him, it continues by us corporately walking together and encouraging each other to walk that journey with Christ, and it returns when we share in the joy of service.
As we reflect on this story that Jesus told and examine our lives during this time of open worship. I ask again, how are we investing our lives?
Psalm 23 (NRSV)
The Divine Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Psalm 106:1–6 (NRSV)
A Confession of Israel’s Sins
1 Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord, or declare all his praise?
3 Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times. Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you deliver them; that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory in your heritage.
6 Both we and our ancestors have sinned; we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.
Psalm 106:19–23 (NRSV)
19 They made a calf at Horeb and worshiped a cast image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 Therefore he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
Philippians 4:1–9 (NRSV)
4 1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Matthew 22:1–14 (NRSV)
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
There are few things more festive as a marriage. The celebration of marriage is a beautiful mystery that spiritually binds two people together as one, but it also extends bonds and roots of two families, and even communities forming connections that span through time and space. Yes I agree I might just be a little dramatic but marriage is an amazing things. In all of our discussions on divorce, premarital relationships, among others I think we often forget to express just how powerful and amazing marriage can and should be.
Because of this powerful symbolism marriage has been used as an illustration in many different faiths, but probably the most prominent of those illustrations comes through the symbolism of God and Israel. In most cultures marriage was performed as a business contract, or property transfer, but among the Jewish culture marriage was and still is a symbolic representation of the bond that binds the people of Abraham with God. Every aspect of their celebration from the canopy the bride and groom stand under, to the wine and the breaking of the glass point to this relationship between the people and their God. Every element of the ceremony has symbolic and deep theological meaning, but it does not stop with the ceremony. The feast is just as filled with meaning. The feast is where the community is strengthened and they celebrate the joining and hope of extension into the next generation. Often we forget just how powerful a good celebration can be to the spiritual health of a community. This is why Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding feast, and this is why Jesus uses the illustration of the feast to teach about the kingdom of God.
“The Kingdom of God can be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.” Jesus begins. The Kingdom of God, the nation of Israel, the king and a wedding. It is often said that when the tribes of Jacob left Egypt and were waiting at the foot of the mount Horeb that the tribes were standing under the canopy of God’s presence while Moses received the law or the covenant, under that canopy the people of Israel were united to God. They were married to God, which is why so often the prophets of old speak of the adulterous nation that chases after other gods.
So we have a king giving a banquet, and he sends out his servants to call those invited in, but they would not come. He then sends the servant out another time to tell them that the dinner is ready. Before we think too ill of these people it is important to know that in ancient cultures they did not send out invitations like we do today for many reasons: 1. it would be extremely expensive and 2. Not everyone could read. They would send out servants first to tell them that the preparations were being made, so that those that were invited could prepare for the feast. Then when the animals were slaughtered and cooking they would send out the servants again to announce that the banquet is about to begin. At this time the entire community would come and celebrate. But this is the twist in Jesus’ story, instead of the community coming to the banquet they made light of the celebration, they continued to work on their farms, they went on selling their goods in the market place, and some out right refused violently.
This is where the story gets into the deeper meaning. The king has invited people to his son’s celebration and they refuse. Why, they have to run their farms, take care of their business, and be nasty to others. Jesus is saying the community is broken. The term community is an important one, it is a compound word built with common and unity. There is no unity in this area, they are all just out there doing their own things. They are so involved in their own lives that there is no room to celebrate the uniting of families and the expansion of their nation. This is something that our culture struggles with as well. Our culture is built on individualism, which is not always a bad thing, but it can become sinful if we become too focused on self and neglect those around us. All too often we use our busy schedules to neglect spending time with our families and our friends, and this same busyness often causes us to neglect the ones that need us the most. But Jesus does not find our busy schedules to be a legitimate excuse, in fact he condemns it. Those that reject the king’s invitation were found to be enemies of the state and their cities were burned to the ground.
This says quite a lot about the things we set up as priorities. I myself often struggle in this area, I have worked since I was in Jr. High on the farm, I feel like I must work, when I do not have things in my schedule I can become depressed and feel worthless. But as I walk further down the pathway of life with Christ I have found that it is those times that I invest in others that are the most meaningful. It is the times that I am not at work that the greatest memories are formed. Yet I still struggle in this area, and ask for prayer in this area of my own life.
The king in the story does not let the banquet wait though, he then sends out the servants a third time. This time he sends them out to the main streets or highways, out into the countryside to bring in anyone and everyone to celebrate the joy of his son’s marriage. The servants go out and they bring everyone, the good and the bad. Think about that for a moment. The ones that were considered worthy to be invited first were destroyed and then those considered unworthy were brought in, no strings attached, the good and the bad. Does that make us squirm just a bit? The good and the bad were brought in accepted as they were at that moment.
These people were brought into the new community, a community built around the king and his son, there is no regard for history, or current state. They are just accepted as they are and celebrate. As they come into the banquet the king treats them with the same respect as any invited guest to a wedding. They are each given a wedding robe. This is a custom that we may find odd, but it is very interesting. It is a symbol that all present in the celebration are equal. The wedding robe conceals everything that may be used to express personal pride. Think of it as a sort of uniform. When we wear a uniform, everyone in that uniform is equal, they are seen as employees of a company or as students of a particular school. The idea of a uniform is to provide equality, and to celebrate membership in some common group of people. The wedding robe is a symbol and expression of celebration for the one being married, it is to provide an equalizing factor to everyone around so that all attention can be directed to the ones being celebrated. It is a wonderful symbol.
But the king looks out at the guests and he finds one person that has refused to wear the robe. If everyone else was wearing a robe it would not be hard to spot the one person that was out of uniform. This one person is attracting attention to themselves instead of allowing the attention to be directed to the bride and groom. This is a powerful statement, although the guest is speechless before the king the judgment is swift, the guest is removed from the community.
This is a powerful story. The judgment of those that refuse to participate in the feast of fierce and for the one that is not covered by the wedding robe it is just as harsh. Jesus finishes this parable by saying, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Those are strong words, they scream out at us that our lives are not to be our own, but that every aspect of it should be focused on one thing, to bring honor to the son of the king. How well do we do that? We speak about being clothed in righteousness and being covered by the armor of God, but do we actually allow that to happen in our lives? When people look at us do what do they actually see?
This is the very reason why the early Friends distilled our expressions of faith down to the very simplest form possible, because every aspect of our life should reflect the light of Christ. Every word that we say should be of simple speech not filled with flattery but truth and equity. That our attire should be simple and modest, not to attract attention to ourselves but so that it would not distract from Christ in us. That worship should focus on the very core properties of faith, true words and actions.
Many are called to Christ, but only a very few will choose to live for Christ. We live in a culture that focuses and takes pride in individualism which is contrary to the call of Christ. The call remains, it is given to the good and the bad, the honorable and the disgraced will you come to the banquet of the son, or will you let the things of this distract us from the celebration? The chose is ours, we can come in common unity or we can stay focused on ourselves. All those things that we find so important will be burned to the ground and the memory left to blow like dust in the wind. It is the community that is important, it is the expansion of the kingdom to the next generations, it is the binding of families though time and space that we should celebrate, it is the marriage of God to the people that should be our desire, clothed in the wedding robes that are Jesus. God Himself taking on human form to live among us and for us. Who take our goodness and our failings and wraps himself around us so that all that can be seen is his glory. Let us be that kind of a community. A community built on unity and equality in Christ: loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and Living the love of Jesus with others around us (the good and the bad.)
Open Worship: A time of holy expectancy, where we as Friends commune with God in Prayer and silence expecting to hear His voice and answer His call to speak or act.