Have you ever turned down tickets to a world series game?
It is October in St. Louis, and sadly, for Cardinals fans, it is not a red October. We are not in the playoffs. But we know that experience enough, don’t we? The electric atmosphere at Busch stadium. The thrill of the games, the joy in the victories, the agony in the defeat. It is ‘must attend’ drama if you are a Cardinal fan and can afford it. And, if someone offered you free tickets to Game 7, you’d move heaven and earth to be there, wouldn’t you.
So, in his own version of a game 7 event, Jesus tells a story about the Royal Wedding Banquet for the King’s son. A must attend event in all circumstances. And something you would not dare to miss, because it would be the talk of the city for months to come. And yet, in the story Jesus tells, people do just that. Surprisingly, they REFUSE the invitation. They choose not to come.
The king sends more servants – “tell them everything is ready – it will be the gala celebration of the year – not to be missed.” And the people ignore the invitation. The excuses are lame at best, but not so unfamiliar as we might want them to be – one went to his farm the other to his business. They chose work over attending the banquet.
Think about that: “Some ignored the invitation”, Matthew tells us. That seems SOOO unlikely – because these people were holding the equivalent of Game 7 World Series tickets. Why would you miss that invitation? What would you be thinking to skip out on that? And that is precisely what Jesus wanted the people of his day and time to think about in this story. THE messianic banquet is at hand in Jesus. Yet people kept going about their normal routine as if nothing extraordinary was going on; as if the kingdom were not at hand.
Yet, here is what I know. There are times when I have also ignored the invitation to the banquet. There are times when I could have been a part of the rich feast of juicy, rich foods, and pure choice wines. There are times when I could have been a part of the wiping away of tears, the destruction of death forever.
- Sometimes it comes in the phone call that interrupts your day – someone sharing either good or difficult news. And as much as you love this person, the clock is ticking in your head – I only have so much time to get X,Y, and Z done. So you ask the minimal questions, trying to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible. Here is one of God’s fellow banquet invitees, and it’s still all about me. I missed the invitation.
- Sometimes I ignore the invitation by not being attentive enough to my own inner life – choosing a kind of numbness rather than being aware of my ups and downs and responding appropriately. All the while God is there, at my door, waiting for me to have a real conversation with him about what really matters – and I am clueless or filling my life with late night highlights on ESPN or seeing if I can beat my record on spider solitaire.
- But most often, I am like the people in Jesus’ story –busy, but the reality is that I am too ‘caught up in my own world’ to enter someone else’s. I let the daily routine of the tasks to be done lure me away from the sense that God is waiting to explode into my world. I choose not to live ‘kingdom ready.’
The good news of today’s readings is pretty obvious. Game 7 tickets in the front row are here for us. A banquet has been prepared for us. The table is set here upon this altar. The king himself invites us to the wedding feast of the lamb. All we have to do is RSVP with our hearts and minds and actions – knowing that each day, God wants to fill us with the riches of the banquet of his love. “Come to the feast of heaven and earth, come to the table of plenty” goes the hymn. Will you ignore the invitation? Refuse it? Or say yes with all your heart? The choice is yours. So are the consequences.