Proper 23, Year A: Matthew 22:1-14: Extending the Invitation

Sermon on the Mount Stained Glass

Source: iStockphoto.com

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 23, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Matthew.

This week’s parable is a difficult one. In this story Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a wedding feast given by a king for his son. He sent out invitations and when it was time for the feast, he sent his servants out to bring the invitees, but the invited people refused to come.  So the king sent more servants, but the people still refused to come. Some even attacked the servants sent to ask them to come–beating them and killing them. So the king was angry and sent his army to kill those who had killed his servants. This is some mess of an invitation at this point.

So the king sends servants out again, this time to bring everyone they see–anyone out on the streets, good, bad, anyone. So they filled the feast with guests of all kinds.

Then the king saw a man not dressed in his wedding clothes (at that time there was a tradition of the host providing special clothes to guests for the wedding, so this guest had refused to comply even when handed the clothing to wear). The king had the man thrown out into the darkness.

Jesus ends the parable by saying, “Many people are invited. But only a few are chosen.”

Wow, that’s some story. Since Jesus specifically says this is like God’s kingdom, the king is obviously God, and it seems those who refuse to attend the feast are like the religious leaders who at that time were rejecting Jesus and plotting against him–or all people who turn against God’s kingdom. So God extends the invitation to all–which is a trend in the Bible–it moves from exclusivity to inclusivity over the arc of history. God’s kingdom expands that invitation to everyone, beyond the original descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus makes clear how far that invitation extends. And the wedding guest who does not wear his proper clothes is like someone who gives lip service to being a follower of Jesus, but does not truly follow the way of Christ.

This parable can seem harsh, but it’s also hopeful in that so many are invited to the feast, no matter who they are.

Proper 22, Year A: Matthew 21:33-46: God’s Vineyard

Vineyards in autumn harvest

Source: iStockphoto.com

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 22, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Matthew.

Jesus again has a parable for his listeners. In this parable, a man owns a vineyard. He prepares it with a wall and a hole for a winepress. He builds a tower on it. Then he leases the land to farmers and leaves town. When it’s time to pick the grapes, he sends servants for his share of the grapes on his own land.

As it turns out, the wicked farmers grab the servants, beating one, and killing two others. So the man sends more servants to the farmers, but the farmers do the same thing. Finally he sends his own son, thinking they will have more respect for his son than his servants.

But the farmers see the son and think that if they kill the son, the vineyard will be theirs, since he is the heir to the vineyard. So they kill the owner’s son as well.

Jesus asks his listeners, “So what will the owner of the vineyard do to these farmers when he comes?”

The leaders and priests say that he will kill the evil men and lease his land to other farmers, who will give him his fair share as promised. 

Then this:

Jesus said to them, “Surely you have read this in the Scriptures:

‘The stone that the builders refused to accept
    became the cornerstone.
The Lord did this,
    and it is wonderful to us.’ 

“So I tell you that God’s kingdom will be taken away from you. It will be given to people who do what God wants in his kingdom. Whoever falls on this stone will be broken. And it will crush anyone it falls on.”

Matthew 21: 42-43 (Easy-to-Read Version)

When the leaders heard all this, they knew Jesus was talking about them and they wanted to find a way to arrest him. But they were afraid because the people believed that Jesus was a real prophet.

In this parable, I think the landowner is God and the vineyard is the Kingdom of God. The religious leaders are the faithless and murderous farmers. The servants God sends are the prophets and the son is, of course, Jesus. It’s a simple allegory of the history of God sending prophets who are mistreated, until he sends even his own son. Of course, the leaders do not take it to heart when Jesus basically tells them that they will kill him and then be crushed. They go from this to looking for a way to arrest him. They will not learn. Others (the apostles and all of us who follow them) will experience the Kingdom of God, not these religious leaders who refuse to listen to Jesus.