Saturday, October 11, 2008

Excuses to avoid A Wedding

Weddings are strange occasions. I have performed many weddings, attended many weddings, and honestly enough avoided many weddings. The wedding ceremony is intended to a beautiful worship experience, a time when love had called a couple to join together in the presence of God, and make vows to each other, and to God to love each other to the fullest. It is to be a joyous event for the whole community when two families are joined together. It is awesome when God is put first in the wedding ceremony.
But that is only in theory.
Here is the reality of most weddings: The parents of the couple are stressed out. Maybe it’s the cost, planning, or disagreements over control of the whole affair. The bride has had a dream of this day in her head her entire life. The groom rather attend a sporting event with his buddies. The wedding party usually is made up of friends of the bride and groom who owe them a favor. They are dresses up in outfits they would normally not pick out themselves. There is usually some kind of conflict of who actually will and who will not be in the wedding party. Most weddings determined by the look on the faces of the wedding party there is always one that looks like they would rather be anywhere else but there. The day of the wedding is stressful as the women work hard to look their best and the men work hard on entertaining themselves while they endure. Always one piece of clothing is usually left behind or no longer fits. One family is also concerned about that one family member who might show up. That one family member that usually has one too many and embarrasses all. As I perform each wedding and look out over those that are gathered I can actually hear what is going on in their minds. The women are critiquing the fashion, the decorations, and the flow of the service. They are comparing and contrasting it to every wedding they have attended, will attend or plan on their own. The men are just wondering how much long is this going to take and wondering what they are going to serve at the reception. Parents are both filled with joy and sadness. Joy that their children have found true love, sadness that they have grown up, moved on and matured. Sometimes the joy and sadness are reversed for exactly the same reasons. Weddings full of emotions, nervousness, and anxiety. No too are the same and they are no indications on the strength, happiness, or longevity of the couple relationship. Weddings are the weirdest events of human rituals and Jesus uses it to tells us a parable about the God’s kingdom.

Matthew places this story right after Jesus has thrown out the money changers in the temple. Jesus has gathered at the house of the richest Pharisee, with many people gathered round listening attentively to his every word. The parable is about a King who has a wedding reception for his son’s wedding. He invites the guest, they do not come. He sends the servants again to invite, the invitees kill the servants. In anger the King kills everyone and burns down the city. When everything is ready he sends his servants to the streets and invited anyone and everyone. The hall was filled the celebration under way. The King enters and notices one person is not dressed for the occasion. He instructs his servants to kick him out, and Jesus says, many are called but few are chosen. That’s a bummer of a wedding.
What was Jesus trying so hard to teach all that have heard this parable?
It seems to get more complicated as we look closer. Although the original invited guest were to merely just show up the second group were welcome but had somewhat higher expectations. Every guest off the street was welcome, but they were expected to be prepared, dressed, and changed for the banquet. In other words, there was an expectation of change from the time the new guests were picked off the street to the time they came into the presence of the king.
For us that seems strange in the context and customs of our weddings today. Remember in Jesus time weddings lasted weeks not hours. People were told about the wedding and invited on one visit. When everything was cooked, prepared, and ready to serve, they would be invited again to come. It was expected as guest to be ready to go, when the second invitation arrived.
It is clear that Jesus was speaking about the Pharisee’s as the first guest. Those that would reject him, murder him when He comes to invite them to salvation. But what concerns us are the second set of guest. That is us, you and I. We have been invited as Christian, I believe that God meets us wherever we are, and desires our presence in the kingdom no matter our pedigree or background. As a matter of fact, we had the phrase “come as you are leaved changed” as the invitation on everything we printed at our church. It was Christ invitation that we accepted everyone as they were; all they had to do was show up and plug in. If they showed up God would be the one to transform their life.
Come as we are. God wants us however we are.

But we all have excuses don’t we. We have many excuses on why we can not attend the banquet. I don’t have enough time. Church does not fit into my schedule. I am too tried on Sunday mornings or Wednesdays evening. I’m too old. I’m too young. You don’t offer anything for young people, old people, rich people, poor people, all churches want is your money, have you heard how bad the economy is? I be there next week, I have to get back into the habit? I have a new boyfriend or girlfriend and they are Catholic. People there are not friendly or welcoming. I work all week. The kids have soccer, baseball, basketball, softball, swimming. I don’t have the energy. My teens are really busy; they have a lot of things going on. Excuses, that what they are. Excuses, we all have them, creative of not. Jesus tells us we are invited and to invite others. When in the presence of the king, we should be changed. Yes, God wants us as we are imperfect sinners in an imperfect world. When we accept the invitation, however, there are some things that we need to change to prepare ourselves for God’s presence. We can all have excuses on not accepting the invitation of the king, or we can show up off the streets as we are prepared to be transformed, or we can give our excuses on how to avoid the wedding. Jesus gave no excuse to avoid that day on the cross. The choice is ours. Amen.

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