2 December 2011

Matthew 22:1-14

"Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' 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." (vv. 8-10)


Do you ever get put in that awkward situation where a friend has invited you to a party or event that you really don't want to go to? Perhaps you've already got too much going on. Maybe you have to work or there's something else already in the diary. Maybe you just don't fancy it and you'll make any excuse to avoid going. Most of us have been there at least once. And most have also been on the receiving end - the rejected host who's gone to all the trouble only to hear the transparent excuses of those with 'more important' places to be.

The party host in today's passage is in exactly that situation. He's got the venue, he's got the food and the wine - he's prepared the party to end all parties. But the important people he thought he could rely on to come along have all got something better to be doing. Ironically, they're also probably the people who think they deserve to be invited - the people who would be outraged if they were dropped from the guest list.

There seem to be two groups of guests on the original list. For some, maybe it just wasn't the right time. Maybe they had a lot on their minds. Maybe there was a pressing family emergency. But verse 6 shows us that others had evil intentions - not only did they reject the invitation, they beat up the messengers. They wanted nothing to do with the host or his household. So the host wasn't going to waste his banquet. Instead, he opened his doors to those who would never presume to be invited, but who willingly came to share the celebration.

In many ways, this reading is about vanity. It's about the mistaken expectation that we can come to God (or not) on our own terms. That the kingdom will wait until we're ready to join in. Sometimes it feels like there's always something better or more important to do than spend time with God. Life can be busy and distracting. Even if we have the personal space to spend time with God in prayer, it can sometimes be hard to make the mental and spiritual space for proper engagement.

Like many of our passages this week, there are a number of particularly challenging elements to this story. One of these elements is where the host kicks out the guest who has not come dressed properly for the occasion. This doesn't seem to be about a literal dress code for the kingdom - we know that Jesus invites us to come as we are (eg John 6:37James 2:1-26). So perhaps it is about the way in which we choose to enter God's presence. The first lot of guests proved themselves unworthy by rejecting the invitation, but it seems that others can still come to God's table with false intensions or the wrong attitude.

To Ponder

Are you a party-host or a party-goer? What does that say about your faith and discipleship?

God's set a place for you, and laid out the banquet. Are you on your way?

To what extent does God's timing fit in with yours? Why?

Bible notes author

Anna Drew

Anna Drew is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Canterbury. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Daily Service and Prayer for the Day and a freelance writer on faith issues.