On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 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.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 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. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 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.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
To be totally honest, when I saw the gospel reading for today I suggested we perhaps have a hymn sing instead. Since the word Gospel means good news I have to say that the good news for today has a lot of bad news sprinkles on top. The kingdom of heaven is like a king who throws a wedding banquet invites the A listers, the few who were chosen as it were, who blow him off. He then sends out servants to invite them again, this time mentioning the menu. These folks laugh and then kill the servants. The king gets mad kills them back and destroys their town. Anyhow, so the king then sets the bar pretty low and says :screw it” just go out and invite anyone you find - go out and call the many as it were. So while what qualified the A listers to be invited; that they were wealthy or good or famous, the main thing that qualifies these D listers to be invited is that they were there. Cool. Everyone is invited good and bad. I like that. Except for the part where the king comes up to that poor guy and was like “how’d you get in without a wedding robe?” the guy’s got nothing for an answer so he’s hog tied and cast out to the outer darkness – weeping, knashing of teeth, the whole bit. What a mess, right? But then I thought, wait a minute. Did all the other D listers happen to be walking the streets that day carrying wedding garments in their hands, you know, just in case THE KING invites them over? When the king asks that poor guy, “friend, how’d you get in without a wedding robe”. The answer should have been “Everyone got in without a wedding robe (well, except that one guy, fancy Frank – he wears a wedding robe everyday, but that’s another story entirely)
Some historians claim that part of royal wedding feasts in antiquity included the provision of garments. So I guess maybe the guy was offered one and he declined, which is weird except for the fact that maybe we do the same thing in a way. God hands us garments; the baptismal gown and it’s twin the funeral pall which clothe us in God’s own promises. Yet there are so many forces within us that reject the gracious garments given us. Usually pride or it’s twin, shame. The two are almost the same thing in the end namely an exaggerated sense of one’s importance or insignificance. So, we either pridefully try and gussy our own selves up or out of shame refuse what God offers to cloth us in.
Maybe out of our own efforts we dress in our best so that the doorman will let us pass the velvet ropes. Only to find out that everyone’s on the guest list. Doesn’t do a lot for one’s pride. Unable to believe that there really is a feast from God we show up with a grease stained bag of KFC take out. Too proud to accept that which we don’t provide for ourselves.
Or maybe clothed in our naked shame we refuse the garment offered us that actually would have us covered. Perhaps we hog tie ourselves - our shame covering us like a shroud, as we refuse the garment provided us in our baptism.
But it’s a life death life thing. It can feel like that sometimes in the scope of our lives. Over the years, and sometimes over just the hours of the day.
Outer darkness again. Then the invitation, then the feast, then shame, then outer darkness, then the invitation, then the feast then pride, then outer darkness. Again and again. It’s the terrible beautiful cycle which the apostle Paul describes by saying “I’ve been crucified with Christ, it’s no longer I that lives but Christ that lives in me.” Only he doesn’t mention that this life death life thing in Christ happens over and over in our lives. I die , Christ lives in me, then shame and pride and being curved in on self, then I die then Christ lives in me…again and again.
But it’s the crazy invitation that keeps ringing in our ears. God calling us to the feast prepared for us and for all. God inviting, calling, wooing us - those who are good, those who are bad, that within us that is broken that within us which is whole and this absurd invitation is what brings us here and to the lush feast of God’s vision for the world.
The cycle ends here. In the feast of which the prophet Isaiah speaks to us today. In the continually redeeming work of God in us and in the world we catch a glimpse in Isaiah of where it is that the heart of God calls us to. “On this mountain” Isaiah writes “the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth”.
Here the cycle ends in the feast of wholeness in which the captives are released, freedom comes to the oppressed and all are fed.
In this vision of the world according to God, God is removing the shroud of shame and pride and all that separates us into categories of chosen, disgraced, good, bad, feasting guests and wailing teeth nashers. And here today we have a foretaste of that very feast, where all are called to come and be fed with Christ’s own broken and poured out self. Here there is no A list, just the good and bad off the street who hear the invitation. You, all of you sit here today as the invited.
When folks walked into the space, there was a 5 foot high and 5 foot wide room divider - covered in a white sheet - in front of a bare altar table. Beside this was a table with markers and oil pastels. We were all invited to write on the sheet either in words or images or even just initials of the pride or shame that keeps us form God's invitation. Ambient techno played while people participated in this part of the service. Then after everyone had sat down, a couple of us went up, removed the sheet while 2 others moved the room divider. This sheet became the altar cloth, complete with our pride and shame all over it. What people could not see before was that we had written the Isaiah passage "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken" on the sheet now covering the front of the altar and facing the congregation. On this sheet we set the table for the Eucharist.
(the photo above was pn the cover of the liturgy booklet, with (un)invited below it)