When it came time to reissue the call to the wedding, the king – being the kind of king that he was – decided not to hold one more fancy schmancy, A-list wedding.
This time it would be a wedding much more in keeping with the attitudes and ideologies of the king and his son and the bride to be.
This time, the king called everyone to come. The king sent his representatives down to the corner of Pendleton Pike and 56th, to Monument Circle, Sahm Park, The Castleton Mall, St. Vincent’s Carmel and the Monon Trail, anywhere the people gathered or wandered.
Do we know how amazing that is?
This isn’t some street festival where you wander in when you got off work, or pick up some tickets so you’ve got something to do with the kids on Saturday or wake up on a Sunday morning needing a little break from the drudgery.
This is an imperial, extravagant, once in a lifetime event.
Many are called. Of course, they choose to go!
There were those who knew the king and his son very well and those that had only read about him in the paper. There were the faithful citizens, patriots, who wanted to do what their potentate told them to do. There were people who were suspicious of the king’s motives but were looking for a good meal.
Some wedding guests had national attachments that went back generations. Some had escaped from countries, which had leaders who would assassinate ambassadors.
There were people with great intellects that spurred the economy and educated others and there were people with learning differences that made them brilliant and some whose intellect made it hard for them to make a living.
There were people who made drugs, people who needed drugs, people who took drugs they shouldn’t, and even a few people who sold drugs they shouldn’t.
All that may seem pretty surprising, but the king had said to call everyone – the good and the bad.
The wedding banquet became a time of community building. During the week-long festivities, people got to know one another. There were people who had needs and the people who had means, people with money and people with ideas, people with energy and people with memories. Everyone made a contribution.
Right there, at the tables, they planned a system for delivering meals to people in the community that were homebound because they were sick or too grief-stricken to get out much. They made plans to house families that didn’t have homes; they would do it on a rotating basis, which would spread around the joy and the work. They talked about how they could support the organizations in their community and got excited about telling the stories of their good neighbors. Some of the servants, enslaved people, slid into seats and there were intense but compassionate confrontations about what was fair and just in a kingdom that was about fairness and justice. It was uncomfortable there in the midst of that formal affair, but they made commitments to continue those conversations. (1)
There was however a very uncomfortable situation. There was this one guy who just wasn’t taking part in the celebration. Some people said he hung out at the bar, other people said they saw him hovering over the hors d’oeuvres. Everyone noticed that, while he was eating the food and drinking the drink he wasn’t part of any of the conversations. He wasn’t establishing new relationships. He didn’t help with any plans. He didn’t contribute to the fun. He was rude to the wait staff. He asked if there were going to be fireworks and even made a crack about whether the DJ knew what she was doing.
He was at the party, but he wasn’t attending the celebration.
The king watched this unfold over several days then one evening, he went over to the man. Didn’t call him over as a royal could do, but went over to him. The king said, “Friend. I see that you are here, but you are not fully present. How did you get in here if you weren’t prepared to celebrate? Why did you choose to answer the call if you didn’t want to join the abundance of community?”
And the guy just stood there, looking at the king, as if he didn’t owe any explanation for his behavior. As if he had no affection or respect for the sovereign. As if he didn’t even recognize his own ruler. Somebody said they heard him belch, but that’s not certain.
The king called for security. They grabbed the disrespectful man and frog-marched him out into the night. Some guests said they saw him later, standing out there in the darkness, looking through the doorway, back into the brightly lit and festive room. They said he was crying and carrying on. They didn’t know if he regretted his earlier behavior or was angry that he couldn’t get away with it.
“Many are called but few are chosen,” the scripture says. It may look like that from some perspective.
But when I look at it from the perspective of the king, it seems to me that many are called but not all choose.
When the king of heaven throws a wedding banquet for his son, the one beloved son, we are all invited – the good the bad. We are invited to the great banquet, called to be part of the community. The invitation from the king of heaven is broadly inclusive and utterly decisive. (2)
Brush your hair. Brush off your heart. Clean your nails. Clean up your compassion. Shine your shoes. Shine out with justice. Put on your best. Be your best self. Look in the mirror one last time. Then, look into the faces of your neighbors.
Choose. Choose to be present in the kingdom of heaven.
(1) Grateful for a sermon by Sue Ruehl, which helped me see the wedding banquet as a place of kingdom planning.
(2) Cynthia A. Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson. Feasting on the Gospels–Matthew, Volume 2: A Feasting on the Word Commentary . Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.