Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Matthew 22:1-10 (NLT)

Jesus also told them other parables. He said,  “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come!“So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them. “The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.

Revelation 3:20 (NLT)

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
The observation was made to me last year that we will most likely be very surprised at the individuals who are present at the wedding feast of the Lamb at the end of time.  The odds are going to be good that the people we have decided will be sitting in the most supreme seats and receiving the most honor might not even be there, while the people we automatically assume won’t be there will be.  I think we need to think more about this and give it some serious thought, especially in the context of much of what’s going on in our world today and the way we approach Christianity in general in our society.

Gone are the days where we concern ourselves with the genuine needs and care of people, able to put our politics aside and reach out to the homeless or the hurting.  Nowadays we have Christians running for office and rubbing elbows in places of political power to try and push agendas, when that is never what Jesus told us to do.  Jesus told us to go out and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, visit people in prison, and welcomed strangers.  It is that last one, welcoming strangers, that I want to look at here in this note (although all of it will connect in a certain way).  In the efforts to rise up and gain power, the church is ignoring the call, its duty, to welcome people into the church that might be different from us.  We are ignoring this call because we want to be seen with the right people and be perceived to have the right impact because we don’t want to give to people that we won’t receive from.

Yup. We want to get.  And the results of wanting to “get” are clear in this parable.

The guy in Jesus’ parable invited everyone to the wedding feast who “mattered.”  He made sure that the people he invited were going to look right in the photos and make the society section of the newspaper and that all the right connections would bring his son the best gifts and then, in turn, invite him to their weddings.  Weddings of old were just like the ones today: they signified alliances between families and social connectedness.  Thus, the man did what everyone always did when it came to weddings: he used it as an opportunity to move up the social ladder by extending his table to those who had something he wanted.

Do you only invite people to preach at your church because you think they’ll bring their church out, and you’ll get a big collection?  Are you only inviting people to your church because you want to be invited to speak at theirs?  Do you only welcome visitors if they can put a big offering in the collection plate?  Do you want to solicit businessmen or politicians to become members of your church, while the homeless person on the street, or the struggling teenager who got kicked out of his parents’ house because he or she somehow told them that they are different from the norm, you’ll gladly pass up?

The result of what the man got was all those people who “looked right” for the wedding didn’t show up.  They didn’t even come up with good excuses: it just kind of boiled down to “we’re too busy.”  That sounds to me just like any time we try to have an event, or a prayer call, or a conference, or a service when we have church these days.  “We’re too busy, we can’t come.”  There’s always an excuse, none of them good, and none of them valid, all of which boil down to: what you are doing isn’t important enough for us to make the time and commit to coming.

Then there are those who attack what we are doing: “Women can’t be preachers!”  “Faith is a waste of time!”  “Your ministry is never going to make it!”  “You have nothing to offer!”  Then we get ourselves all wrapped up in our feelings – and it’s not the first time, or the second time, or the third time – and somehow instead of just going on and growing up, we stay there, all wounded and offended, and feel bad because we’ve been “attacked.”

And that is right where we stop in the church today, isn’t it?  We host our event or our ministry work or our service and when no one shows or we don’t get the turnout we want, we complain and we whine and we pout.  We come on social media and start chastising the church for being uncommitted and not caring.  We start harping on people for not giving enough.  We go on and on and on and feel bad for ourselves because nobody came to our thing…and we ignore what God is trying to tell us!!!

Maybe the problem is that you want a church full of status and you haven’t yet accepted that the people you think should be at the banquet aren’t the ones who are coming…selah.

The man in the parable didn’t leave that wedding banquet empty!  He sent his servants out and had the banquet hall full, with the “second string” of choices.  The people who came weren’t going to make the nightly news.  They weren’t the people who careers were built upon.  They weren’t people that anyone would have assessed as “moral judges.”  The Bible says the good and bad alike came in, and you couldn’t even tell the difference because at that banquet, anyone who was willing to partake was welcome there to receive what was offered.

In other words: shut up and stop whining and go get the people that God wants at His banquet.  The Bible itself indicates there will be people there who we perceive to be good and people we perceive to be bad.  The job of the church is not to be a political agency that looks good and moves people up in the nation’s power structure.  It is not our job to make these vast, sweeping moral judgments about people; its job is to bring the people in and let them partake of the goodness of God, of the supper that He offers to all of us so that He can reveal His essential truths to all of us and lead people to where they need to be in Him.

Stop being so elitist and then being offended when the people you want around don’t show up.  Jesus stands at the door and knocks, and He is knocking so we will open up that door and make sure He is at our banquet as our guest of honor.  We’re not doing our job as we sit around, insular and idle, arguing about everything under the sun with anyone who will listen.  Contention makes for a bad dinner host.  Grace makes for a meal that anyone can respond to and partake of, because grace leads to forgiveness.

If all you are looking for is to capitalize on God and move up using ministry to do so, Jesus isn’t coming to your banquet.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I want to be there. either.

(c) 2015 Lee Ann B. Marino.  All rights reserved.

Now God has written a lesson for the rest of mankind
If we’re slow in responding, He may leave us behind
He’s preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day.
When the Lord and master calls us, be certain not to say…
I CANNOT COME!
– “I Cannot Come,” Medical Mission Sisters

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