TRINITY 18 – HOMELESS SUNDAY
Reading: Matthew 22: 1-14
Can you remember the last time you received a wedding invitation? Whose wedding were you invited to? And what was your response? Did you say yes to the invitation or did you turn it down? And if you went to the wedding, what clothes did you wear? Did you make an effort with your outfit or did you wear your normal clothes?
I have struggled to remember the last time I was invited to a wedding. I had loads of invitations in my twenties and thirties when friends and cousins were getting married but they have dropped off since, perhaps before restarting again with our own children, and my nieces and nephews.
But receiving a wedding invitation was always a great pleasure to me. I loved receiving different types of invitations, replying yes and going to the wedding itself in one of my wedding outfits, i.e. one of my suits.
Today’s parable describes the Kingdom of God as being like a wedding invitation which a king (that is God) makes to his son (i.e. Jesus’) wedding banquet. Those who were first invited turned down the invitation. This may be seen to describe the response of the Jewish nation – they failed to recognise the prophets (the king’s servants). Indeed, they failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. So God extended his invitation to others (to the non-Jews, the Gentiles) who responded positively to the invitation to come to the banquet, to enter the Kingdom.
But there is a twist in the story, isn’t there? One of the guests doesn’t come in his wedding clothes, his wedding suit if you like. In other words, he has accepted the invitation without taking it seriously. It’s rather like going to a wedding in your old jeans, and the king (the host) doesn’t think much of it and the guest has to leave.
I wonder what our response is to the wedding invitation, to the kingdom of God, which we have been offered? Have we accepted the invitation or have we turned it down, like the first group of people in the story? Have we been too busy with our homes, our work, our families so that we have effectively ignored God? And if we have accepted the invitation, how seriously have we taken it? Have we turned up in our best clothes or our old jeans? Have we let God’s invitation have an impact upon our lives – our time, our talents and our money – or again have we gone or own ways.
The good news about the invitation to the kingdom of God is that it is like a wedding invitation which keeps on turning up in the post. We can ignore it if we wish, pretend we have moved, or we can respond to it. And if we respond to it, we can respond positively by preparing ourselves for the wedding (putting on our best clothes -putting time and effort into our prayer, bible reading, acts of service, our financial giving) or by doing nothing (leaving on our old jeans, carrying on without letting God impact our lives). My hope and prayer is that we can respond positively on both counts.
The parable of the wedding banquet is one which I think we can understand on many different levels. On the face of it, It concerns a king (that is God) who prepares a wedding banquet for his son (that is Jesus). Those who are first of all invited to the banquet (the Jewish people) say no, so God sends out an invitation to others (to the Gentiles) who say yes. Albeit there are those who come who are not wearing their wedding clothes, that is to say their hearts are not in the right place towards God, and they are not able to enjoy the wedding.
But I want to explore this parable with you this morning in a different way, from the vantage point of those who are marginalised in our society, and specifically from the perspective of the homeless as it is Homeless Sunday. The homeless today are those who may be living on the street corners referred to in the parable who the king invites to come to the wedding. They are not considered by many to be top of the list when it comes to receiving invitations into God’s kingdom. But in the parable they do respond to the invitation of the king