On Sunday October 15th I led worship at Kearby Chapel. Worship began when we sang ‘Thy hand, O God, has guided’ with gusto even though it is a small congregation in the village chapel. I led the prayers before the dramatised reading based on Exodus 32.1-14. I then read two short extracts; the first a Celtic poem about buckling under the weight of sin, relieved when the poet lets go of the sin and a passage on how we learn from mistakes. We sang ‘Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, before we heard the readings from Philippians 4.1-9 and Matthew 22.1-14. We sang ‘Jesus, lover of my soul,’ before I preached.
It was the normal Jewish custom to send out invitations in advance of a great feast without giving the precise date. Once everything was ready then the invited people were expected to drop everything and go to the feast. The guests refused to go, offering a number of excuses; one had to attend to his estate, another his business and others rebelled by beating up the servants and even killing some. The King was so angry that he sent his armies to destroy the murderers and burn their city. Here Matthew was describing the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in AD 70, because the Jewish people had failed to follow Jesus’ example of love, humility and sacrifice and rebelled against Roman authority.
The guests who declined the invitations to the feast were the Jewish leaders, whom God had chosen as his people in Old Testament times, when he made a covenant with them promising to be their God and lead them. Yet when God’s Son came into the world and they were invited to follow Him and serve him, they refused. Just in the same way the Israelites had rebelled and made a golden calf to worship, and Yahweh had wanted to destroy them, but Moses spoke up for the people so God did not destroy them.
The king then told the servants to invite the poor and marginalised from the highways and byways, who had never expected an invitation into God’s kingdom. They represented the sinners and Gentiles, who did not expect an invitation, but Jesus came to welcome those who recognised their need of God into the kingdom. However once we have accepted God’s invitation into his kingdom we have the responsibility to live as Jesus did, as Paul encouraged the Philippians to do. Paul was concerned by the way that Euodia and Syntyche could not agree with each other; he urged them to try and agree through their common relationship with the Lord. He even asked an overseer to help them agree as they both worked so hard for the spread of the gospel. We too need to be prepared to accept change when we accept the invitation into God’s kingdom. The guest who had come without wedding clothes, when invited had not been prepared to change and accept the undeserved gift of grace and show his gratitude. We need to come to worship prepared to meet with God, listen to him and grow into his likeness through Jesus. Paul knew life was hard for Christians in the early church facing persecution, but encouraged them to rejoice always in the Lord. We need not feel anxious when we realise God cares, as long as we set our mind on whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. That passage has always been special to mean, since my late mother gave that passage to give me comfort as I was an anxious, depressed teenager at times and lacked confidence. I do try to remind myself of those words when all around in the world there is fake news and so much injustice and marginalisation of the vulnerable, but that is hard. I am standing in the local election as a Labour party representative because Jeremy Corbyn’s attitude of listening and meeting people has given me hope. I too remind myself that God is still sovereign and pray that others might work too for justice and bring in God’s kingdom now.
We sang, ‘For the healing of the nations’ before I led the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘May the mind of Christ my Saviour’.