Lectionary Reflection: Matthew 22: 1-14: Excuses

Now, having come full circle on the issue of works and grace, Jesus takes us in a new direction.  Listen:

There is nothing we can do to get ourselves invited into God’s Kingdom, but there is nothing we have to do.  God willingly invites us all, but invites us to what?  He invites us to participation, not just observation.  He invites us to be fellow workers for the Kingdom, and he has something for each of us to do.

Likewise, there is nothing we can do to make ourselves part of the family of God.  But then God already counts us as his children and only asks us to help around the house like a good member of the family.  The one who doesn’t help even though he says he will, and the one who refuses and later changes his mind and helps are both members of the family, you see…

But then we wonder why God wants us to work.  It is not like God needs anything.  But what we discover is the work we do is to help us bear fruit.    It is the opportunity for God to grow in us the fruit of the Spirit, like love, joy and peace.  In a real sense, then, the work he has us do is only so he can be more gracious to us than ever. 

So Paul was right that in a sense it is really all grace, or as he said, grace upon grace.  But then James was right, too.  Because the increase of grace after our salvation comes through the work he asks us to do in the Kingdom (around the house).  It does not matter the faith a person claims with their mouth.  If there are no works there will be no fruit, and by their fruit you will know them.

But here, Jesus appears to throw a wrench into the mix.  Because the invitation here is simply to come to a party.  Come eat and drink and celebrate the wedding feast.  That hardly sounds like work.  Certainly it is not like harvesting grapes or working in the fields or tending the vineyard.  Just show up and party?  Who wouldn’t?

Apparently, Jesus is offering a warning for today and the end of the age.  Apparently there will be plenty of people who wouldn’t.

We all have excuses as to why we are not better participants in the work of God.  A man once told me he did not have to learn how to pray.  He said that was the pastor’s job.  A woman once said it was hard enough just showing up in church on Sunday and surely God did not expect any more than that.

There are probably as many excuses as there are people on this planet.  But most of them come down to money, energy, and in these days, time.  I don’t have time to learn the lessons well enough to teach Sunday School.  I don’t have time to do mission work, even in the local community.  I can give you money, but don’t ask me to do anything.  I don’t have time to serve.

People have their homes, their businesses, their vacations to take care of.  Tell me, why is working for God asking too much?

Jesus is clearly saying there is a danger here for many.  Be forewarned.  There will be a test.

And then there is the odd one who came without wedding clothes.  Sort of reminds me of the people who believe salvation is all there is to it.  Once saved and all you have to do is show up at the feast on the last day.  What you do in the meanwhile doesn’t matter.

Yes, people actually think this way.

It seems to me Jesus is saying the way we live our lives, the work he calls us to participate in is the spindle and loom that makes our wedding clothes.  Yes, all is grace, but the grace of God calls us to participation, not just observation.   

Those who believe it is okay to sit back and observe may be in for a shock.  Those who participate with both feet and both hands find God uses that as an opportunity to shower grace upon grace into their lives.  And which are you?

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