Beggars at the Feast

Tri-Saints Lutheran Parish Dwelling in the Word: October 11, 2020

“place settings” by sharynmorrow on

Reading:  Matthew 22:1-14 NRSV

The parable of the unwelcome guest

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:

1.  What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?  What do I have questions about? I am challenged by all of the violence in this parable.  The invited guests are violent, the king is enraged and burns down the city, and even one of the guests is thrown out into the outer darkness for wearing the wrong kind of robe.  What in the world is going on here?  I did a bit of reading on this, and remembered that the fate of many of God’s messengers, the prophets, were rejected, and suffered, and were even killed.  At the time of the writing of Matthew’s Gospel, the people of God were living with the reality of the destruction of the Temple by Roman authorities, so they would have know what it was like to have a king burn their city to the ground.  The guest is a little more tricky, and I am thankful to the Salt Project for some help (see link below). Because the guests were brought in unexpectedly, and from everywhere, it is reasonable to assume that the king provided the clothing for the wedding banquet, and that this guest refused to wear it.  In other words, the guest came in to eat and drink, but wasn’t willing to be an actual celebrant at the feast.  When have you been reluctant to celebrate?  When have you refused an invitation?  Where do you have questions about this text?

2.  What delights or comforts me in this text?  What is my favorite part, and why?  In this parable, I am delighted both that the king keeps on inviting guests until the entire banquet hall is full, and that the original, more focused, invitation expands to include everyone, both good and bad.  Those who are originally invited might be considered to be the important ones by the metric of the world.  They own land, and businesses, and are strong enough to subdue messengers.  Those who end up coming to the feast are in the streets, both good and bad, and answer the call to come and celebrate.  When have you accepted this kind of invitation?  In what spaces are you fully welcomed, both good and bad?  Where have you experienced persistent invitation, and finally found yourself joining the party?

3.  What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?  How does this story intersect with my life?  There is a song in the musical “Les Miserables” called “Beggars at the Feast.”  The Thenardiers, who we learned earlier in the musical were the extremely unethical tavern and hotel owners who used one of the main character’s children as an unpaid servant, have bounced back in the wake of the failed revolution, and now find a way to get into a fancy wedding banquet.  They extort the groom, steal the silverware, and then sing about how, no matter the circumstances, they always look out for number one, and always come out on top.  I wonder if it’s characters like these that we are meant to see when we think of the underdressed guest in this week’s parable.  Those who think they belong in the feast of the kingdom of God, and yet live by the credo of only looking out for themselves and what they deserve and what they can get out of people.  Jesus reminds us to beware of this kind of self-serving righteousness, that God can see through it, and that this kind of living will be cast out into the outer darkness.  When have you experienced self-righteousness?  When have you felt like you didn’t belong?  What sin does this parable ask you to confront?

4.  What is God up to in this text?  What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?  I pray that, during this Wilderness time in our collective journey, our ears might be opened to heed God’s call and invitation above all others.  That we might lay aside that which makes us cling to the world, and put on the righteousness of Christ.  That we might find cause to celebrate, in small ways, the great feast that God calls us to participate in, each and every day.                              

In Christ, Pastor Breen

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