GOOD ENOUGH FOR CHURCH?
Lord, thank You inviting all types into Your kingdom.
Read MATTHEW 22:1–14
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
22 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Bring to mind the members of your church and think of their similarities and differences in terms of age, gender, ethnic origin and social class.
The background changes from a vineyard to a wedding reception, from a farmer to a king, but the result is just the same—at least for the servants who are tasked with delivering the invitations. They are met with refusals; they are ignored, seized, beaten, and killed. In the end, the king extends an open invitation to the event, welcoming “the bad as well as the good” (10).
When I was young, there were accepted ground rules for attending church. I was to wear a school uniform, sit quietly and listen. Above all, I was to be to be good, regardless of how boring the service was and the scant relevance the worship style and sermon had to the vibrant cultural explosion of the mid-1960s on Merseyside. Although mine was an evangelical church, there was little connection with the down-and-dirty side of the community. Not surprisingly, few from that sector had the courage to enter our forbidding doors.
Social theologians suggest that there are two types of churches. First, there are those described as a bounded set—a closed membership that shares certain privileges. To enter the membership it is necessary to conform to statements of faith, meet attendance expectations and take part in training and incorporating rituals. Second, there are those churches that are described as a centered set, where members worship God at the center but may well be doing so with differing measures of faith and doubt. Here, there’s a very faint boundary indeed: everyone is invited, as long as their intention (their wedding clothes) is to press on to discover more about God. That sounds very much like the king’s final invitation.
Consider your church. How would you describe it? What is necessary for membership?
Lord, make us aware of the necessity of spreading the invitation to enjoy an eternity with You in Your kingdom.
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