For whom the bell Tolls

Matthew 22:1-14

Attending weddings sometimes can be a little traumatic. Going as a quest we may wonder if we’ll know anyone and stick out a saw thumb as the outsider.  I experienced that often which thankfully was always unfounded as after a bit of chatter and so forth most people didn’t seem to care much and ironically, often felt the same and were just happy to be happy.

For me though, my most fearful and nearing embarrassing moment came at my own wedding. The instructions were that once the bridal cars came into view and the bell ringer started doing his business, the groomsman and I would stand up and face the front until their entry. All normal stuff until the entry did not come because unbeknown to us one of the girls had left something behind so when nearing the church the cars kept driving to retrieve the missing item.

Unperturbed, the bell ringer persisted and for what seemed like hours, there we were standing at the brideless alter. Eventually the odd snigger was heard and finally after toiling away the bell ringer missed the note by a fraction of a second at which time the best man leant over and said “he’s weakening”.

Weddings can be a big deal for all involved but not as intensive as I would suggest as in those early times of the bible such as when Jesus walked the earth when a wedding feast was frequently very large. In fact a king or a wealthy person could invite an entire city to one and given that the Jewish norm was that it would last seven days, this was quite a commitment. A commitment aristocratic landowners with time for such leisure activities may have found serviceable. But a commitment that would prove difficult for peasants working the land trying to stay afloat.

Problem was that if a king was throwing the wedding feast, firstly it would be considered alike to treason to not turn up and which would almost certainly invite his wrath and secondly, if one did turn up not dressed in suitable clothing they were offered such a garment by the kings helpers and should they refuse it they too at the least, would certainly be under his watchful eye for the disrespect it brought to him.

These wedding feasts were a big deal and as an aside it opens up some meaning of when Jesus as a guest of a wedding in Galilee and being made aware that after only three days of the seven had past that the wine had run out. A situation that should it have remained would more than been just un-Lutheran like, but would have resulted in public disgrace and ridicule and so without access to a local BWS outlet, Jesus steps in as he often did. Not essentially to show his miraculous powers but more so from his concern for those involved and turned approximately 570 litres of water into wine and this wedding scenario is the background and imagery that Jesus uses before the listening audience in His Parable of the wedding feast where he takes something culturally well understood towards their understanding of a greater meaning and truth.

Today’s parable, the last of the three that Jesus tells in response to his audience of religious leaders who have been constantly questioning Jesus’ credentials with pointed allegations of who are you and how can you claim to speak for God when we are his mouthpieces here on earth.

They wanted to silence Him but Jesus will have no part of it and decides to get to the tin tacks and cutting through the theological red tape says since day dot you’ve been waiting for the promised Messiah to arrive and now that I am here, not only have you not listened or understood those previous prophets telling of this: but denied them, jailed them or killed them-soon not only will you refuse what I bring and the robe of righteousness I offer-soon I too will be refused to the point of death. This is clearly a conversation of the times and though we know the end it is not up to us to heap ridicule for those of that time because we have our own issues here: being that we are the ones, the Gentiles that Jesus speaks of by way of the king telling his servants to “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.”

So here we are at the feast and thank God the Father for the invite, Jesus for delivering it and the Holy Spirit for letting us understand it.  The feast, the wedding reception and celebration of life with Christ not from beginning at 6.00 PM till late at the local winery gardens, not from 8.45 am  till 10.30 am every Sunday morning at Dubbo or 11.45 till 1.00pm at Gilgandra and not even for the seven days as in times of past. But the completed feast of not seven days, not of seven times seventy days but of the unending completion.

A celebration with no “BYO” clauses, no need to scan over the bridal gift register and see what you can afford and not even the need to mortgage off the house to buy a new suit or dress because a glowing white garment made from the fabric of heaven is supplied at the door.

To not turn up would seem to rank as either gross stupidity to if not at least, a complete and unfortunate miscalculation of priorities. The unfortunate misunderstanding of priorities as seen in the Priest running  late for the temple worship and so crosses the road away from a person in need only for a good Samaritan to pick up the pieces. The misunderstanding of priorities that afflicts us all in our pageantry of vanity on this earth to where we see that though not like the religious Leaders of past who missed the promised messiah, we are not unlike them in the way we hold to preconceived and misunderstood ideas of where we derive our bodily and spiritual safety, happiness and contentment from.

Sounds pretty harsh but it is a truth that hurts and unfortunately this side of heaven that will be the case until we draw our last breath. That truth may hurt, but THE TRUTH does not. The truth that is Jesus Christ who doesn’t take back the robe of righteousness he gave us on entry, but continually cleanses it from our wayward ways threatening stains and soils.

This is the good news of Jesus lesson to us in the parable. A parable that doesn’t talk negatively or ridicule the people present because of their behaviour, but only in such a sense to those that flatly deny the invitation and or the robe He supplies.

The people though that are still on the guest list and though as yet they have not sent back a positive RSVP, these are that one’s that we at the feast are given the freedom to meet. To not just set in our designated table but to roam the city seeking out those yet in attendance and tell them of what they do not know or are missing.

Our relationship with Christ, like in all good relationships is based on trust, acceptance and love and though we are but a feeble member in this marriage, it is a match made in heaven to not bring in the loss of our identity in this world, but to find our identity in this world through our Saviour, our partner and our all, that is Jesus Christ.  A relationship that whether for rich or poor, strong or weak will bring joy because of Jesus who loves us without measure.

My own wedding day, though after a few early nervous minutes waiting at the alter without a bride, was a thing of joy and yet a few weeks after my wife Cathy seeing me in tears came to me to both enquire and give comfort. I explained that after knowing of the inner loneliness that can come from a life apart and now knowing the opposite through the gift of finding someone to travel in a life of love with, I was thinking about my best friend who had a journey not unlike that as mine. But for him he was still on it and in the joy of knowing the love I had found, I was overcome with sorry for my friend that was not only still on his own, but as for then, maybe even more so.

When we come to know Jesus we come to know that love. The same love he holds out with a yearning heart that others refuse his hand no more and see it clearly for the first time. His hand of salvation in heaven and His hand of hope here and now. His powerful hand that can turn water into wine, and His gentle hand that shows love and care and brings healing and joy as said so well in this “poem” (song-heal me).
For a moment there
I felt just like dying
But now I see that something inside
Is coming alive
No use running from a revolution
I just surrender to this evolution

Heal me lift me
Take me to the other side
Amazing grace
Has touched my face
And the sweet sound doesn’t lie

For a moment there
I just gave up trying
But now I see
You can let the light in
You can begin again

Heal me lift me
Take me and my soul will fly
My battered heart will make a new start
Let everyone know
I’m coming home again.


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