Yesterday we celebrated the marriage of Pou and Api at Earlwood Uniting Church. It was great celebrating a happy occasion during this crisis Covid-19 pandemic time. However, because of the restrictions and strict rules to follow when holding a wedding in a building it meant that not all the guests who were invited to attend the wedding could fit in the church. There was plenty of room for all the guests at the Reception venue but not in the church where the actual ceremony was to take place. The church was restricted to 49 guests plus the couple, photographer, singer, pianist, two ushers and myself, the minister. My biggest fear was that we would have to turn people away from the church because we had reached the quota allowed. It could have been a case of many are invited but few are chosen.
I find this to be a troubling parable and hard to understand. Some Christians have used this parable to back up their theological view of Divine election or Divine selection: that God chooses those whom God will save; that God chooses some and not all for salvation. For some Christians this creates great fear and uncertainty. Some doubt their eternal salvation: Could I be invited and not yet chosen? Such theological dilemmas seem crazy to me now, but they also anger me. Why do we humans like to restrict the love and inclusiveness of God?
Parables are always full of extremes and exaggeration to disorientate us out of our self-righteous religious thinking and open us to a more compassionate view of humanity and God. But the parables are not just about changing our
theological thinking or how we think about God or think about the kingdom of God. Parables invite us into a life, kingdom life, kingdom living; to partake, to participate not just to know about. We can think we know exactly what this or any other parable or even what Christianity is about; and yet not live it. I can know lots about what exercises are best for the body but until I do them the knowledge remains in my head and my body remains unchanged. So, followers of Jesus are not just people who know their theology; they are people who engage, who practice, who live out their beliefs, who live in relation with God.
Who is the poor guy that gets tossed out for not having the right clothes? I guess one interpretation of the guest who was not dressed in wedding clothes is that he could be someone who knew the theology but didn’t live it or someone who had the wrong theology.
Remember that the parables show up what human life is like rather than life in the kingdom of God. What guests would refuse the invitation of the king and what king would invite people in off the streets? It is like a dream, a hallucination; but then we are suddenly awoken from the fantasy by someone being thrown out. It is like everyone has suddenly come to their senses and reality returns. Someone is found out, they thought they had been invited. They thought they were welcome but when the dream ends and reality returns that man is thrown out and back to where he belongs but worse, he is punished and then comes the harsh clanger at the end - “For many are called, but few are chosen."
This is the way of the world. The richest, the most powerful, the fastest, the most beautiful, everyone aspires, but few make it to the top. This is nothing like the kingdom of God. Does the parable remind you more of what happened to Jesus? Isn’t it like when everyone turned on him and not only threw him out but killed him, to be rid of him forever? He wasn’t wearing the clothes of this world. His presence challenged us. It annoyed us so we expelled him. Rather than many are called, but few are chosen perhaps Jesus’ parable turns this on its head and perhaps instead it may hint that all are called but few find their way to the kingdom.
Prayer: This week we celebrated a happy event, and we remember Pou and Api as they begin married life together. We also heard the sad news that Lina’s husband Danny died after a long illness and we remember Lina and Danny’s family.
God who meets us in every part and time of our life, in illness and good health, in birth, in marriage, in death, in times of great sadness and great joy, we thank you for all things and all times in which we encounter you and your love. We thank you for the people we meet on our journey and bless them with goodness and kindness. We offer words of forgiveness and healing from our hearts; that in some small way people may experience your kingdom here on earth and know that they are included. Amen.
Photo; Galway, Republic of Ireland
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation