The setting in which we hear this Parable, the tragedy in Israel Palestine, overshadows everything, and may suggest new insights. In the Gospel a king prepared a wedding feast for his son and invited some guests who didn’t come. He then invited everybody. When he entered the feast he met guest not wearing a wedding garment, and he threw him out.
In the Gospels a feast is generally understood as a symbol of the kingdom of God, usually in the sense of heaven. But there are other interpretations also. As usual, there are two ways to look at this Parable: the big picture, and the small picture. In the big picture Jesus seems to be stating that God is inviting everybody to his feast. Some say they are not interested for various reasons. God is then reaching out to everybody of all and no traditions, the respected and the outcasts, many of whom choose to attend. Then comes the guest without a wedding garment.
The small picture is about what the Parable says to me in my life, not what I want it to say about others and what they do or don’t do. It hints at the power I have in my choices, and their impact not only on me but on others. This might lead me to be more circumspect in how I think and act. What effort do I put into being aware of how I impact the folks in my life? Do I even care? The feast might be about the kingdom of God happening in my life and my role in it. In the feast we all share together in the goodness that is God happening in and through us. Jesus was more concerned about how we live with each other here and now than with telling us how to get to heaven later. So following Jesus, trying to live as His disciples, is about how I am living with others every day. This story might lead me to be more open to, and aware of, God being God in my everyday living, and my responsibility to respond trustingly, ready to be surprised. But then an unexpected and fearful question: might the Spirit be saying something to me in the Israel Palestine tragedy? It is so far away, yet each of these people is just like me, only really hurting because of decisions made by “leaders” with their own agenda who don’t even know the folks they are hurting. Something I ignore at my own peril. More wandering and wondering, which I must. What am I doing in my own life? Am I causing hurt, knowingly or unknowingly, and thus making others react by also causing hurt? Am I trying to make an atmosphere of peace? Am I helping or hindering the Kingdom around me? Thinking back to my angry days, am I trying to help people let go of their own hurt and anger?
There is an undeniable connection between God’s kingdom as I live it with the people in my life here and now, and my next step entering the the fullness of the Kingdom as I die. With the progress of age and health issues this is something I might be inclined to think a lot about. Recently I was called to visit a patient who was actively dying. As I entered the room where he and his wife were, the peace and calm were palpably real. After the Anointing he very calmly asked how he would know when he was dead, and what did it feel like to die, questions many think but few ask. I shared some of my own thoughts influenced by age and health issues, and recent experiences of family members dying. God being present with us then and there in that room was calmly and peacefully real. The Kingdom was happening. The love-filled peace and calm of that room is still with me, I hope for a long time. He now knows the answers to his questions. The love in that room points to something more happening in our next step on the journey, and whatever it may be, it is good.
Again from the perspective of the small picture, the guest without a wedding garment might be me responding to God’s call with my own agenda, trying to know and control, setting up defense mechanisms, instead of trusting and letting go. What is my attitude? Do I have rouble with everybody being invited to the feast? Am I uncomfortable recognizing the goodness of God happening in folks around me, even those I don’t like or understand? Do I come up with my own set of self-serving qualifications and conditions for others so I can feel safe and in control? Am I open enough to the Spirit to see Her working in the folks I don’t like because they make me feel uncomfortable? Basically, do I think I have all the answers and that my way is the only way about anything? When I ask to see things as God sees them, am I being serious? Is everything all about me? Maybe I’m throwing myself out because God isn’t being the kind of God I want, and this frustration might be my own “wailing and grinding of teeth”.
Being aware of the Kingdom of God happening among us is good, even liberating, and rarely easy. It takes faith. We are an important and necessary part of Someone bigger than ourselves, yet who is local, personal, and good. As we ask what the Spirit is calling us to, we learn that each of us has a necessary part to play in the kingdom unfolding, that everybody in our life in any way needs to be there because, in the providence of God, in some way we need each other. We might even sense the privilege we have of being able to help others in their life in any number of ways, even something as small as a smile. This is good, and often challenging. We come to see others not as annoyances, but as unbelievable instances of God being God in our life all around. This makes no sense until we become aware of it happening in us, then it becomes very real. We might know a peace happening in us regardless of what is going on outside us. The Spirit is real, and journeying with us in all that is, even, or especially, in the Israel Palestine tragedy. May I look for Her there moving ordinary folks to do ordinary good among each other, and be open to Her here wherever and however She is? Am I really open to being led to where She wants me to go? Am I ok with all this? What now? Just sayin . . .