Proper 23, Year A: Exodus 32:1-14, Philippians 4:1-9, Matthew 22:1-14
So I just had one of those weeks. And I know that I’m not alone in this because I listen to a lot of people, and I know that this isn’t a terribly uncommon phenomenon. It’s happening at least every now and then to at least a few other folks out there. I just had one of those weeks, one of those weeks where it felt like almost too much.
“It” being all of it.
First there was the news – news filled with another extremely challenging mix. A mix of astonishingly petty human interactions and overwhelmingly profound human need. And that is such a hard combination to bare. And so I found myself staring at it all wondering how will we get through this at all well? (to over simplify for the sake of time)
Then besides world news, there were things here at Grace, some families grieving significant changes or losses, and some new grief for us as we said good-bye to 94-year old Eskill Cornelliesun.
And there were a few other things happening too, things that have filled the air in this place with questions and probably fueled any collective anxiety:
- Will the parking lot base layer get poured in time for Feeding America?
- Are all of the organists ready for Wednesday? Are we?
- How are Dennis and Carol doing after their surgeries this week?
- Where do I park, not because there is too little parking but now there are so many options!
- Have we planned enough food for Oktoberfest?
- What about my own grocery list? Where did I put that? (Am I alone in this?)
- Will the Grace families who are camping this weekend ever dry out?
And what about Puerto Rico? Because when you’re having one of those weeks, those things that really are crises get mixed in right alongside of everything else and perspective is hard to come by.
And so those kinds of weeks are hard and they can be disorienting and judging by conversations I’ve been having, they’re getting more and more common. Our world is not entirely different from our world a year ago, but we are more collectively aware – in new and in constant ways. It weighs on all of us and frankly it should. Because we know that we can do better.
We’re just not sure how.
The good news this morning is that we’ve been invited to a banquet, a party, a feast. And this isn’t just any banquet, it’s a wedding banquet, a party whose purpose is to acknowledge love, to celebrate love in the context of an ongoing and eternal Covenant. Covenant of God to people, and people to God, and people to each other. That’s the gospel this morning. We have been invited to a party whose purpose is to signify to us all that we are bound together in love. And according to this parable, the invitations have been spread far and wide, throughout all the streets and the party is open to all.
And so maybe the most important thing we can do is dress for that kind of party – every day. Because according to this parable, if we don’t, we could miss it, tossed out into the outer darkness (which is quickly losing its appeal.) And so maybe the most important thing we can do is to prepare for the banquet, prepare ourselves for that kind of gathering. Because the banquet is always. The banquet is now. And I don’t want to miss it, I don’t want anyone to miss it.
Now just a heads up in terms of what preparation might look like. I don’t think this is necessarily your traditional, somewhat-stereotypic-but-based-in-some-fact-and-since-we-can-laugh-at-ourselves-it’s-OK- Episcopalian banquet where you have to remember which fork to use with your salad, that the butter knife must remain with the butter, the napkin goes on your lap (as soon as you sit down!) and the coffee cup goes on your left?
This is a different kind of banquet. This is the holy stuff of God and the Spirit blows in ways that inspire and surprise. This feast, this manna comes from heaven and it comes where it will. And so we need to be not only willing to attend, but to look for the banquet and find it in places that might surprise us.
With this in mind know that sometimes this holy party will be a protest- because loving our neighbors, all of them, demands it.
- Sometimes the banquet will happen in silence so that we can remember, we can center, we can pray and quiet ourselves to better receive gifts given.
- Sometimes the celebration will be spoken in languages we don’t fully understand. Because God speaks in those ways too.
- Sometimes the banquet will be sung or played – a holy blending of voices or notes that together proclaim grace.
- Sometimes we will be asked to lead at these banquet tables – to bless, to break, to share.
- Sometimes we will be asked to follow because faithfulness comes in shapes and sizes and in ways we have yet to be exposed to. At the banquet the other guests will teach us, if we’re only willing to learn.
- And so the good news today, and every day is that no matter what happens in this world, or even in here — the banquet is always. The banquet is now. The feast of love and of faithfulness is an option at every turn. We just can’t forget that we’ve been invited. We’ve all been invited.
“Rejoice in the Lord always,” Paul wrote, “and again I will say, rejoice.” Let your gentleness,” (your holy banquet table manners and expectations my addition) be known to everyone. The Lord is near… [And so,] whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just…whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing these things and the God of peace will be with you.” In other words, put on your party clothes, people. Which is Paul paraphrased. The banquet is now.
Now just to come full circle and to bring it home here, I want you to know that the base layer was poured in time for Feeding America and I love that our first packed house with our new lot filled was because Grace was sharing lots of food with lots of hungry people. A banquet happened. And even if the base layer hadn’t been finished, lots of food would have been shared with lots of hungry people. The banquet can’t be stopped.
There is now plenty of room for all of us to park and having to re-learn where and how to park is a good problem in the grand scheme of things. And while we’re at it, rumor has it that the organists are indeed prepared for Wednesday and Martin Pasi is already in the house. Welcome, Martin (and Jen too 🙂
Carol and Dennis are both thankful for healing begun. I found my grocery list. The camping families are headed home and have begun to dry out. There are many, many ways to contribute to the needs of Peurto Ricans and others in this world who have suffered disaster and we will continue to respond as individuals and as a community of faith. And on Thursday morning, we’ll come together to remember Eskill, and to remind each other that he is now feasting eternally at the banquet provided for all.
And so my promise to you is that this week I will seek out the banquet at every turn. And I invite you to do the same. I will be the banquet with you and with others and with God’s help because we need it. So help spread the invitations! And put yours up on your fridge, or by your bedside, or on your dash, or write it on your hand. Don’t forget about the love that has already been given us and that desires nothing less than to gather us all for the holy feasts that are yet to be had. May we all share our own blessings and breakings as we go, trusting that in so doing, we are giving this world a little more of what it hungers for.