Friday, December 6, 2013 — Week of Advent 1, Year Two
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 16, 17 (morning) // 22 (evening)
Matthew’s gospel contains many attractive and inviting images for the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom is small but powerful, like a tiny mustard seed that grows into a huge tree. The kingdom is like having a jewel that you cherish and keep secret, but that fills you quietly with inexplicable joy. And the kingdom fulfills our desires for justice, for “the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
But as we know from today’s gospel, other teachings about the kingdom aren’t quite so inviting. Today’s reading ends with the ominous line, “many are called, but few are chosen.” Our reading this morning teaches us how hard it is to enter the kingdom and to stay there—even when the king sends an open invitation and the kingdom is like one big party.
One reason why it’s difficult to enter the kingdom is fairly obvious: Those invited to the wedding banquet are both too busy and too complacent. They have jobs or farms to take care of. They have enough food on their own tables, and they don’t need to eat the oxen and fat calves that have been cooked and are getting cold. When we are comfortable and kept satisfied, occupied, and entertained, we don’t feel the urgency of the king’s invitation. The original guests couldn’t be enticed by the kingdom.
A second reason why it’s difficult to enter and stay in the kingdom is a little less clear. By not wearing a wedding robe, a man gets thrown out for violating the behavior expected from guests at a wedding. It seems very harsh of the king to kick out a guest for not wearing the proper attire, but consider this: When we forget that we are guests, we cut ourselves off from the kingdom.
Some of us have the privilege of hosting friends for dinner or of serving neighbors in need. But the more we understand that we are ALL guests at this table and in this abundant world, the closer we will be to the kingdom. Instead of behaving like hosts with the privilege to distribute or withhold, or like hosts with the power to include or exclude, the closer we will be to taking our place in the kingdom. When we forget that we are guests like everyone else, we separate ourselves from the whole human community and end up in outer darkness. The kingdom is not a community of hosts and guests; we are all guests at a common table. We should dress (and act) accordingly.
The good news is that the “kingdom of heaven” or the “kingdom of God” is very near to us and is happening right now. Jesus’ invitation is not always easy to accept, but it’s right there waiting for us to answer. So today, let’s hurry—before the good gets cold!
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.