Some months ago I remember reading words to the effect that we have, over the years, to acquire the shape that fits the purpose of who and what we say...
As a starter let us take a hint from the closing verses of
TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 25: 6 – 10a]. One phrase is repeated in two consecutive sentences. “This is our God; we have waited for him. This is the Lord; we have waited for him.“
If we take a careful look at
TODAY’S PSALM [23 or 22] it should be obvious that this prayer of praise (which in so many ways is a heartfelt confession of basic faith) comes easily to those who are prepared to wait for the Lord our God. In other words prepared to wait for the Lord means giving him both the time and space to act with and in us. Waiting for the Lord is, in the long term, much more productive than juggling with him. Our Psalm tells us that at all times and in all the varying circumstances of our living our God journeys with us and contributes the basic encouragement for our ongoing pilgrimage of discipleship.
Surely this is exactly to what Saint Paul is giving personal witness in our
NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [PHILIPPIANS 4: 12 – 14. 19 – 20]? This is what the apostle tells us – “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger; abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” Is this not a brilliant summary of our Psalm? I have no hesitation in discerning Paul’s secret weapon for learning the secret! He was prepared, had a faith strong enough, to WAIT ON THE LORD. In so doing he gave God the time and space which resulted in the Lord providing Paul with the necessary gospel insights to make choices, take decisions and act without juggling prickly pears.
Now let us return to our Isaiah extract and those two vital sentences. Each one has a different conclusion! Did you notice? First of all – “we have waited for him, that he might save us.” The first part of our waiting must acknowledge the truth that in every situation the Lord has a precise and practical message for us. We have to discern what that particular message is – and refrain from rushing in with our immediate reactions. The Lord wants us to
RESPOND – not react. There is such a difference between these two. So often we are in far too much of a hurry. ‘I wish I had not said that’ …. ‘I should have waited a little before rushing in’ … ‘If only I had known all the facts.’ Any of these bring back memories of regret? If we wait a little the Lord may well save us from making utter fools of ourselves.
The second sentence is equally important and challenging – “we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Very often the salvation we are able to be glad and rejoice inis nothing much more than giving thanks for the fact that we have been saved from ending up with egg on our face. However, there is something much more valuable in this second section of the lesson. Each time we wait for him, give him space and time, we are giving ourselves the space and time to discover more about a particular situation – and, more importantly, to discover more about ourselves and our particular motives for believing that we have the immediate and affective answer. This is an essential element of the salvation that the Lord offers us on an ongoing, daily, basis. We need to step back and
WAIT – wait for him and wait for ourselves to ‘get real’.
So we come to
TODAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 22: 1 – 14].
Remember that the parable of the wedding feast is the final of a trilogy. The Sunday before last we heard the parable of the two sons who changed their minds and made specific choices. Then, last week we read the lesson of the tenants in the vineyard. They, too, made choices. yet even when last of all the owner of the vineyard sent his son the tenants miserably failed this final test and missed the vital opportunity to recognise and accept that the vineyard was not their own. Tenants have to deliver the rent. Basically I need to read, understand and accept the terms of the lease.
INVITED to be guest-tenants. We must never take the invitation for granted. Any high-handed presumption of privilege, power or status places us outside the mainstream of church life and responsibility. Others, perhaps even those we might consider outsiders or beyond the pail will easily and quickly be invited in to fill the vacuum. NO ONE IS INDISPENSABLE.
Finally we need to be aware of the fact that the invitation is to a feast that has already been prepared. There is no a la carte menu. In addition I need to be prepared – in other words, I must have the wedding garment. It really is impossible to make an appearance when it suits my convenience. Then have a taste of what I really want (feel like) and afterwards disappear until the next time I happen to be passing and have nothing really better to do.
“In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for length of days unending.”