Isaiah 256-9; Philippians 4:4-9; Matthew 22:1-14
What a group of Scripture readings! What a fabulous group of readings the Scripture lessons were today. Isaiah tells us about a feast-a banquet God has prepared for us. He tells us this celebration banquet is because God has taken away the power of death forever! Taken away the
power of death forever! Incredible!
Isaiah tells us that at this banquet God will wipe away all tears from our faces, and he'll take away our shame for having let him down, messed up his earth, failed to treat each other with respect and dignity, failed to love each other, take care of each other-and he will forgive
us and save us from ourselves. That's just the good news of Isaiah.
Then we come to the reading from Paul's letter to the Philippians-but I want to come back to that. Let's move to the Gospel reading for today. We see here that we're invited to a banquet also. But guess what? It seems the folks who are invited are too busy to accept. God invites the
folks he thinks are faithful to him, in a relationship with him, but apparently it's a rather shallow relationship on the part of the folks invited because they're too busy to accept. He even asks twice, but they make light of it and go to their farms and businesses. But God is having
a banquet and so God keeps on inviting and many accept---many whom we probably wouldn't invite to any banquet we were having. But it's a banquet, a feast, and God's determined to share it.
But there's one catch. That catch is explained in the Gospel parable by a person who was asked, but goes into the banquet without putting on a robe. It was a wedding banquet and he had to put on a wedding robe. That's all he had to do. But he didn't bother. Couldn't be bothered. He
apparently didn't care enough, or thought he could get by, or thought it didn't matter.
Putting on the robe is what Paul refers to as 'putting on Christ.' Taking on a new life, rejoicing at being invited to the wedding banquet, especially since the folks now invited really didn't know the King that well, didn't really know the son, whose wedding it was, very well.
I know you've heard the term, 'the bride of Christ'. The bride of Christ is the Church of Christ-the PEOPLE of Christ, the followers of Christ, the believer in Christ.
WE are the church-the people, not the building. And being the Church, we are in a relationship with Christ. Some realize it, some don't, but the invitation is for everyone and through accepting the invitation everyone gets to know the Son and the Father better. When we put on
Christ, put on the marriage robe, it means we accept his teachings, we accept who he was for us, a Savior, and it means we do our very best to live the life he wanted us to live; a kind of life that is best for us, that brings us the most fulfillment, that brings us peace which is like
the most excellent harmony you can think of. God wanted, God WANTS us to celebrate with him!
We're invited to the feast, the banquet. But how are we going to show up for it? Even though we accept, are we going to be like those who made light of it? Or are we going to really celebrate? Are we going to rejoice in our good fortune, rejoice in the grace of God, that while we
are yet sinners Christ saves us!? God calls the sinners to the banquet, but we have to admit we are sinners and put on the robe of Christ. In order to rejoice and celebrate, we have to accept who the Son is and accept who we are.
And that takes us to Paul's letter to the Philippians. "Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I will say it-rejoice!" Rejoice-not just a smile or grin and go on our way. But rejoice! As Peterson says in his translation, THE MESSAGE, "Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean revel in
Paul continues, "Let your gentleness be evident to all." Gentleness, not anger. "Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them." (Peterson) Gentleness, not anger. I see so much anger in people these days. I'm not saying
one shouldn't get angry-one just doesn't take that anger out on others. Instead, anger spurs people on to do good, positive things-especially when one takes positive action to work against injustice or oppression. Gentleness isn't a weakness, isn't namby-pamby; gentleness is firm,
compassionate, courageous, not overwhelmed by negativity or hate. Not pulled into negative thinking or actions.
But it's so hard to find the gentleness these days. People walk around with so much anger. You really have to search for the gentleness. Paul urges followers of Christ to let their gentleness be known to everyone. Gentleness reaches out in love and when you do that, you recognize
what Paul is saying-the Lord is near, always right here with us, waiting to fill our hearts with peace; right here until the day our journey on earth is finished and we are eternally in Christ's presence.
Further, Paul says, just like Jesus told us in the "Sermon on the Mount," not to worry about anything. We know that, but still we worry. I'll tell you one thing some folks here at Trinity are worried about that creates negative thinking, wallowing in a negative attitude. They're
worried about money. Not their own money-however that could be true, too-no, they're worried about Trinity's money-not the money Trinity HAS (which in itself is abundant)-and not the money that Trinity gets-but the money Trinity DOESN'T get.
Now isn't that exactly what Jesus and Paul are telling us NOT to do on BOTH counts!? That is, first we are not to worry, and secondly, they are worried about NOTHING, because how can you worry about something that doesn't exist? How can you worry about money that DOESN'T come in?
They don't focus on what DOES come in, but what DOESN'T come in. How logical is that? They are worried about money to meet expenses.
Again, the worry. Instead of focusing on, trusting in God's bounty, trusting that as we do God's work that we are commissioned to do, given PERMISSION to do, God will provide. All that worry and has it made one iota of difference? Has worry and focusing on lack brought in one more
dollar? Has it given any person here a greater opportunity to offer his or her gifts and talents to God through the mission, the commission of this church? This church, the gathering of God's people, has existed for 255 years. It hasn't gone out of existence, but neither has it been
flourishing as God would have it, because folks have slipped into an attitude of lack, and they worry about the lack. That's why the Stewardship Board is having a series of four wonderful, positive programs that will focus on our assets (not just financial) and look at the "Great
Permission" given to us by God.
But like Jesus said, worry won't change a thing-won't add one positive action or change to our life. He says don't worry, don't fret. Instead of worrying, pray. (Peterson) What he tells us is to be thankful. That means focusing on our abundance and the abundance waiting at our door,
not only of our church but of our lives. He tells us to be thankful, recognize our God-given gifts and talents that he continually supplies us with-and through prayer and humbly asking, not demanding, and with thankful hearts, we should make our requests known to God. Then a sense of
God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle our minds down-take us out of any 'worry' mode. "It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." Let me repeat that: "It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry
at the center of your life." (Peterson)
Through prayer we should make requests like, use me, Lord, help me use the gifts you gave me to use in your service; help me have compassion; help me to reach out; help me to be grateful; help me go be gentle; help me to love others; help me tell others of your great love for us
all. Make requests of THAT kind-not requests like show me how to get more money; show us how to get the money we need; (God shows us, brings it to us, but we are so set on getting it in a certain way we can't see it) show us how to get more volunteers; show us how to make people give
more-all requests that are from an attitude, a frame of mind of lack, lack, lack.
We have to open our eyes-rejoice-SEE what's already there to see, to use: all our God-given gifts and talents! How can we open our eyes to all that is there already just waiting? By filling our minds and meditating on things that are true, just, honorable, noble, reputable,
authentic, compelling, commendable, gracious. We need to fill our minds with THOSE things, meditate on, focus on THOSE things. Not on negativity or lack. Focus on the best, not the worst; focus on excellence not failure. Focus on things to praise, not things to curse. Fill your minds
with those sorts of things and your eyes will be open to see the abundance that already surrounds us, that is waiting for us to put it to use. Do this and we will find that God, who makes everything work together, will work in us his most excellent harmonies, which is a peace and
assurance that is beyond understanding.
Wow! Talk about something to rejoice about. All those great things to think about! All those great things to be thankful for! All the God-given gifts and talents right here, right now. It's a feast, a banquet. For goodness sake, let's accept the invitation! One of my favorite lines
from a movie comes from the film "Auntie Mame." Mame says, "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!" I guess I like the statement because it's so true. Life is indeed a banquet that God has provided for us, but our vision has been narrowed by thoughts of lack,
and a negative attitude and outlook, so we aren't even looking and there awaits the banquet. Or we know of the banquet, but because of our attitude of lack, we see it as a soup supper.
God has provided a banquet for us. A great feast, right here! Let us pray to have God help us open our eyes, help us focus on all the wonderful things there are to focus on, especially God's gracious abundance-let's rejoice in all that we have, all that we are and all that we yet
can be!! Rejoice! I will say it again, rejoice! Let the people rejoice with a resounding'