Amy Martinell, Sioux Fall, SD

Warm-up Question

  • What is the most memorable wedding you have attended?  What made it so memorable?
  • How have you gathered with family and friends in new ways during this time of pandemic?  What have been the advantages of gathering in new ways?  disadvantages?

A Place at the Table

On September 18th Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.  The country is currently mourning the loss of a legend.  Throughout her career Ginsburg was a champion of gender equality and women’s rights.  Before being appointed to the court, she he argued six sex-discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, winning five.  On the Supreme court Ginsburg continued to fight for equal protection under the law.  In recent years she became famous for her strongly worded dissents, which  gained her status as a pop culture icon known as the “Notorious RBG.”

As we reflect on this parable about  who is in and who is out at the wedding banquet, we remember Justice Ginsburg who worked tirelessly to make room for all at our nation’s table.

Discussion Questions

  • When have you felt something was unfair?  What did you do?  How have you spoken up to work for fairness?
  • When have you experienced or witnessed discrimination?  How did it make you feel?
  • Justice Ginsburg was a hero and role model for many.  Who is someone you admire?  Why?

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 25:1-9

Philippians 4:1-9

Matthew 22:1-14

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

This is a strange, parable, exaggerated to the point of ridiculous. A king sends out invitations to a wedding banquet, but no one responds.  It is curious that everyone ignores a royal summons, but it gets worse.  The king sends a second invitation, tempting them with the delicious food.  Some ignore the invitation, but many take it to another level.  They seize the king’s slaves, beating and killing them, simply for inviting them to a banquet.  It is quite the overreaction.  Not to be outdone in  overreaction, the king sends troops to destroy the murderers and burns their cities.

The king has set his own city on fire, but apparently the wedding banquet is still on.   Shrugging off his recent acts of violence, the king looks around and realizes he still has lots of food and empty seats.  So he tells his slaves, “Go out again, but this time to the streets.  Invite everyone!”  Soon the wedding hall fills, a great party forms.  As a rule, those on the outskirts and margins know how to party, much better than “proper” guests do.  Still,  the king can’t  relax and enjoy the party.  Instead, he spots a guest not wearing a wedding robe and again he is enraged.  He was Invited at the last minute, but the guest still pays a price for being unprepared.  The king binds the guest and shows him into the outer darkness.

This parable leaves us with more questions than answers.  Why do the guests refuse the king?  Why  both the guests and the king react so violently? Most of all, we wonder what this parable could possibly mean for our life. This parable does not have an easy, clear interpretation.   As scholar Amy-Jill Levine suggests, when we meet a complicated parable, we are better off thinking less about what the parable means and more about what it can do: remind, provoke, refine, confront, disturb.  (Short Stories by Jesus (New York: HarperOne, 2015)

How does this parable make us feel?  Does the disturbing nature of the parable help us recognize the places in our lives and our world where God’s presence has been rejected?  Does it cause us to confront the places in our nation where some are not given a seat at the table.  This parable reminds us that God calls us to live an abundant life.  The kingdom of heaven is a banquet, and Jesus calls us  to put on our party dress and revel in God’s grace.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever been invited to a party you didn’t want to attend?  What did you do?  Have you ever had a party and worried that no one would come?  How did that feel?
  • Has God ever called you to a role you did not want to do?  What might God be calling you to now?
  • What emotions did you feel while hearing this parable?
  • Why do you think the man was thrown out of the wedding banquet?  What might it mean for us?  Is it a reminder to dress correctly?  To respond correctly when God calls us?  To worry less and enjoy God’s grace?

Activity Suggestions

During this time of Covid-19 we have not been able to gather as we did before.  Large wedding banquets or parties are no longer safe and we all miss gathering together in our usual ways.  Many people are suffering from loneliness and depression.  As a group brainstorm ways you could reach out to those who are feeling lonely.  You may want to send cards to elderly members of your congregation or make door decorations for your local nursing home.

Closing Prayer

Almighty God, We give you thanks for calling each of us to the heavenly banquet.  Guide us to work to make our lives on earth better reflect your heavenly kingdom.  Amen.