Jesus’ parables, and Jesus’ ministry, often have to do with invitation. They invite us to enter the realm where God is, and where God and human beings are, by the grace of God, truly reconciled to one another; where people are, by the grace of God, set free to love; where people are, in the words of C. S. Lewis, “surprised by joy”–joy in the presence of God and in the power of love. What better story to communicate God’s gracious invitation into God’s realm than a story about people invited to a wedding feast!
Last week there was a huge wedding here at Holy Redeemer, followed by a feast. It was joyful and full of grace, and many people who attended were struck by the reverent atmosphere of the church, the ritual that was both ancient and modern, and the great amount of work that went into planning the reception and the dinner that followed. Both families shared in the festivities and it seemed to me to be an occasion of healing and reconciliation. Twenty years ago, things might have gone very differently, so I consider myself one of the lucky ones who has lived long enough to see a glimpse of the Reign of God in the here and now. I know, of course, that not all wedding feasts bring these experiences of healing and reconciliation. I do not pretend to understand all the vagaries of God’s amazing grace. I simply want to give thanks and acknowledge the fact that this wedding was, for all involved, a precious gift.
Jesus’ parable is an invitation into the realm and the reality of grace, where love is a gift and a cause for celebration. Jesus’ parable is both calling us into the feast and choosing us to be members of the household of faith. So we can say, not by way of boasting but simply out of gratitude, that we are both called and chosen.
It can certainly be dangerous to think of being a chosen people. If we are chosen, does it mean that others are not? Does it mean we are somehow more deserving than others? Yet, every year we hear the invitation during the Easter Vigil in the reading from the prophet Ezekiel: “You will be my people and I will be your God.” I find those words completely captivating, completely irresistible. I believe it as fully as I am able, although I am increasingly aware that this idea will have to be processed and redefined my entire life.
When I watch the news or when I see an evangelical Christian interviewed, I wonder sometimes if I haven’t made a mistake. If their definition of what makes a Christian is correct, then I’m not much of a Christian at all. Perhaps I’ve made a serious mistake. Perhaps the writer, Simone Weil, was correct in her position that her true religious calling was to remain outside the institutions of the church. I’ve considered that path, but it is not my way. On some level, I will always feel uneasy about institutional religion, but I know that my commitment to this path, the path I am on currently, is the one I needed to take.
“‘You did not choose me, I chose you.’ These words were part of the Gospel reading at my ordination last year, and never have these words seemed clearer to me. So, I put aside my lingering fears and embrace a path that is completely overgrown with brambles and darkness, and I move forward in trust. During the course of this past year, I have been blessed to have developed a relationship with all of you here, with my concept of the larger church and with the scriptures themselves. All of these things help me when bad things happen in my life, when I become too stressed or upset even to pray.
There is, within the atmosphere of the contemporary Christian church, a plethora of opinions on theology and theoretical constructions, so it is good to know where we stand. When others label me and try to exclude me, as too conservative or too liberal, as too feminist or not feminist enough, as too intellectual or not intellectually rigorous, as too Catholic, or not Catholic enough, I refuse to be shown the door. It’s my God, too, my Bible, my church, my faith; it chose me. And every day I pray that my chosen-ness never excludes others. Hopefully, as an invited guest at the banquet of God, I will be able to recognize the blessed goodness all around me and share that insight with others. Goodness and holiness surrounds us on all sides and recognizing it, being cognizant of it, allows us to clothe ourselves in divine wedding attire, ready at a a moment’s notice to join God’s party for humanity.