Sunday sermon on the Gospel reading from Matthew 22:1-14 and St Paul's Epistle 2 Corinthians 1:21-2:4.
In the last few weeks, as well as today, and in the next few weeks we hear Christ tell us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Each reading begins with, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” or “The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to…”
For example, we have already heard that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants (Matthew 18:23-35). Or, we will hear that the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a man, who gave talents (money) to his servants in order for them to increase it (Matthew 25:14-30). And today we heard that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.
Jesus described the Kingdom to His disciples, and through them we also learn what exactly this Kingdom will look like. Christ spends time explaining the Kingdom so that we won’t waste time fantasizing and dreaming about it – what it might look like, what we will be doing there, or who will or will not be accepted in there.
The Lord gives us a very clear picture. It will be awesome there, unlike anything we experience in this life and in this place. We get a foretaste of this Kingdom by being part of the Church, by being part of a community, of one Body, and by partaking of the one Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
So today we hear that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding banquet prepared by a king for his son. Wedding banquet, when it’s done properly, is a cheerful event, everyone is having fun, everyone is full of hope. The bride and the groom are finally joined together and become a family.
The king who has prepared the banquet for his son is God the Father. Son is Jesus Christ. And the guests who are called are the faithful, that is us.
And here where it gets interesting. We know that our God is a loving God, He wants only the best for us. That’s why we call Him Father, after all – He embodies the true aspects of fatherhood – care, protection, and love.
The king sent out his servants to call those who were already invited to the banquet. These guests knew that the day was coming, this was not a surprise for them. Yet, they rejected the call.
These guests are the faithful, us, who are baptized Christians, who know that the Kingdom is coming and who eagerly await it.
The guests not only ignored the words of king’s servants, they mistreated them, made fun of them, ridiculed them, and even killed them. They killed the servants for simply reminding them about the banquet. I guess they really didn’t want to go.
We may not be murderers, we may not kill God’s servants, but every time we make light of the fact that God’s Kingdom is coming, we make the same mistake those guests made.
In response to this rejection the king did something that would fly in the face of Who we think God is. The king sent his troops and destroyed(!) the murderers and burned(!) their cities. Destroyed and burned!
Keep in mind that Christ is describing here the Kingdom of Heaven, that ultimate place that all of us desire to find – our true home, the reason why we sometimes feel lost and out of place in this world.
Jesus is not saying here that God is a blood-thirty tyrant. This parable simply shows that our idea of love and loving God the Father is wrong.
My kids, whenever Matushka and I do not let them do whatever they want, accuse us of not loving them. To this allegation, we usually respond, “Is that what love is? Does allowing you to do whatever you want show love?” The kids usually find some snarky comment to reply with.
We all know that giving in to every demand the kids make is not only unloving, but careless, heartless, and insensitive. Allowing anything and everything is called chaos and disorder, not love.
Before God created all universes, all life, all of us, there was chaos and disorder. God’s love intervened into this chaos and it became order. God’s love put limits, boundaries to the chaos. This order makes life possible.
We are born into this order that the love of God has made. However, just like the children, acting childishly, we, for some reason, think that if God really loves us, He’d allow us to do whatever we want, He wouldn’t limit or restrict our childish behavior.
Would He really care if we prayed or fasted? Would He really want us to abstain from things and from people? Would He really mind if I pretended to believe in Him in my heart, but not in my actions?
Those guests who rejected the invitation created chaos and disorder. Ignoring God, and life in Him and for Him, is chaos and disorder. And chaos brings destruction, not only to ourselves, but also to those around us. Love by definition is restrictive. Loving Father allows only that which will benefit us and save us.
After the king destroyed and burned the murderers, he instructed his servants to invite anyone and everyone off the streets. The wedding banquet was happening, even if the initial guests refused to come.
This past week we spent with our friends in western PA. One of the days we went to a historic site that was built during the America Revolution to protect the local lead mining activities from the Native Americans.
My friend and I, both priests, went in our cassocks with crosses on our chests, of course. When our guide saw us, the first thing she said was, “There is not enough of you guys here in this area.” Even though PA is overfilled with Orthodox churches.
As the tour went on, we found out that she was seriously looking into Orthodox Christianity. She has some Protestant background, right now she is a Roman Catholic, but some personal issues and the current affairs in the Roman Catholic Church shook her faith, she couldn’t reconcile what she saw with what she believed.
So, she took two Orthodox priests showing up at her work as a sign. God willing, she will continue on the path of faith in the Orthodox Church. Even though tempted, she has not rejected God’s call for His Kingdom.
The Kingdom of Heaven is not going anywhere, it will be populated with the faithful. If we reject it, God will find those who love Him and who wants to be with Him.
St Paul tells us today that everything God has promised us, and He’s promised us nothing more and nothing less than salvation, eternal life in His love, God’s promises are guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.
The same Spirit that we receive at baptism. Like a stamp on a document, the Holy Spirit is the seal on our hearts that God will keep His promise, as long as we do our part – persevere, remain alert, vigilant, and sharp in our faith, preserving the order and unity that God has given us, meaning obeying His will and following His commandments.
The call to join the Kingdom of Heaven has been sent out long time ago, by Jesus Christ, Who said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Come and follow Me.”
Do not wait for two guys in black, with crosses on their chests, to show up at your work to answer the call. Who knows, they may never show up.
The call to join the Kingdom will not be coming forever, as today’s Gospel reading clearly illustrates. Answer God’s call and never let go, until we hear, “Good and faithful servant, enter My Kingdom.” It will be a bumpy ride, but completely worth it.