As I was working on the sermon for Sunday from Matthew 22:1-14, I was reminded of something that David Benner pointed out about this text. It is the parable of the wedding banquet. The king prepares a banquet for his son. He sends out his servants to tell those who have been invited to come because the banquet is ready. But they refuse. “They paid no attention and went off” to do others things. In Jesus’ day it was unheard of to turn down an invitation to the wedding banquet.
So the king sends his servants out to invite anyone they can find to attend the banquet. “So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. Benner suggests that we use our imagination to visualize an invitation to bring our whole self to the banquet. That is, be honest and open before God about who we really are. There is both the good and the bad in our personal make-up and story. We are conditioned to bring only good parts of who we are into the presence of God. But he invites us to bring all that we are; that good, the bad and the ugly. I know that I spent many years hiding the bad. It made for an unreal relationship with God, in which I never experienced his unconditional love and mercy for me
By bringing the bad into the banquet one can find a new freedom and acceptance before God. Our tendency, which is the result of a life long conditioning is to always present our best face or side to others, including God. So what happens to the bad. It gets buried. But the bad is still a part of who we are. This is reality. God sees all of who we are. He waits for us to bring both the bad and the good to the banquet. Again, men I tell you from experience, it is not until we bring our whole self into the presence of God, that we can experience and know his unconditional love. When you experience acceptance in all your shame and vulnerability, you will know that you are home in the presence of a loving Father, who calls you are his beloved.
A new insight that come to me as I pondered the bring of the good and bad into the presence of God, is that this invitation is to a celebration. What does this mean for us as men? I know for myself it means that I can come as I am, both with the good and bad, and celebrate in the presence of the Father. The parable also includes a guest who came without wedding cloths. This never happens at a banquet put on by the king. Wedding garments were provided for those who did not have them. For us this means that we can come to the banquet, with the good and bad, and know that we are robed in the righteousness of Christ. Jesus makes me worthy to be with the king. The king accepts me as I am, because of what Jesus has done for me. He covers me. I can really celebrate in the presence of the king, because of Jesus. To me this is joy, knowing that I am free to be me, with all the good and bad, in the presence of the king because it has nothing to do with me, but it has all to do with what Jesus did for me.