Reflection: October 15

Published on Oct 21st, 2017 by Rev. Carol Prochaska (Ret) | 0

“God’s Guests Receive God’s Goodness”

Scriptures: Psalm 23
                     Matthew 22:1-14

Who might we blame for this parable? We could blame The Revised Common Lectionary, the three-year cycle of scripture readings used by most mainline churches. We could blame Mathew for including his version of this parable in his gospel. Or we could blame Jesus for telling some form of this parable. Once blame is established we could use it as a rationale for ignoring this morning’s gospel reading. However! To ignore this parable is to risk missing out on a portion of God’s Goodness.

Our reading concludes with the words: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” There is no real distinction between “called” and “chosen.” In this passage, we have three very similar words: called, chosen, guests. As we heard in the background commentary the guests are literally the “ones having been called.” This is who we are! We are among God’s guests. We are among God’s chosen. We are among God’s called.

In some church circles “called” has a connotation of an “altar call” – not unlike the Billy Graham crusades. When I was in my mid 30’s living in Calgary, I attended a Billy Graham Crusade. I went with a couple of other women who like me were Presbyterian and who like me went mostly out of curiosity. A Billy Graham crusade was certainly outside our worship experience. There were several thousand people and a huge choir. I don’t remember the sermon. But I do remember watching hundreds of people leave their seats to make their way to the front to make a commitment to Jesus. I remember the choir singing “Just as I am without one plea, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.” They had heard an invitation and to God, they came.

In my Presbyterian circles, there was some cynicism with regard to these kinds of crusades because there were those whose commitment to God was just for the day of the crusade. Even with the expectation of church participation, for some, it was a one-time happening.

What then did they miss out on? What didn’t they come to know about God? How different might their lives have been if they had (as the apostle Paul says) “continue[d] to stand firm in Christ Jesus.”

Within this morning’s parable, there is a summons to come to a feast that has been prepared.

It’s to be a happy event. It’s to be a celebration of love and unity. We began our worship with words from Isaiah describing a feast of rich foods and fine wines God has prepared for all peoples. Last weekend, Thanksgiving weekend, was a time of rich food and fine wines. Some of us ate more than usual. Some of us were heard to say “I won’t have to eat again!” Of course, everyone knows we will eat again – and again! We have come here this morning to sit awhile with God. Here we are God’s guests receiving spiritual nourishment. Here we celebrate love and unity. When we leave will we have taken in enough of God’s Goodness to last until we return next Sunday? Or is this more like a Thanksgiving Day dinner? Do we need to show up at God’s table during the week?

If every day we need physical food, do we not also everyday need spiritual food? This isn’t a suggestion of an everyday worship service but it is an invitation to be God’s guest every day.

What might this look like? Some folks follow a book of daily meditations. Some read a scripture passage every day. Some practice centering prayer every day. Some keep a gratitude journal every day. Some pray every morning or at bedtime.

If this isn’t part of your life how might you get started? You might think of it as a spiritual snack.

Try setting aside five minutes and with a cup of coffee to sit by a window. As you look out, give God thanks for what you see. Pray for the people you see. Pray for yourself. Five minutes – a spiritual snack. Or you could choose to read Psalm 23 slowly and prayerfully every day this week. Even though it’s familiar you may be surprised by what you haven’t noticed in the past. Or you could choose the gospel reading for next Sunday and read it every day – or any of the other scriptures for next Sunday. (In the bulletin under the heading “In the Next Few Days”) As you read ask yourself what God might be drawing to your attention? Or ask: What is God doing in this story? Or be honest and pray saying something like, “God, I don’t get it and I need your help!”  Just don’t give up on scripture. Given time there will be something for you.  

When we sit awhile with God we receive comfort and encouragement. Our deepest fears are eased. We receive help to deal with our frustrations. We are given strength and hope and cause to praise. We are reminded that the love of God is daily working in creation to heal and to promote life. We are reminded that others have been in similar circumstances. God is there for us as God was for them. This past week’s lectionary readings included a passage from Isaiah.

One morning in the misery of my congested chest and miserable cough, I leaned into these words: “[God is] a refuge to the needy in their distress, shelter in the storm.” Scripture is for real people with real everyday issues.

Have you ever noticed how Psalm 23 does not cover up “real life” as in the realities of weariness, death, and enemies? God is my shepherd. You refresh my soul. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. I’d like to think I don’t have enemies. However, I do. I am at odds with persons whose values include racism, religious phobias, and violence as a means to end. I can be overwhelmed with the toxic narratives of hate, greed, and the lack of moral imperatives. So I need to sit at God’s table – every day. I need to eat God’s food – every day. Again from Isaiah: “[God] subdue[s] the roar of the enemy, and the mantra of tyrants is stilled.” How contemporary are these ancient words!

In more recently written words – in the September issue of The Christian Century – an Episcopal priest and retreat leader, Jim Friedrich, has written an article titled: “The demons have come out.” The opening sentence: “Nazis on the march in America.” Rev. Friedrich asks: “What word can we speak to fell the demons? Jesus? God? Love?” He goes on to say: “In their purest form these words signify the beauty for which we were made.”

To add to his words I would say Jesus, God, Love symbolize the Goodness we need to take into ourselves, in some way, every day. To sit awhile with God – every day – is every day to find ourselves and others in God’s on-going story of inclusion and abundance. If every day we need physical food, do we not every day need spiritual food?

 

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