The Wedding Reception

I look forward to our wedding reception this coming June. It will be an event that brings together so many people who have been a part of various aspects of our lives. I can't wait for them to meet each other and to celebrate our marriage vows with us! Yet my potential guest list exceeds the available reception space as well as our finances. This means that I cannot invite everyone, even though I want to include every single person who has ever played a role in my life! So, I will invite more than I have room for, knowing that many will not accept the invitation. Some have already told me about other weddings they are invited to that day. Others will have to work and still others will not be able to make the lengthy trip. Thus as I receive their "regrets" I will send out additional invitations to those who are farther down our guest list.

At the same time as I attempt to limit who I invite I take into consideration who would be most appreciative of the invitation, as well as respect the meaning of the celebration. When I consider my youth ministry kids, I think about how each of them might respond. If there is a young person who wouldn't be interested in attending the wedding until she found out that one of her friend's was invited and she was not, should I include this person on the guest list? Do I not invite any youth in order to not offend some? Is it okay for me to invite more people from one period of my life than from another period?

As I contemplate these questions, I remember that this is our wedding celebration and we do have the privilege of being able to choose who we would like to have present at it and who we would rather not. There might be some who do not respect the affair and serve as a distraction to other guests impeding their enjoyment of the event. There might be some who do not respect the sanctity of the moment or the formality of the celebration. Yet there are others who we could not imagine not having as guests for our celebration. These include family members and the closest of friends. These are the people for whom we have the most intimate of relationships and whose friendship is one of commitment and love. And these are also the people who are the most likely to accept our invitation and make our wedding the priority of their day.

In Matthew 22, Jesus is recorded as sharing a parable comparing a wedding banquet to the kingdom of heaven. At the end of this parable he shares that "many are invited, but few are chosen." These are words that I have stumbled over many times wondering what implications they might have on a theology of predestination or free will. I have also struggled with the reaction of the host in this parable to the person "who was not wearing wedding clothes." "How can the host expect someone off the street to come in the proper attire?" I've wondered.

Commentators have responded to this parable in a variety of ways, one of the most common is to read it as an explanation for the welcoming of Gentiles into the kingdom of God. In this interpretation, the original guests are the Israelites or the Jews and the people off the streets are the Gentiles. Oddly, a more liberal interpretation of this passage is often more literal. In these interpretations the focus is on the kingdom of God turning the world upside down and those least expected to be representatives of the kingdom are the very ones chosen to represent the kingdom.

As I consider our upcoming wedding and reflect on this passage in that light, I do not offer a new interpretation of the wedding banquet parable, but rather new personal insight into the modern version of the setting to which the parable refers. And it causes me to ask other questions, such as, "When God envisions his kingdom, does God get excited about all of his friends and family members being present with each other?"

So as I reflect back upon what I have previously written, I re-frame it as a possible new parable. I recognize that the theology of it may not be all that accurate, but it is an opportunity for me to re-think what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God and what it might mean to be excluded.

Thus I write:

God looks forward to the marriage of Christ and the Church. It will be an event that brings together so many people who have been apart of various aspects of God's kingdom. God can hardly wait for these believers to meet each other and to celebrate these marriage vows! Yet, his potential guest list exceeds the available heavenly space. This means that God cannot invite everyone, even though God wants to include every single person who has played a role in God's creation! Nonetheless, God will invite more then there is room, knowing that many will not accept the invitation. Some have already informed God about other "marriages" they have been invited to for that day. Others will have to work and still others will not be able to make the lengthy trip. Thus, as God receives their "regrets" God will send out additional invitations to those who are further down the guest list.

At the same time as God attempts to limit who God invites, God will take into consideration who would be most appreciative of the invitation, as well as respect the meaning of the celebration. When God considers all of God's human creation, God thinks about how each of them might respond. If there is a human who wouldn't be interested in attending the celebration until he found out that another human had been invited and he had not, should God include this person on the guest list? Does God not invite any humans in order to not offend some? Is it okay for God to invite more people from one time period then from another?

As God contemplates these questions, God remembers that this is the the wedding of Jesus and the Church and that God (as Trinity) does have the privilege of being able to choose who God would like to have present at the celebration and who God would rather not. There might be some who do not respect the affair and serve as a distraction to other guests impeding their enjoyment of the moment. There might be some who do not respect the sanctity of the moment or the formality of the celebration (improper wedding clothes). Yet there are others God could not imagine not having as guests at Jesus & the Church's celebration. These include family members and the closest of friends. These are the people for whom God has the most intimate of relationships and whose friendship is one of commitment and love. And these are the people who are most likely to accept God's invitation and make Christ & the Church's wedding the priority of their day.

Now that I might have just written something sacrilegious. I offer a link to the Matthew 22 passage, so that you might study it and seek its meaning yourself: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2022&version=31

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