A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, October 06, 2014

Distracted from Discipleship: A Lectionary Reflection on Matthew 22:1-14

Matthew 22:1-14

The are several different ways one may approach this parable, and one can also get hung up on the murderous ways of the king wondering why Jesus would even compare in some ways this king to God. But to get lost in such quandaries is to miss the kingdom message in this story.

What an honor it must be to be invited to a great banquet from a famous and well known person. What an honor to be invited to a state dinner by the President of the United States or an important reception by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. I remember years ago receiving an official invitation from the White House to attend the inauguration of the President of the United States. (I won't name which president.) I was honored until I realized that it is the custom of every presidential inauguration to send out a select number of invitations at random to American citizens. Oh well... ten minutes of recognition anyway.

A king sends out personal invitations in the form of his servants, inviting people of standing to attend what will no doubt be an opulent feast overflowing with wine and the kind of food most common folks rarely if they ever get to enjoy. Now one would think that anyone receiving such an invitation would make every effort to attend, including changing any established plans, but this was not the case. Those invited made light of the king's invitation-- perhaps some thought it was some kind of joke that the king was actually inviting them, others found their personal pursuits more important than accepting a gracious invitation, and others, who likely did not like the king, found the invitation to be an insult. Whatever the case, no one invited accepted the invitation.

At this point, we would certainly be justified in moving to the last half of the parable and focus on the common folk and worse being invited to the banquet, but I think there is much value in keeping our focus on those first invitees because they reflect our current condition.

I am convinced that the number one problem in the Western church today is that we are not very good at making disciples of Jesus Christ. We are too distracted with other things-- our hobbies, our jobs, our leisure time, and yes... even our families can distract us from following Jesus in the way of the cross. Jesus calls us into a living and vital relationship with him, but instead we prefer to keep that relationship at a distance, a sort of email pen pal. Edward Markquart writes,
Excuses have to do with God. At the heart of this parable is that we are invited to be in fellowship with God. You and I are inherently spiritual. We are designed in such a way that we are to be in fellowship with God.
And we say, "We don't have time. We don't have time. We are too busy, God. I've got a job. A family. I am tired. I don't have time for you." And Jesus said, "Don't you know? It is the king who has invited you. It is the king who wants you to be there and be part of his life.  You and I are designed for spiritual relationships and life is best when we are having that spiritual relationship with God.
We all know that the first step for an alcoholic to get off the booze is to admit that he is an alcoholic-- not someone who occasionally has too much, or someone who can quit anytime, even though he never can seem to do so. No... nothing less than saying, "I am so-and-so. And I am an alcoholic," will do. It is high time for the church in the West to admit that we have a distracted from discipleship problem. Like the seed sown among the thorns in the parable of the sower, the cares and interests and other priorities of life choke out the transforming power that happens only when we walk in fellowship with Jesus Christ and our fellow disciples. We are addicted to our own wants and desires. The problem is we refuse to admit the addiction. We assuage ourselves with the thought that we do make a little time for God when it is convenient, forgetting that discipleship is not about giving a little leftover time to God, but realizing and putting into practice the truth that God is in all our times.

It is fashionable in the church today to blame declining congregations on creeping secularism, atheism, weekend sports programs, and other assorted challenges; but the truth of the matter is the church has declined where it has lost its singular focus on being disciples of Jesus Christ and making disciples of Jesus Christ. That is the key to church vitality-- nothing more, nothing less.

King Jesus invites us into his kingdom. Will we accept the invitation or do we prefer to build our own little kingdoms that will surely pass away?

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