Monday, 16 October 2017

Rejoice in the Lord always

Isaiah 25: 1-9 (page 586 in our pew Bibles) God is praised for his surpassing glory and then a prophesy is made that this will all be crowned by the swallowing up of death itself 
Philippians 4: 1-9 (page 982 in our pew Bibles) Paul prays that the surpassing peace of God will guard our hearts and minds and transcend the petty squabbles that divide people
Matthew 22: 1-14 (page 827 in our pew Bibles) Many are called and many respond to the invitation to the feast but the guests included a man "without a wedding garment". We must be clothed with genuine repentance to partake of the feast.

Isaiah prophesies a wonderful day, a feast day, a day of rejoicing where the veil that shields our faces from God will be removed and we shall see God face to face, when God will wipe away all our tears, and remove death for ever and the celebration that ensues will be a feast of rich food and aged fine wine.
The day of the Lord will be a day of celebration ushering in a new created order. This is the day when all things will be put right.

We are the heirs of this promise, a people bound together by this hope.

This day of the Lord would be ushered in by a Messiah, an anointed one, and the people ushered in will be drawn from all peoples and all nations.

This then is the background context for Jesus’ parable. The original guests invited to the wedding feast, the Jewish people, by and large refused to come. Some couldn’t care less and were more concerned with their daily business and others were positively malicious.

So God had to gather a new set of guests and welcome them to the feast from every land and people.
That is us the church – the newly invited guests to this feast of the Kingdom of God.

Brilliant. But before anyone gets too complacent there is a sting in the tail.

One of the invited guests isn’t wearing the appropriate wedding clothes and is thrown out of the party – so what can this mean?

The wedding clothes are symbolic of several warnings given in Matthew’s gospel at various points about being genuine. “Doing the will of my Father in heaven” (7:21) not just paying lip service to the commandments of God or “Having a righteousness that exceeds the scribes and the Pharisees”  (5:20) or “producing the fruits of the kingdom” (21:43)

These are all expressions that point out the consistency between words and deeds that is appropriate for anyone who calls Jesus “Lord”.

The wedding garment represents authentic discipleship.

That doesn’t mean we have to be perfect but we must have our heart and mind attuned to the demands of the kingdom and to sincerely want to put those commandments into action in our lives.

What that means in practice is written about by St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians. He starts by exhorting two women who have obviously fallen out over something to “agree in the Lord”.

Whatever divides them at the moment, that is nothing compared to what they agree on as fellow workers with Paul and Clement for the surpassing glory of the gospel.

Rejoice in the Lord always.

Be reasonable.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Take everything to God and trust Him to deal with it and your reward will be peace.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding. Not peace as in a temporary absence of conflict as in “North and South Korea are currently at peace” but a much deeper sense of wholeness, contentment represented by the Hebrew word shalom.

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