A novel I was recently reading began with the account of a twelve-year-old boy’s birthday party. He had invited several “friends” from school, but none of them showed up. He wept bitterly on his mother’s lap wondering why they had all rejected him, why no one cared enough about him to come and eat cake and ice cream on his birthday.
Thinking about that birthday boy’s disappointment gave me a side-road into our text for this week from Matthew 22:1-14. As we struggle with disappointment over the loss of Christian influence in America, and even with dwindling church attendance in some quarters, are we like that weeping boy in the novel, bitterly wondering why nobody is showing up and why nobody cares about us? Or will we learn from the actions of the king and his son in this parable, and go out into the larger world to fill those empty places with unexpected guests of all sorts?
I’m wrapping up a series of sermons on a new vision statement our church council created at the beginning of the year:
We are a family
walking with Jesus,
and seeking the kingdom of God,
in the valley
and the world.
That last phrase “[in] the world,” is the focus for this week and this parable solidly connects with it by reminding us that we as a church ought not be sitting around moping that we’ve thrown a party to which no one has come, but that our hearts and bodies ought to be going out into the world around us to welcome in those who most need our invitation.
I came across a sweet true story from a couple years ago about a fifth birthday party for Taliyah Sassmannshausen. Several children gave RSVPs, but only a few adults showed up. Undaunted, Taliyah’s mother got on their Springhill, Tennessee community Facebook page and invited any families with children who would like to come. A bunch of people then showed up to help Taliyah celebrate.
That’s how the Lord intends the story to end for us when we take seriously our calling to go out into the world and bring in all those Jesus desires to be at His party.
(I’ll wait until Sunday to comment on the difficult ending to this parable that appears in verses 11-14.)