Peoples Communion HT 12th October 2014
Listen along here!
Are we a missional church? Are we a church that invites people in? Well, there is a strong sense of Yes to that question as I myself have received many invites to events such as Come and Sing, harvest lunch and poetry please and Brass band. In fact I seem to have been swamped by tickets! And here’s a ticket that I have no idea where it came from. It’s a special ticket I know because it says God’s Kingdom. I’ll just place that to one side for now.
We like using tickets because tickets help us to know how many are coming and who has paid! There is a sense of order and accomplishment about the use of tickets.
But who do we give our tickets too? Who do we invite? One answer is anyone that has the money and is willing to pay! But is there another answer? Do we in fact subconsciously ask the people who we like and who are like us, in other words, the people we feel most comfortable with. No surprise there because we want to have a good time and enjoy ourselves. We want our events to be successful and fun! So why not choose the people who we like? The ones who will fit into our nice, ordered church?
But where does that leave the stranger? The people who do not quite ‘fit’ into our scheme of things somehow? Is our church really a missional church?
The parable Jesus tells is about God inviting people to share in his Kingdom. But this time God is presented as a King who wants to give a banquet for his son. So like anyone who wants to have a party, he sends invites round to all his friends. I bet their tickets were big and brash and edged in gold! However, these so called friends reject their invites in the most violent and horrific way possible.
So does the King give up and cancel the banquet? No. He does the unthinkable. The unimaginable! He invites all the low life of society from the wrong side of town. The tax collectors, the prostitutes, the lame, the disfigured, the people who are quite frankly an embarrassment to any upright citizen. You know, like the homeless guy lying in a doorway or those group of people hanging around outside the betting shop you cross over the street to avoid, or the kid with piercings and tattoos all over, that kinda thing.
Are we truly a missional church?
You see the trouble with strangers is that there is something frightening about their strangeness. They can be like mirrors, reflecting something back to us about ourselves we would rather ignore. We don’t want to be reminded of that aspect of ourselves because somehow such reminders bring back painful reminders of shame or hurts. That secret we keep from others and from God, even if that was possible.
And yet, And yet these are the people our church needs if our community is to stay alive and grow. We need people who are different to us, who have different ideas, who bring different experiences of life and with them different questions . Questions that make us think woah, hey there, wait a minute, I need to think about this. I need to think about God and my relationship with Him and what I believe. Such questions deepen our faith as through trying to explain, trying to fully grasp at what it means to be loved by God brings new living water to our spiritually dry souls. Strangers renew communities because they bring fresh glimpses of the Glory of God. But that making new only happens when the doors are actually open to glorify the unexpected, the stranger who comes in and screws up or perfectly ‘nice’ church!
And you know, we don’t need tickets to do that. God certainly doesn’t. God doesn’t require us or anyone to have the right ticket to enter His Kingdom. All are invited. All. Everyone. No one who seeks new life, who is thirsty for living water is excluded from coming to His table, to sit and eat, and drink.
It’s a wonderful picture right? Totally inclusive. No barriers. No conditions. I could end my sermon right there on this warm and fuzzy feeling. However, I would be ignoring the shock moment in Jesus’s parable. The bit where we suck our teeth and go whaaat?!
That moment is right near the end of the parable where the King suddenly finds some poor soul who isn’t dressed appropriately for His wedding banquet and has him bound and thrown out into the darkness. Now literal details aside, like, did the King provide wedding clothes when the people came in? And, just how did the King expect everyone to be dressed right when he pulled them off the street. No, we need to leave those logical, rational thoughts behind and think about what Jesus is saying. There is a thought here about being clothed appropriately, about being given a new covering suitable for the wedding banquet. So a sense of being transformed. Perhaps the man who was thrown out didn’t accept the clothes he was given. Perhaps he refused to be transformed and wanted to stay as he was. If so, the man had missed the point. He had missed that to be invited to a wedding means to join in whole heartedly. To leave his sordid past behind and start afresh in this new life of celebration.
This is the shocker of Jesus’s parable. Yes, we all are invited in no matter who we are but that is not the end of the story. The story continues with our transformation into the likeness of Christ. All are invited to take on new clothes, new lives in faith and love of God. As kingdom people, in love with God, we are not afraid to talk to the stranger, who has strange ideas and ways to us. Whose brokenness mirrors our brokenness. Then we can truly be a missional church.
Because we believe God is with us and for us and loves us no matter who we think we are or what we’ve done. God intimately knows us. Works are not rewarded with a special ticket (set fire to special ticket which is sparkly flash paper that burns up quickly in a shower of sparks). God’s grace is enough.