The Sunday Sermon: I love a good wedding banquet
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Over the weekend, I was honored to officiate the wedding of Dave and Kate Alexander. The ceremony was held at a lovely spot on the shores of Lake George. I love weddings. They’re a lot of fun. For just a little while, you get to suspend reality, dress up in fancy tuxedos, and celebrate the love between two people. Weddings are fun, but you know what’s even more fun than the Wedding ceremony?
The Wedding banquet: Free food, free drinks, music, and dancing. People, simply being with other people, having a good time. IT’s a time when aside for just a little while the cares of the world, all the problems we face, the anxieties and stresses of our day to day existence, to simply rejoice and be happy for the newly married couple.
Wedding banquets are a time of joy and excitement – in short they’re just a lot of fun!
But, if you compare the wedding receptions of our own day, they pale in comparison to the huge party that were weddings in the ancient world.
So, it’s no surprise that when our Lord wanted to talk about God and his relationship to his people – he talked about our relationship in terms of a marriage. And when he talked about what the Kingdom of God was like, he talked about an eternal wedding banquet.
Wedding imagery is all over the New Testament. From the lips of our Lord himself to pen Saint Paul the apostle, the image of the Wedding banquet of God and his people abounds.
Paul tells us that the marriage between husband and wife signifies to us the relationship between Christ and his Church.
In John’s Gospel, in his farewell discourse, Jesus tells his disciples that he is to depart and go to the Father: and that in his Father’s house there are many mansions, and that he will return in order to bring us to that heavenly dwelling which is prepared for us in the heavens.
That very motif is the image of a wedding. In the ancient Jewish practice, after the groom negotiated with the father of the bride, he would go off and prepare an apartment in his Father’s house where he and his bride may dwell. And then, at an unannounced time he would return in a great procession with all his friends to collect the bride and bring her back to her new home.
Do you recall the parable of the wise maidens and the foolish maidens, who ran out of oil? They were waiting up late at night, watching for the coming of the groom. So, there’s that same wedding image again.
Again in John’s Gospel, Jesus inaugurates his public earthly ministry at the wedding of Cana of Galilee. After partying for several days, the party runs out of wine. At Mary’s bequest, Jesus turns several huge jugs of water into wine, thereby allowing the joyful banquet to go on.
It’s no accident that our Lord chose to inaugurate his ministry at a wedding banquet because it was a wedding banquet which he is inviting us to: The wedding banquet of the Lamb of God.
But that banquet is not for you and for me some distant hope, something which we will enjoy in the future. NO! That wedding banquet has begun, and as we gather together, even today, we gather around the Lord’s Altar, his table, and we feast together on the heavenly food which he gives us, as a foretaste of that one eternal banquet in the Kingdom.
But as we participate in this foretaste of that heavenly banquet now, we heed what we can best call warnings and admonitions to be prepared for that time when he shall come again and invite into the eternal banquet hall, to that great heavenly banquet.
We heed the warnings of today’s two parables. The first is the warning that those who refuse to accept the invitation will be passed over in favor of those who will accept it. Our Lord tells us that he will go out into the streets, to the poor and hungry and find those who will really appreciate the invitation. To those who will not take the invitation for granted.
You and I, as Christians living out this life have a real danger to face: We cannot take the practice of our faith for granted. We must take it seriously. It must be for us the most important dimension of our lives: The compass by which we direct our steps, the light by which our path is lit.
If we fail to live out the call of God to us in this way, if we take our faith for granted, then we’re like the one who showed up at the wedding banquet without the proper attire. We will be unprepared to celebrate and rejoice.
And in this life, that requires hard choices: it means choosing God over self. It means loving others in self sacrificial love, over selfishness. It means following in the footsteps of our lord and taking up our cross and following him, through the tough times and the good.
Because there is that wonderful eternal reward – that heavenly banquet prepared for the saints in heaven – for you and for me – and there’s nothing really that we can compare it to – nothing that can match up to that – except that the foretaste of that joy and that blessedness is experienced in the love that we have for one another – that’s why our lord tells us that the joy of being in his kingdom is like the joy of husband and wife – the joy of a wedding banquet – when the cares and stresses and anxieties of life are set aside – and there is pure joy and happiness in seeing the love between two people – love so strong that nothing can cast it asunder.
Let us life in this life so faithfully that we may join that eternal heavenly banquet – reunited with the saints in heaven – and let us gather today around this altar – and join, here and now, as we can- in that banquet prepared for us by our loving God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.