INVITATIONS - A SERMON ON ISAIAH 25:1-9 AND MATTHEW 22:1-14 - FR. JOSEPH ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Excerpts of a Sermon Delivered on the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost October 11, 2020
Isaiah 25:1-9 & Matthew 22:1-14
The Rev. Joseph C. Alsay
To me, there is nothing more exciting than receiving an invitation to a good party. Especially, when there is plentiful food and drink, and I rarely turn down an invitation to gather with friends when there is something to celebrate.
Now, there are quick, hip and green way to send out invitations: E-invite. Do it all online. Accept, decline or post a maybe. See the guest list. Read the reasons and excuses that people decline the invitation. We will be at the opera. . . . Our family is getting together to celebrate my niece’s birthday. . . . . I have to rotate my tires. . . . I have to balance my checkbook that day. . . . .I have to remove a hangnail that evening. .
Occasionally the no is clear but the reason is vague or not given. Sorry to miss such a wonderful event for a wonderful guy.
I also know how disappointing it can be to know there is a party going on, but I wasn’t invited. I might end up feeling ignored or forgotten, not valued or included in the inner circle.
Jesus tells a parable where a king throws an extravagant party and the initial invitations are rejected.
Can you imagine saying “no” to a royal invitation? A second invitation sweetens the deal with descriptions of elaborate preparations- it’s going to be delicious! But those invited are unimpressed and go back to business as usual. The invitation goes out again, and this time everyone is invited- the good, bad and ugly- people who aren’t usually invited to royal celebrations.
Maybe the point is, that in Jesus, God flings wide the doors and everyone is an invited guest to a royal party. It’s not just something we say, it’s something we strive to live into here at St. Augustine’s, “We are an enthusiastically welcoming and inviting Christian community.”
God’s invitation for all is into fullness of life. God’s got a party going on right now, here on earth and we are invited to throw on our party clothes and get on the dance floor.
But, sometimes life doesn’t feel like much of a party. Pity party, maybe; but no celebration.
There’s so much to anxious about – too many people losing their homes and livelihoods due to fires, hurricanes sickness, and war, literally dying while the party’s going on.
There is no question that anxiety levels are high as election day approaches. Not to mention the stress and challenges that folks are facing in their marriages or relationships, in their jobs, in their health. Sometimes it seems too much to deal with and folks turn to anti-anxiety medication to take off the edge and give some calm.
But, in the midst of it all, the Lord prepares a table (a party) for us in the presence of our enemies and everyone is invited. Everyone!
But today, just as in the past people made light of it. They had other things to do, places to go to, people to see. They had plenty of reasons to decline. Matthew is making a strong but sad point. Everyone doesn’t respond to the invitation. Then and now.
Where does that leave us?
What is the spiritual invitation to us today?
The invitation is to all of us, to everyone.
Even when there is panic and fear and anxiety around and within we are invited to this feast. As much as we are concerned about the future we are brought back to this moment, to this community, to the gifts set before us this day.
To a bountiful feast beyond our imagination or understanding.
Will you accept the invitation to a fuller, richer, deeper life?
There isn’t an online RSVP for this. It is simpler than that. Open your hands and receive something that money cannot buy. Together we open our lives and hearts to the mysterious kingdom of God.
~ Fr. Joseph Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church