Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The last time I stood in this pulpit was actually two years ago for a wedding. It was a wonderful day.  And why shouldn’t have been?  Every wedding day is happy.  It’s the living afterwards that causes all the problems.  Preaching a meaningful sermon at a wedding, is just as difficult as preaching a meaningful sermon in your home congregation after being away for 35 years.  At least you are prepared to listen.  At a wedding everyone seems just bit distracted.  The bride and groom have that deer in the headlights look, and often are unaware that anything is being said. The parents of the bride are anxiously wondering whether they really do have to pay for the “no-shows” at dinner.  As for the parents of the groom, they are simply counting their blessings that they are not the parents of the bride.  Weddings are filled with expectations, hopes and dreams.

It is just a true of the banquet Christ has invited us to experience.  The banquet is not the sad farewell of a funeral.  We are invited to enjoy the love and mirth of a celebration. It includes the nervous laughter of the clinking of glasses and the celebratory kiss. It is the joy of knowing that God calls you by name, sets a table before you and offers the promise you will enjoy meal forever.  So why would anyone turn down an invitation to a wedding banquet, much less the wedding feast hosted by the king?  Jesus’ parable reminds us that there are those who do refuse to come, and they may be your friends and neighbors, perhaps your colleagues or even your own children.

There are many reasons that men and women turn down the invitation to the Lord’s banquet.  There are those who are too busy to hear the invitation to come. There are distractions in the world which deafen our ears. One man went off to take care of his lands; another went to his business. They were not running off on “midnight junkets” to exotic destinations, nor were they flitting away the day on mindless matters.  These loyal and faithful spouses hadn’t learned the old adage, “No husband has ever been shot while doing the dishes.”

There are those who or are so preoccupied with their future happiness that they lose sight of their present joys. Perhaps you count yourself in that number. And there is no one to chide you with sage wisdom, “Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.”  And there are others for whom the good news of Jesus and his love is unknown. Even good church-goers can be included in that number. There’s an old saying, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a mechanic.”  We can be so busy and active with the programs of the church that we forget to go to the banqueting table to be fed.

Finally, there are those who believe that they lack nothing and have grown indifferent even to a royal invitation. They would never dream of dressing up for a king or anyone noble.  After all, anything the kingdom of heaven can offer, they have already acquired.  Indeed, we compliment these men and women for their industriousness and their ability to accumulate greater wealth.  We may even envy them.

One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people can be. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?” The boy answered, “It was great!” The father asked, “Did you see how poor people can be?” The boy answered, “Oh Yeah.” The father went further. “So what did you learn from the trip?”  The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.” With this the boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “Thanks dad, for showing me how poor we are.”” Too many times we forget what we have and we concentrate on what we don’t have, so we turn down God’s invitation.

My friends, you are so special in God’s sight that he is willing to go out of his way to find you and to invite to enjoy the wonders of his holy banquet, but beware of taking his invitation for granted and treating his invitation too lightly.  After all, “many are called, but few are chosen.”

In Jesus’ parable, the servants went out to fill the hall for the king’s feast.  They went out beyond the main streets; they went out to the lonely corners and the alleys to find “the good and the bad.”  And they all entered in to the king’s presence.  They all enjoyed the bounty of the king’s table- except for one.  Mind you, it wasn’t the man’s clothes that startled the king.  It was something about the man’s attitude. It was something about his disrespect for etiquette.  The parable, you see, teaches us that God’s gracious invitation to an abundant life and a bountiful feast ultimately calls for a changed life.  It is perhaps as significant as the vows spoken at a wedding.  God wants more from you than just,  a “yes.”  God wants a changed “you” to come to his table.  “Many are called, but few are chosen.”  Of course, this may mean work.

Young couples preparing for their wedding day seldom think that marriage will demand any work or change of them.  Before her wedding, a young bride was getting more and more nervous about the ceremony so she went to see the minister. He reassured her by pointing out that the ceremony was quite simple. ‘You enter the church and walk up the AISLE. The groom will be waiting for you at the ALTAR. Everyone will then sing a HYMN to start the ceremony said the minister. Just remember the order and everything will be fine.  On their wedding day, the bride remembered the order and arrived alongside the groom muttering to herself, AISLE, ALTAR, HYMN, AISLE ALTAR, HYMN – or as the groom thought he heard “I’ll alter him!” The truth is God will alter both the bride and groom.  The love that God pours into their lives will change both of them.

My friends, that is the promise of the table the Lord has prepared for you. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ is inviting you to come and taste his forgiveness and his peace and be changed; he is waiting for you to come and taste his encouragement and strength and be changed; he is waiting for you rise up to taste his comfort and grace and to be changed in this world and for all eternity.  He is inviting you to be changed by his grace.  Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.