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God's Word on Sunday: God’s gracious care for us never wavers

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  • October 4, 2020

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 11 (Year A) Isaiah 25:6-10a; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14

The fullness of God’s blessing is often portrayed in the Scriptures as a sumptuous feast.

The feast is never just an ordinary repast — Isaiah’s promised feast consists of the richest foods and the finest aged wines. God is definitely not stingy. It will take place on God’s holy mountain — in God’s territory — for the mountain was where humans encountered God.

The symbol is not meant to provide a free pass for overindulgence or to portray life with God in all too familiar physical terms. It symbolizes God’s generous and abundant providential care, beginning with the Israelites in the desert clear through until the end of time in Revelation.

Isaiah’s passage has more — God will remove human grief and suffering, healing human hearts and lifting the fear of death. Much of the suffering humans inflict on themselves and others stems from fear, especially fear of lack, vulnerability or extinction. In God there is no fear or lack; the gracious and unwavering care of God is more than enough.

We might ask when this feast or state of bliss will occur. Is this just some of pie-in-the-sky routine? Not at all. It is a vision that looks to the distant future — the story is far from over. When it arrives, we will recognize the God for whom we waited and will rejoice.

We will also recognize the many times when God was present on this journey but not recognized. This is the journey upon which we personally, as well as all humanity, are travelling.

The prophecy is meant to inspire and give hope, for much patient waiting is required. It stresses the fact that God’s gracious care for us never wavers. It is also a reminder not to be broken or discouraged by the darkness we see around us or the difficult times that we face, for we are never alone.

The heavenly banquet is a model of God’s generosity, kindness and community, and is intended to be a model for living. By emulating these qualities of God, we can begin to dwell in the house of the Lord at any time in our journey.

Paul understood the secret of maintaining faith, hope and love while on the journey. He was sustained by his relationship with the Lord, so he was content and at peace in all circumstances. He did not feel fear or lack when he had little, nor guilt and overindulgence when he had plenty.

Paul treated both situations with equanimity, knowing that God would fulfill his needs. His sense of well-being and peace came from within.

We would all do well to imitate Paul by learning how to want what we have. Our sustenance and strength are provided by a personal relationship with the Lord and not by what is outside or around us.

But what if God gave a lavish banquet and no one came? The parable of the king’s wedding banquet describes just such a scenario. He invited many, but no one seemed interested. The invitees responded with rather lame excuses.

To make matters worse, they began to mistreat those bearing the invitations from the king, even killing some of them. The king responded in force, destroying the city and putting the murderers to the sword. He then sent his slaves into the streets to bring all they could find to the feast — both the good and the bad.

In a rather strange twist, one of the guests was ejected from the hall for not wearing garments suitable for a wedding feast. It does not make much sense until we read the last verse: many are called, but few are chosen.

In biblical terms, clothing symbolizes the inner moral and spiritual state of a person. God offers a feast to all each day but very few accept the offer, often responding with a barrage of excuses. Others come only for the feast, showing little or no respect for the one inviting them, just like the man that was ejected from the hall.

Accepting God’s invitation carries the responsibility for making an appropriate response. This consists of a changed life that reflects the life and teachings of Jesus, as well as devotion to service, active compassion and a commitment to a spiritual path. We cannot be passive or half-hearted in our relationship with God, nor can God be taken for granted.

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