Sermon preached at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Jackson MS
Before I joined the monastic community where I now live, I was a parish priest for a number of years in a small parish, on a little island, off the west coast of British Columbia. It was a wonderful place to live, right on the ocean, with snow-capped mountains in the distance. In many ways it was idyllic, and one of the churches in the parish was a picture perfect gem, and for the standards of that part of the world, being 100 years old, it was considered ancient and quaint. Indeed, for that part of British Columbia, there probably were not too many building that were older than St. Mark’s.
Because of where it was, and because of its age, people loved to be married at St. Mark’s. It was one of those places, no matter the day, no matter the season, no matter if you were inside or outside, you couldn’t take a bad photograph, so bridal couples, wedding photographers and family and friends loved to come to St. Mark’s for their wedding, and for photographs.
Here is the sermon I preached this past Sunday at the Bethany Convent of the Order of St. Anne in Arlington, MA. With our somewhat smaller numbers just now I have been asked to take an occasional Sunday at the Convent, with one of the younger Brothers to drive me, and sometimes to preach. This time Br. Jim drove me, but had duties at the Monastery, so I pulled my thoughts together with this sermon. The temptation in preaching about Jesus’ parables is to try to avoid interpreting difficult passages, and to avoid thinking of them as “history” describing actual events. I think I avoided this most of the way, but occasionally found myself unavoidably trying to explain. The last paragraph was a gift from the Holy Spirit working through my memory.
Today’s Gospel is a parable told by Jesus about a wedding feast for a king’s son, with a second “mini parable” tacked on at the end. Most of Jesus’ parables have some explanation of the point he was making. This one we have to work at to find exactly what Jesus was trying to teach to that very mixed crowd in Jerusalem.
A king gives a wedding banquet for his son. He sends out invitations. People know the event is coming. But when the day arrives and the call goes out to come, the guests refuse. The king tries again, sends out the message: the tables are set, the wine and roast are ready, the dance hall is decked out; come. “But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them and killed them.”
Those invited didn’t pay attention, weren’t interested, brushed it off, and went back to work. Wound up, filled up, backed up by work, including good work, they said “no” to the king and his party. Others lash out, fight back, kill the messengers. This is not an ordinary story, not an ordinary wedding RSVP. Nor is it an ordinary wedding or an ordinary king.