October 9, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

October 9, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

October 9, 2020

HAVEN HAS LUNCH AT POTOMAC TOWERS THIS MONTH
We are still restricted to taking a bagged lunch for the Potomac Tower residents but these Halloween bags are going to have lots of treats and no tricks. HOW CAN YOU PARTICIPATE? We need single-serving Campbell soup cups (Usually comes four in a pack. Chicken and stars or chicken and noodle preferred) and single serving fruit or applesauce cups. We need them by Sunday, October 25 so we can be sure we have enough. We will put a container in the narthex for your donations. (We usually prepare for 40-45 persons.) Many thanks to the small and mighty crew who are overseeing this ministry for us. God’s Work. Our Hands.

WORSHIP AT HAVEN THIS WEEKEND ~ TWO OPPORTUNIEIS

We will continue to offer both on-line and in-person worship. Each Sunday, our taped worship service premieres at 9:30 am at our website (havenlc.org) or Facebook page. It stays available any time after its premiere. Also, at 9:30 am on Sunday, you can come to the sanctuary where we are safely offering a worship service with holy communion. Masks and social distancing are required. Hand sanitizer stations are at each entrance and hand sanitizer is available in the pews, too. We’re still getting use to allowing six-foot distance between ourselves when we come forward for communion and talk with each other before and after worship. We are doing our best to be mindful of safe guidelines so everyone can feel safe.

WEEKLY DE-MD SYNOD SUNDAY WORSHIP TO CONTINUE THROUGH OCTOBER 25
With many of the congregations in the Synod worshiping in-person or on-line, the Synod is shifting its weekly worship resources toward providing worship opportunities for special days and season of the church calendar. The DE-MD Synod office is also in the process of collecting information about on-line worship services being offered by other Lutheran churches and preparing a list to be shared with all of us. Haven will be one of those.
Until Reformation Sunday, Oct. 25, you can access the DE-MD Synod worship bulletin and service at https://demdsynod.org  (click on “Digital Worship”).

BECAUSE WE NEED TO LAUGH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PAUSE IN GOD’S WORD

Read: Matthew 22:1-14
1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Reflections
We’ve made the preparations, purchased the food, planned the games, sent out the invitations (with the assurance that we’ll be careful to observe COVID guidelines).  One by one the RSVPs come back: “Sorry, I have other plans”, “That’s my haircut time,” “Thanks, but I just can’t make it.”  The refusals leave us disappointed, frustrated, maybe even angry!   We may decide to cancel the event entirely, or we could invite others, even some we don’t know all that well…That’s what this Gospel parable is all about, isn’t it?  Except the Gospel event is not a shower or a birthday party or a “reveal”; it’s the wedding banquet that a king gave for his son.  Refusing the invitation for that feast is no trivial matter!

Before we get into this story and how it might touch us, we need to look at a few technical matters.  The parable appears twice in the Gospels: here and in Luke 14:15-24.  The two versions are similar, but not identical.  The setting here is the Temple where Jesus was teaching during the first Holy Week.  It’s addressed to the religious authorities who were at that moment plotting to execute him.  In Luke’s version the setting is the home of a Pharisee to which Jesus had been invited for a meal long before he entered Jerusalem for the final time.  In Luke the host is not a king, but merely “someone” who planned a meal, which is not a wedding banquet, but a “great dinner.”  The two groups of slaves in Matthew are just a single slave in Luke, and the responses of the invited guests in Luke are first person excuses – “I have bought a piece of land…”, “I have just been married…”, “I have bought five yoke of oxen…” – rather than third person summaries – “they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business…” The most significant difference, however, is there no mention in Luke of invited guests abusing and killing the slaves who were sent, and the host in response sending an army to destroy the abusers (verses 6-7 in Matthew).  Nor is there any mention in Luke of Matthew’s concluding section (verses 11-14) about the man without the proper wedding attire.  There is in Luke more of an emphasis on the outsiders called to the banquet after those invited had refused: bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.  But there was still room!  Go out into the roads and lanes and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.

So what’s the point of this somewhat detailed comparison?  It shows us how in the Bible similar sounding stories may have different meanings.  In Luke the story is an expression of one of the main themes of the whole Gospel: through Jesus God welcomes the poor, the outcast, those with no claim to God’s favor.  From the shepherds at Christmas to thief on the cross, people whom you’d least expect are called into the feast which has no end.  And it’s not that insiders, the original invited guests are excluded; rather they choose to exclude themselves: please accept my regrets.  The parable (and in Luke it really is a parable with one main point) assures us that when we consider ourselves lonely, despised and rejected, God still welcomes us to his dinner.  God’s welcome, moreover, is not just to the heavenly banquet after we die, but to fellowship with all sorts of people here and now in whom we find Jesus sharing and laughing and teaching and weeping.  But it’s also a reminder not to take God’s invitation for granted or to cast it aside in our busy schedules and packed agendas so much going on, “I have three zoom meetings today; I cannot come.”

If you’ve guessed that I prefer Luke’s version of the story, you’re absolutely right.  I wish that it had been included in Year C Gospel readings (which are largely from Luke), but it’s not.  Instead this Sunday we have this much more complicated version from Matthew.  But maybe if we can unravel some of the threads, it can speak to us as well.  First, we can safely drop verses 6-7 about the abusing guests and their punishment.  As I noted above, those verses are not in Luke’s story at all.  In fact, they are a fragment of last week’s parable of the wicked tenants in the vineyard, which comes right before this story.  Evidently an early copyist thought it would be a good idea to link the two stories by inserting these verses, but all they do is muddy the plot!

Like the story of the wicked tenants, the story of the wedding guests is an allegory, which means the characters and features of the story are intended to point to real life counterparts.  The King is the Father; the son is the Son; the invited guests originally referred to the people of Israel, but now would embrace all of God’s people (including us!); the sent out slaves would be prophets or pastors or teachers or brothers and sisters in the faith – maybe even us as well; and the wedding banquet (no ordinary dinner here!) is the heavenly feast, an image used in several Bible passages to describe life in the fullness of God’s Kingdom.  Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 25:6-9) proclaims: On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.  In a funeral sermon a few days ago Pastor Alessandri appropriately referred to this passage with the added good news that there we won’t have to worry about too much sugar or cholesterol!  The image expresses the lasting peace, joy and fellowship together that pervade our deepest longings.  It’s an offer you can’t refuse!  The tragedy, though, is we can and often do.  Here the story is identical to Luke’s: whether it’s one message or a whole flock of them, it’s easy to become so self-absorbed that we miss out on the unsurpassable promise the story holds before us.  So the slaves, as in Luke’s version, invited outsiders from the streets in order that the wedding hall would be filled.  While there’s no graphic description of these outsiders as in Luke, a curious little foreshadowing note mentions the new guests were both good and bad.

Now comes the hard part – the added chapter about the man with no wedding garment – obviously one of the “bad” new guests!  Unfortunately, no one knows for certain exactly what this is about – so if you’re confused by it, you’re in good company!  Most likely this conclusion was originally a separate parable from Jewish literature (again no mention in Luke) that has been grafted into this parable.  In the similar stories from Judaism the missing garment symbolizes a lack of repentance.  Some have linked it to baptism, claiming the robe was at the entrance to the banquet hall, supplied by the King, and the guest spurned it, and then by his silence insulted the King.  Others have claimed the offender was soiled and unfit (like wearing old torn jeans to a wedding reception today) and refused to prepare for the banquet.  At any rate he was unceremoniously bound and bounced from the banquet into the outer darkness of Hades.  Whatever its precise meaning, the conclusion ends with literally a grave warning: For many are called (to the banquet), but few are chosen (to remain there).

So where is the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus – in Matthew’s story of the wedding guests?  I confess I don’t find much in the added details.  But if we look carefully at the heart of the story both here and much more clearly in Luke, we discover a God who continues to invite all people to celebrate the banquet in eternity and on earth; who seals that invitation with Jesus’ body and blood, a foretaste of the feast to come; and who keeps renewing that invitation to us and through us even on days when we’ve just bought five yoke of oxen that we need to inspect or are burdened with three zoom meetings!

Prayer: Lord, you prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies, even a deadly virus.  And you’ve prepared a feast for all peoples that we can only begin to imagine as we await its fullness.  By your Spirit’s guidance help us to celebrate and share this good news and bring daily bread to the hungry.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Music

Pastor Kaplan suggestions

Now We Join in Celebration (ELW 462) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qT_KBzR6TDY

concertato for SATB, Flute, and Organ (with optional Brass Quartet) utilizes the tune SCHMÜCKE DICH with a contemporary communion text by Joel W. Lundeen (1978)                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDk1GOElp9Y

Thine the Amen (ELW 826)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwWnJoJ9x-o

Hymns from the folk tradition

I cannot come to the Banquet  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tW_vdsU_Bb8

(great words!)  Come to the Banquet, There’s a Place for You
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czRLWLOoqj8

Other suggestions:

“Come to the Table” (Sidewalk Prophets) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umjG9mVGl5o

“The Father’s House” (Cory Asbury)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjVi0CDicEQ

“Big House” (Audio Adrenaline.) Very quirky but it grows on you if you like to dance as you do chores. The words are a 21st century invitation to church. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU0dPB6kqus