The theme this week might seem harsh. It might also lead us to point fingers at those out there or over there who are stiff-necked. Rarely will we realize that we are the ones in need of a neck massage. Perhaps worship this week begins with confession. We ask forgiveness for being a part of the problem instead of the means to the solution for our broken world. We might even go off after other gods – gods of nation or of self rather than the God we are called to worship. We are some of those who make light of the invitation at times; we are those who attend but don’t bring our wedding garment, don’t enter into the spirit of the call to discipleship. We are often halfhearted at best. So, let worship be our opportunity to reengage, to recommit to the journey of discipleship.
Yet starting with confession doesn’t mean that the service is an oppressive one, that we are mournful as we gather for worship. No, throughout our worship experience, there is an air of celebration. Jesus describes kingdom living as a wedding feast, a party of commitment and promise and enduring joy. Yes, the parable speaks of the seriousness of this invitation and about the punishment meted out for missing out or for making light of the call. But we are not the ones who determine punishment. We are not the ones who cast out those who won’t fit in. That’s not our job. Our task is one of invitation and celebration, of grace and openness, even as we live out a life bounded by the law of God.
We invite the world to the banquet table. We show by our hospitality and our grace that we understand the depth of the call to be people of the law of love. The long haul makes it hard to sustain the party atmosphere, which is why we need the whole community to come alongside. We boost one another up when needed. We take turns, we step up, we share and work side by side, showing the neighborhood that we are producers of the fruit of the kingdom.
We don’t invite from a spirit of self-righteousness or an air of superiority. No, we invite the stiff-necked people to join us stiff-necked ones, so that together we can ease into the grace of God; so that we can receive the God who remembers who we are and remembers the promise made to us. Worship is reorienting; we find our way back, again and again; we come back so that we can continue on for the long haul.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.