The King isn’t God

This was the homily from this week’s worship service, delivered by Hugh Hollowell. The text was from Matthew 22:1-14

I have to admit- I have some big problems with today’s parable.

I think it is partly because I love so much a similar story that Luke tells in his Gospel.

Here is Luke’s version:

Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations.  When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’  But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’  Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come.’

 “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.  For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”

I love this story. And this is a story that tells us what God is like, because God is like the man who welcomes everyone at the table, with no one turned away.

But this is not the text we are looking at today.

Instead, this text is not about a man, but a king. And to be honest – this is not a very good king.

This king tries to force people to come to his banquet. And when some of them kill his messengers, he not only kills the ones who did it, he burns down their entire town. Then when he invites the common people, the good and the bad, and when he comes to the feast, he sees one guy dressed wrong, and has him tied up and cast into “outer darkness”, whatever that means. It does not sound good, regardless. I think this king has some issues.

Almost all the historical scholars want to make this king represent God. And the urge is high, since we think of God as like a king, and this king had a son, and so on. I get where they are coming from, but I just can’t see God that way.

In the 11th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence at the hands of the violent. But the king in this story does not suffer violence – he dishes it out. The quiet guest – the one who wears the wrong clothes, the one who does not belong – this is the one who suffers violence. He is accused; he does not respond to the accusations and is then punished and killed at the hands of a violent government.

Sounds a lot like Jesus to me.

And it sounds like what seems to me to be the normal experience of those who reject power and violence. The Kingdom of God experiences violence at the hands of the violent. Experiences it, not dishes it out.

The way of Jesus calls us to be on the side of the one who is neglected, the one who does not fit in, who is rejected, instead of being on the side of the King that uses violence to get his way.