Sunday 11 October 2020 Stewardship: Sermon by Sabelo Mthimkhulu

Greetings in Jesus’ name!

The preacher this week is Sabelo Mthimkhulu.

Please find the text of the sermon below.
An audio version is available.

An outline of the service followed is given below.

Service Outline

Nicene Creed; 3rd Eucharistic Prayer

Readings:

Philippians 4:1-9
Psalm: 106:1-6, 20-24
Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14

Hymns:

Introit: 585 The Church’s one foundation
Gradual: Brother, sister, let me serve you
Offertory: 581 Take my life and let it be
Recessional: 455 Guide me, O thou great Redeemer

Sermon Sabelo Mthimkhulu

Matthew 22:1-14

Have you ever received a late invitation?

An invitation you definitely know it wasn’t initially meant for you.

I once did, few weeks before lockdown a family I knew had a birthday for their 2-year-old boy.
They had sent out quite a number of invitations to their friends with small kids.

Since it was going to be a children’s party, they had booked an open venue.
Organized caterers and asked them to provide refreshments enough for their invited guests.
The Birthday was supposed to be on Sunday afternoon, but due to bad weather, they were forced to move it to Tuesday.

By Tuesday, more three quarter of their invited guest had cancelled due to the busyness of the week.
About an hour before the Party, I received a WhatsApp message.
“Hey Sabelo, our Boy is having his birthday today, most of our guest has cancelled, would you like to attend?”

Trying not to disappoint them I agreed
What am I going to wear, I haven’t been to a Kid’s party for some time?
I asked myself, I decided to just wear my casual jeans and T-shirt.
I didn’t even had time to think about buying a present.
I arrive to a party; everyone seems to have almost same dress code except me.

Everybody is caring a present.

OH what an awkward moment.

In today’s Gospel, Matthean Jesus uses almost the same incident, He uses this parable in reference to Kingdom of Heaven.
In this Parable Matthean Jesus presents to us a King who prepared a wedding celebration for his son,
He sends out an invitation to his guests, obviously expecting them to come in numbers.
Anyway, who would want to attend the Prince’s wedding’s celebration?
Hence it shocks him when his guests do not only turn down his invitation.
And continue with their normal daily activities, but some don’t even end there, they resort into killing his messengers
Out of anger the King sends out his army to destroys the murderers and burned their city.
And out of disappointment the King sends out his servants to now go and invite whosoever they meet on the street to this Wedding celebration.
Everyone “Both bad and good” Jesus says.

The servants went to do exactly what they’ve been instructed to do, the wedding hall gets filled with guests
“Both bad and good”.
But wait, just when we thought the King’s desire is fulfilled, the King still seems unhappy.
When he notices that one of the guests, found on the street corners, probably doing his normal daily duties is not wearing a “Proper” attire for this wedding celebration.
The King gets disappointed.
The language he uses to address this man sounds sarcastic.
Our of anger, he addresses the man he probably hardly knows as “Friend”.

Like he did to the first guests who killed his messengers. He further resorts into an apocalyptic violence, he gives an instruction for him to be tied and thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Does Matthean Jesus metaphorically uses the image of the King referring to God?

I guess so

As much as Mathew presents to us this generous and inclusive God (who is willing to invite both good and bad).
But he also seems to present another aspect of God which sounds problematic to me.

1) A God who firstly selected the privileged (Jews) over the underprivileges (Gentiles)
2) A violent God, who ruthlessly punishes those who challenges his authority.

3) A God who punishes even those who honored His invitation at an eleventh Hour and have not prepared themselves well.
How does these Matthean images of God help us in a time where those in authority misuses their power now and then to marginalized those with less or no power?
Where poor students get thrown out of their educational institutions because they cannot afford tuition fees.
Where more than Three million of South African’s have been thrown out of their work environments because their companies cannot afford them anymore.
Where the Environment has become victims of her own custodians

If God can do it, why can’t those in authority here on earth do it?
In today’s gospel, Matthew writes to the Jewish community.
Jesus is responding the Pharisees and chief priests from the previous chapter (Chap 21).
For a long time, Jews have been waiting for a Messiah.
But when Jesus comes, they just couldn’t recognize Him as one.
Chief Priests, Scribes and Pharisees are just too busy with their own things.
They busy monitoring the practices of the Jewish laws,
While acting superior and righteous, they’re imposing these same laws to others.
They are just too preoccupied to see the arrival of the Messiah.

Just like the first guests on the Parable, Jews just can’t join the celebration on the Messiah’s arrival.
But still God remains patient, He calls them again and again to the realization on their freedom, but still they just can’t get it.
They are too busy, entertaining their elite system.
And it is this system that God destroys

And extends His invitation to the outsiders, those not in the city but on the street.
The non-elite, God leaves those in the center and declares His preference WITH the marginalized.
Those whom we think the event was not meant for them.

In Matthew’s time, God could easily be associated with Violence, in fact some parts of the Bible do presents Him as a Violent God.
Does the fact that Matthew uses these images in his context, mean we also need to retain the same images to our context?
I do not think so, I think God will expect us to navigate our own contextual understanding of God’s nature.
Understanding of who God is in the midst of COVID 19, wrong wrong use of power, Corruption, Gender Based Violence, Environmental degradation etc.

Who is God?
God is the one who sends us out.
To both “Bad and Good”.
God sends us out to both the victims and the perpetrators.
To both those who have wedding attire and those without.
To both those who come prepared with gifts, and those occupied by the awkwardness of presenting nothing.
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ, in this month of stewardship let us recommit ourselves, to be the available servants ready to go and collect ALL those on our streets.
Those who are less wanted, let us go and invite ALL
“Both Good and Bad”.

Amen

Please note: We have resumed Sunday services at 7.30 and 9.15 in the church.
During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426