Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Matthew 22:1-22) transports me to the high-anxiety, near nervous breakdown world of wedding planners, J-Lo style, with caterers and calligraphers and and corsage makers and carriage drivers all feverishly working to make sure everything is just perfect for the marriage of the millennium. The day comes and everything is in place, everything, that is, but the guests. The orchestra is tuning up for Pachelbel and Mendelssohn, but the conductor looks out at row on row of empty pews. It’s a no-show.
You can imagine that the groom’s royal father gets royally p.o.’d when he gets wind of what has happened. He sends the waitstaff out to make sure the invitations got to the intended guests, and that the people know he’s laid out quite a spread for them, foie gras and filets and all the fixins, but the waiters don’t fare too well. The guest list was filled with ungrateful gits, who not only ignored the reminder, but started wailing on waiters. When the father hears about this, he busts the proverbial spring. He deputizes the surviving tuxedo-clad waitstaff, arms them to the hilt and gives them their marching orders: Go unload on the ingrates, and while you’re at it, go ahead and torch their place.
They come back, mission accomplished, and get their next set of orders: Go out to the street corners and bring in anybody you find – bag ladies, bums, hobos, it doesn’t matter. Pack these pews! The waiters have no trouble accomplishing this mission, as the street people jump at the chance to play wedding crasher. The story seems complete; Jesus has illustrated his point. But then he adds a curious afterword. The kingly father notices that one of the street people isn’t properly attired; he apparently didn’t have right costume in his bag. The king has him tied hand and foot and tossed out, not back on the street, but into the realm of outer darkness that causes eyes to weep and eye-teeth to gnash. It’s a harsh parable for sure. It gives fair warning to those who ignore the invitation to live a grace-filled life. There are dire consequences to a mercy-less life. The horror of the enigmatic closing scene was no doubt aimed at those who were trying to sneak onto a back pew in the Chapel of Love without wrapping themselves in grace, peace, joy, hope – the garments of salvation. Leave it to Jesus to turn us on our heads, transforming our nice romantic comedy version of salvation starring Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey into a psychological thriller, more akin to the Bride of Chucky, using a mercenary-filled cast and fiery script to communicate that his Way is the way of mercy. While I’m trying to get my head and heart around that, I’ll be searching through my bags for some cuff links and a cummerbund.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.