Imagine church was a meal like this… [UPDATED]

Jesus answered and spoke again in parables to them, saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who made a marriage feast for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast, but they would not come. Again he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner. My cattle and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the marriage feast!”‘ But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his merchandise, and the rest grabbed his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them. When the king heard that, he was angry, and sent his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited weren’t worthy. Go therefore to the intersections of the highways, and as many as you may find, invite to the marriage feast.’ Those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together as many as they found, both bad and good. The wedding was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man who didn’t have on wedding clothing, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here not wearing wedding clothing?’ He was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and throw him into the outer darkness; there is where the weeping and grinding of teeth will be.’ For many are called, but few chosen.”

|Matthew 22:1-14, World English Bible

Rather than add my comment to the thread – I thought I’d actually make my comment a part of the post so it could be taken up in discussion.  My intent in posting this video was to engage us in thinking about what the Kingdom of GOd was all about – the Love feast around which we should gather each week and our understanding of what church is all about.

Many folk consider member ship of a church to be at least part of the evithat one is ‘saved’, is a memebr fo the Kingdom of God.  I konw that that is not true of people on this blog necessarily – but many Christians would assume that without belonging to a gathering of Christians you couldn’t posibly be saved, let alone call yourself Christian.

The parable above is well known.  We understand what it means.  If you try to come to God in any other way than the prescribed way you will be tossed out on your ear.

But does that interpretation make sense given all the other “The Kingdom of God is like” parables?  This parable comes last in a series of Kingdom Parables:

    • The Sower (Mt. 13:1-23).
    • The tares (Mt. 13:24-30)
    • The mustard seed(Mt. 13:31-32).
    • The leaven(Mt. 13:33).
    • The treasure hid in the field (Mt. 13:44).
    • The wicked servant (Mt. 18:23-35).
    • The talents (Mt. 25:14-30).
    • The wedding dinner (Mt. 22:2-14).

The only one of these parables to have someone who responded to the call of God suffer any misfortune is the last – the parable fo the wedding banquet.  Why?  It doesn’t make sense when all the other parables in Matthew regarding the Kingdom of God are about how alrge, all encompassing, inviting and generous it is.  in fact in one – the parable of the Tares, the harvester is told to allow the tares to grow along with the wheat.  What is going on here?  This King kills those who don;t repond – destroying their towns.  This doesn’t sound like te Kingdom of God…the Kingdom of some tyrranical despot, sure – but not of God, surely.

There are many problematic aspects to this traditional perspective, but theologian John Mabry invites us to consider one particularly salient angle. He says:

I remember once…counseling a woman who had been extremely wounded by her fundamentalist experience…. Through her tears, she told me how scared she was of being cast into Hell for daring to question her church’s theology. “Haven’t you always been taught that God is your heavenly Father?” I asked her. She nodded and blew her nose. “Well, let’s say you have a daughter. What if she did something really bad, let’s say she killed somebody.” She nodded…. “Would it be right for her to be punished for her crime?” She nodded that it was.” And what would be an appropriate punished be?” She thought about it for a while, “I don’t know, maybe twenty years in prison?”

“Shouldn’t she be tortured for those twenty years?”

“No! Prison is enough.”

“But the church says that just punishment for any sin is to be tortured in unthinkable agony, not for twenty years, but for all of eternity. As a mother, would you allow your child to endure that if you had the power to stop it?”

“Of course not!”

“How does it feel to be morally superior to God?” I asked. (149) [morally superior to God” — John Mabry, The Monster God: Coming to Terms with the Dark Side of Divinity.]

Mabry is inviting us to consider that we are perhaps merely projecting our desire for violence onto our image of God in those places in the Bible and elsewhere in which we allow God to be violent in our place.

It has been suggested by some that this parable is in fact an ‘anti King’ parable, not a ‘kingdom of God’ parable – it was designed to hi-light the tryranny of King Herod – not to draw peoples attention to what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.  There is also a clue in the use of the words translated “The Kingdom of God is like”?  There are two forms of the Greek which are translated in that way; “homoia estin”, and homoiothe, the former meaning ‘is like’ and the latter meaning ‘was made like’.  In the case of this parable it is the latter form which is used.  And so a legitmate translatoin might read – “The Kingdom of God has been made like a human king who prepared a marriage feast for his son…”  The King in this parable is not God – but is a human king – it is not about the Kingdom of God at all.

Interestingly Herod the great was attempting at the time to arrange his wedding to the granddaughter of Hyrcanus the high priest..and therefore legitamise his reign among the peopole of Jerusalem who didn’t accept him as King at all.  The people saw him as an outsider, not valid because he didn’t belong to the Hasmonean royal line. Herod’s military campaign reached the walls of Jerusalem and was met by opposition there, but ‘instead of loosing his army on the city he pleaded…’

…that he came for the good of the people, and for the preservation of the city, and not to bear any old grudge at even his most open enemies, but ready to forget the offences which his greatest adversaries had done him. (Josephus, The Antiquities, 14:402)

 Sounds much like what the King in the parable is saying huh?

Marty Aiken from Yale Universtiy, in a paper he presented, argues that in this parable Jesus is actually introducing himself as the ‘suffering servant’ from Isaiah:

I propose in this paper a new reading of the parable of the wedding Banquet in Matthew (Matt. 22:1-14)  My proposal is that Jesus uses this parable to declare to the ruler’s representatives, and the world, that Jesus’ authority will be the authority of the suffering servant.  Jesus does this by structuring the parable so that he can introduce into the parable the figure of “suffering servant’ from Isaiah, especially Isaiah 52:13-53:12.  The servant figure in the parable with whom Jesus identifies is the man without the wedding garment who suffers expulsion, and worse, at the hand of the king.

The universally accepted reading of this parable comes to the exact opposite conclusion.  The king introduced at the beginning of the parable is understood as a reference to God, and the violence the king calls down upon the unrobed man is interpreted as sacred violence levied in judgment for the man’s absolute recalcitrance at accepting God’s invitation into his kingdom.

And that is why I think that church…the body of Christ…the expression and ambassadorship of The Kingdom of God here in the Earth, is like this fantastic, brilliant peaceful loving meal shared amongst fine wine, friends, and great conversation, and is a far more an accurate picture than the one accepted as being presented in the parable of the princes banquet.

What do you think?




14 thoughts on “Imagine church was a meal like this… [UPDATED]

  1. “Let’s face it, all right? The only place different social types can genuinely get along with each other is in heaven.” – JD, “Heathers”

    Church is never going to be that nice and that’s one of the reasons I don’t go anymore. Even in Paul’s day, it wasn’t that nice with petty arguments over gifts, favouriting one teacher over another and even fights over the food being offered.

    Admittedly, there’s no sign of being forced to sit down and stay awake listening to a boring talk in that video. That’s a huge plus.

  2. Mate, I have seen what you call the Church is going to evolve into, and it is amazing, thousands upon multiplied thousands of people in love with Jesus and with each other – but first Circe has to die and be reborn as the congregation of the circumcised. The Mega Churches are kind of a counterfeit of this – close as CZ is to Diamond – i looks all white at first glance but upon closer inspection, something is missing, indeed lacking. That something is Love and forgiveness – the church talks a big game but seems to keep striking out when it really gets down to it. Their answers do not work, there is hardly any or no Spirit, their is no sense of God really begin in the House, just a whole lot of joy junkies on Pharisaic Praisac.

    The NEW THING we need is the OLD THING.

    7. Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, except the old commandment, that which you possessed from the beginning of creation. The old commandment became the manifestation (word) that you heard.
    8. Again the new commandment I write you, that which became [realized through] him and is in you, that destroyed the darkness and revealed the Light of the truth anew.
    9. Whoever says that they are thus in the light but hate their brother, are in darkness still .
    10. But whoever loves their brother, are bound in the light and there is no hostility in them.
    11. But whoever hates their brother, is in darkness and by darkness (until now) perishes, and they know not which way they are going, for the darkness blinds their very eyes!

    Dinner by candle light, anyone? No whine aloud.

  3. So much expectation!

    I think, mostly, church is like the ideal in the video, and maybe even better. I’ve really enjoyed church life lately. Some wonderful people who are happy to serve one another, and similar gatherings to the video at various times in different locations.

    I have to say that, occasionally, church life has had its ups and downs, but that is family life isn’t it?

    Mostly, by comparison, my natural, extended family has wonderful times, and get on well, but there are a few bumps in the road on the way which are opportunities for us to gather around and work on together, and it’s been the same with church.

    When life is a challenge, or we have disagreements, or things aren’t so great, we pray together, we talk things over, in fact, these can be the times when we are joined even closer to work things through.

    Even Jesus and Paul and John, James and Peter had to work through the issues which come up.

    Did Jesus ever say there would be perfect days every day? No. He said in this world we would face challenges, but to be cheerful because he has overcome the world. And the church is not immune from the things which take place around us.

    Elwyn says he walked out on the church because he didn’t think it would ever be nice, yet his solution won’t help. It is defeatist and discouraging because he has chosen the graceless exit. No disrespect, Elwyn, but you didn’t hear that from Jesus. He would far rather you involved and helping mend any rifts than isolated and spreading your message of defeat.

    The video looks more like a well orchestrated, professional church event scenario.

    That is OK, but I have been in many, many meetings which were far more natural and less contrived than this, and the Holy Spirit’s Presence has been so rich and God-gorifying there is no way that even a picture perfect scene like this could come near what God provides for His children when they honour him, whether it is two or three or a crowd, and no matter where it is held, inside or out, because the glory of God transcends everything of the earth.

    But, having said this, these things are great to aspire to if your church experience falls short of God’s best for you.

  4. And you know something else? God is at work on His Church. Jesus said, “I will build My Church!”

    Jesus is coming back for a Glorious Church, and He will present her whole and perfected to Himself.

    We look at the flaws, but isn’t it true, Ian, that the flaw in a diamond is what identifies it as a true gem.

    By the time Jesus comes, we, the Church, will be without spot or blemish. Flawless, pure and holy, made righteous by the blood of the Lamb.

    There is far too mach criticism of what Jesus is building. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. We are complete in Him.

    We look at the Church through natural eyes. God sees us through the blood of Jesus, holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.

    Colossians 1:15-23
    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

    And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

    And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight–if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

    And all we have to do, as believers, and as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, is to continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel.

    That is what counts with Jesus to help present to Himself a Glorious Church.

  5. ““Let’s face it, all right? The only place different social types can genuinely get along with each other is in heaven.” – JD, “Heathers”
    Church is never going to be that nice and that’s one of the reasons I don’t go anymore. Even in Paul’s day, it wasn’t that nice with petty arguments over gifts, favouriting one teacher over another and even fights over the food being offered.”

    We don’t have a choice. Look up all the “one anothers” in the New Testament. Jesus wants his disciples to love one another.

    Anyway, there are fights and disagreements and hurt feelings in families, workplaces, schools, sporting clubs. If you don’t want disagreement or hurt feelings you’ll have to not interact with anyone. So what do you do? Just interact on blogs and websites?

    They tell me that even on blogs people have arguments….Never seen it myself, but that’s what they say.

  6. “They tell me that even on blogs people have arguments….Never seen it myself, but that’s what they say.”

    where? I’d like to see that blog…doesn’t sound like any blog I’d be a part of!

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