the Rev. Lee Woofenden
Massachusetts, November 23, 2003
25:6-9 A feast of rich food for all peoples
this mountain, the Lord of hosts will prepare a feast of
rich food for all peoples, a banquet of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines
strained clear. On this mountain he will destroy the
shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that is
spread over all nations. He will swallow up death
forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all
faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from
all the earth. The Lord has spoken.
that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we
trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord; we
trusted in him. Let us rejoice and be glad in his
22:1-14 The parable of the wedding banquet
spoke to them again in parables, saying: "The
kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding
banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who
had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come,
but they refused to come.
he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who
have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My
oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and
everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.'
they paid no attention and went off--one to his field,
another to his business. The rest seized his servants,
ill-treated them, and killed them. The king was enraged.
He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and
burned their city.
he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready,
but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the
street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you
find.' So the servants went out into the streets and
gathered all the people they could find, both good and
bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a
man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 'Friend,'
he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding
clothes?' The man was speechless.
the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot,
and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there
will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
many are invited, but few are chosen."
and Hell #274 Spiritual food
perfects angels and makes their life--and heaven with
its blessings flows into them according to their wisdom.
Because of this, all the angels in heaven long for
wisdom, and seek it out almost the same way a hungry
person seeks out food. In fact, information,
intelligence, and wisdom are spiritual nourishment just
as food is physical nourishment. They correspond to one
kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding
banquet for his son. (Matthew 22:2)
are all invited to the biggest banquet ever. In fact,
everyone in this town, everyone in this state, everyone
in this country, and everyone in this world--and for
your fans of extraterrestrials, everyone in this universe--is
invited to one great big huge banquet! If you take
Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter dinners and roll
them all into one, it doesn't come anywhere near this
banquet we are all invited to is the banquet of heaven.
Jesus says so right in the parable. "The kingdom of
heaven," he says, "is like a king who prepared
a wedding banquet for his son." At first only a
certain number of invited guests were called to the
banquet. But soon, anyone and everyone was brought in,
to make sure that the wedding hall was filled with
guests. And you know what? There's a lot of room
in that heavenly banquet hall!
sermon series this fall has been on the general theme
"On Earth as it Is in Heaven." We have been
using the spiritual meaning of Jesus' parables of the
kingdom of heaven from the Gospel of Matthew, together
with passages from Emanuel Swedenborg's most popular
book, Heaven and Hell, to bring some light from
heaven into our lives here on earth. And of course, when
we make our life here on earth a heaven, we are also
being prepared for life in heaven forever. In other
words, we are becoming angels.
are only two parables of the kingdom of heaven left in
our series, and both of them tell the story of a wedding
banquet. On December 7, our final sermon on the series
will look at the parable of the ten virgins--five
foolish and five wise--and how they fared getting into a
wedding banquet. And this week, we take our theme from
the parable of the wedding banquet thrown for a king's
would Jesus, in his final, crowning parables about the
kingdom of heaven, use the metaphor of a wedding
banquet? Is heaven really like a wedding banquet?
bet it is!
of all, heaven is like a wedding. This metaphor
is used in many places in both the Old and New
Testaments. The God of Israel is said to be the husband
of the people Israel in many powerful passages from the
Prophets. Usually, Israel is portrayed as an unfaithful
bride and wife. In the New Testament, these two final
parables of the kingdom are only two of many references
to marriage and heaven--which, toward the end of the
final book of the Bible, is called "the wedding
supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9).
us on earth, weddings are one of our most joyous
occasions. They are celebrations of love. In fact, they
are celebrations of the deepest and most intimate type
of love that one human being can have for another. Our
church's belief is that if a couple is truly married in
their souls, and if they grow in love for one another,
and grow together in love for the Lord and their fellow
human beings, then the marriage begun here on earth
continues to grow in mutual love, intimacy, and joy
forever. From our perspective, heaven can be seen almost
as a literal wedding banquet, since the angels
live in a continual celebration of the joys of marriage
in heavenly community with other joyfully married
the people of Palestine two thousand years ago, a
wedding was also one of the most joyous occasions. To be
invited to a wedding feast--especially one given by a
wealthy person or a king--was considered a great honor.
The festivities often went on for days, and the guests
themselves would be treated royally, with no expense
spared to bring them the finest foods, drinks, and
entertainments. It was an all-out celebration!
Jesus' hearers, then, it would have been truly amazing,
even shocking, that none of the guests invited to the
banquet for the king's son were willing to come. Not
only would they miss a tremendous party, but in refusing
to attend, they would terribly offend the king--who was
not a good person to offend! Any one of the crowd of
common people in the Lord's audience would have been
overjoyed to take their place at the wedding feast. And
in the parable, that is exactly what happens. The common
people were used to coming in after the invited guests
had their fill, and finishing up the leftovers. But to
be the first seated at a wedding feast thrown by the
king? This was something few of them would ever aspire
course, at the time it was told, the barb in Jesus'
parable was aimed at those well-to-do, powerful, and
self-satisfied Jews of the ruling classes who refused to
hear his word and join the spiritual wedding banquet
that he was offering first to the Jews, and then to the
people of all the other nations and clans as well. And
the part about sending his army to destroy those
murderers and burn their city was literally fulfilled
four decades after the Lord's death when the Romans
besieged and sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD.
of course, the people of the highways and byways, both
good and bad, who were invited into the banquet hall to
replace those rude and ungracious invited guests
referred to the crowd of common people who heard the
Lord's words gladly, and from whom most of the converts
to Christianity came.
the man without a wedding garment had its fulfillment in
Jesus' immediate circle. Judas, one of the twelve
disciples, showed himself not to be truly in the spirit
of the kingdom of heaven at the banquet of the Lord's
last supper with his disciples. At that time, he went
out into the darkness, both literally and in his spirit,
and thus shut himself out of communion with the Lord.
as with all of Jesus' stories and teachings, this
parable refers to much more than the immediate situation
in the Palestine of his day. If these parables are,
indeed, part of the eternal Word of God, then their
meaning must also be timeless and eternal. That means
they must speak to us today just as much as they spoke
to the Jews and Gentiles of two thousand years ago.
is why I opened by telling you that you are all invited
to the biggest wedding banquet ever! The invitation that
the king extends to his invited guests is extended also
to each one of us, and to all of us together. The king,
of course, is the God of the universe, who invites us to
his own wedding banquet. It is the banquet in which we,
as his congregation, are invited into spiritual and
eternal union with our Creator, and into joyous
community and celebration with one another.
is the banquet of heaven? In our reading from Heaven
and Hell, Swedenborg tells us that information,
intelligence, and wisdom are spiritual food for us. And
unless our minds have gone completely dead, it is very
true that we seek information, understanding, and wisdom
the way a hungry person seeks out food.
is true both on the material level and on the spiritual
level. For example, if we are in the market for a new
car, what is the first thing we do? We look into the
various makes and models, and find out which ones would
meet our particular needs. For a family, seating and
cargo capacity are essential! For a commuter, something
smaller and more maneuverable might be the ticket. For a
contractor, the vehicle of choice will likely be a
truck. Once we have narrowed it down to a particular
type of car, we search out the best comparative
information we can find on the various models in that
category. Which is the safest? The most reliable? The
best on gas mileage? What features do they have? We know
that if we don't do our homework, we might get stuck
with a purchase we regret. So we spend hours researching
the various models, visiting the car lots, and educating
ourselves so that once we make our choice, we will be
happy with the vehicle we buy.
up a level, we spend many years educating our children
and ourselves for life in this world. Twelve years of
grade school is just the beginning. Then there is
college, and for many, graduate school. That is a
tremendous chunk of our lives spent gaining knowledge
and understanding for our life's work! And it doesn't
stop once we leave school. We continue with on-the-job
training, continuing education, reading, and many other
ways of seeking out and gaining fresh knowledge that
will be useful and enjoyable to us.
the same true if we are seeking eternal life in heaven?
If we want to develop our spirit, and live in the
ways of the Lord, don't we also need to seek out spiritual
information, intelligence, and yes, wisdom?
more than ever, people are seeking out spiritual
understanding. Mainstream bookstores that used to have
perhaps a shelf or two of religious books now have major
sections devoted to spirituality. In greater numbers
than ever before, people are realizing that the things
of this world--money, power, physical pleasure--have
their limits, and do not bring real happiness or
satisfaction. And so there is a great hunger for
spiritual knowledge and insight.
other words, people are hearing God's invitation to the
spiritual wedding banquet. Never mind that the political
and intellectual leaders of our country and our world
have refused God's invitation to live for love, peace,
justice, and integrity, and have chosen instead the way
of wealth, power, greed, and war. These are the invited
guests--those who had access to all the social
advantages and all the leading-edge knowledge of the
world. And they have made excuses--one going off to the
fields of power and influence on the international
stage, another to the business of corporate profits.
Meanwhile, the common people, traveling the highways and
byways of life, are responding to the call. Not all, of
course; but enough to make the quest for spiritual
growth one of the fastest growing trends in our culture.
each one of us there is a similar choice. Each one of us
also has our worldly-wise self, educated in how to get
more and better for ourselves--the part of us that
considers a real commitment to spiritually based
living to be a hindrance to our ambitions. Each one of
us has reasons why it would be more convenient to refuse
the Lord's invitation to the great wedding feast, and
focus instead on the business of getting along in this
world. And each one of us, at times, has made excuses,
and gone our own way instead of the Lord's way.
if we lift our minds to a higher level, and look at what
we humans are doing when we refuse the Lord's
invitation, it really does look ridiculous. In fact, it
looks just as crazy as being invited to a banquet at the
king's house, and refusing it. How many of us, if
invited to dinner at the White House, or at one of the
country's wealthiest homes, would send our regrets? Who
wouldn't cancel whatever we had scheduled, if only for
the Lord's invitation is even crazier. This invitation
is not just for an afternoon and evening of fine food,
drink, and entertainment. It is an invitation to an
eternity of love, joy, satisfaction, mutual
companionship, and fulfillment of our deepest desires.
Here on earth, the Lord's invitation is to a way of life
that goes beyond the temporary satisfactions of money,
power, and physical pleasure. It involves becoming
people who can be in loving and lasting relationships
that don't break up and go sour. It involves finding the
life's work that we love most, and that will give us
continuing satisfaction and joy as we serve our fellow
human beings in ways that are truly constructive and
good. It involves having the peace of knowing deep
within ourselves that whatever we may go through in this
life, the Lord is always with us, and always guiding us
toward greater joy and happiness.
are all invited to the biggest wedding banquet ever. The
Lord is sending out messengers to us in the Bible, in
the teachings of our church, in our teachers, mentors,
and friends. Will we answer the call? It would be
foolish not to! What we leave behind will be nothing
compared to the rich blessings that the Lord will give
© Bruce DeBoer - Used with Permission
Color Scroll Bar Script Courtesy of:
Script Courtesy of:
Photo Courtesy of Corel Gallery
Design by Judy