This is a short sermon (for me! :-)) We are taking the Congregational Life Survey at the end of the service, and I wanted to leave at least 20 minutes out of the hour.
The text is Matthew 22:1-10 - The Parable of the King's Banquet. I'm not reading the part about the man without the wedding garment. THAT's another story, my dears!
Woody Allen said “80% of success is just showing up.”
This is certainly borne out by the parable Jesus tells in our scripture today: The big mistake is made by those who choose not showing up to participate in the King’s celebration. And the big success is achieved by those from the highways and byways, not by strenuous effort or massive preparation or surpassing worth - but just by showing up to be there when the celebration began.
Just showing up doesn’t sound like much of a challenge to set before God’s people. Just show up. Just be present. Just attend.
But how often we miss the celebration by failing to be present in the moment that God has so carefully prepared. How often we walk right past the feast the God has spread before us, too preoccupied with other concerns to even notice the brimming cup, the lavish table, too busy, way too busy to pause for the anointing that soothes and heals.
Life unfolds in the present. But so often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, and squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what's past. (Quote from a site on the internet)
God is eternal. We sing it every Sunday - as it was in the beginning, is not and ever shall be - but the words and glorious music fly past us, out of our mouths without ever entering our hearts, so anxious are we to get on with the service - get to our favorite part - the benediction haha - and go on with the rest of our busy busy day.
God is eternal. Past Present and Future all belong to Him. But the only time that we can experience his presence, and partake of God’s goodness is in the present time. Now is all we have. It is our opening into eternity. The present is a gift that we too often take for granted and refuse to open, or to open ourselves to experience.
One of the things I love most about Jesus is that he is incredibly present to those he encounters in his life. He pays attention to the fishermen beside the Sea of Galilee. He notices the beauty of the lilies of the field. He isn’t in a hurry to get the children to go sit down so that he can get on with the task of preaching to the grown ups. He takes them in his arms and blesses them. He rises early in the morning to go off to pray - to give to God his undivided attention.
How would our lives look if we, too, practiced being present to people in our lives and in the present with the God we say we love? You can’t do that all the time - you may say. Well, of course. But what if we spent this hour every week with our eyes and ears wide open to God’s love? What would we see in this present moment?
A couple of Sundays ago, when the service was over, one of you said, Did you see, there was a nice little moment, when one of the Sunday School teachers invited a child who was here alone to sit with her. Did you see it? It was just a moment, but it was full of grace.
Do you notice the glow on the face of new parents, or the beauty of an older couple holding hands? Do you see the kindness in the manner the elders pass communion, or feel the power of our voices raised together in song? Does the familiar sound of a friend’s voice calm your heart?
These things happen and we could experience them every time we gather, for when we are gathered in His Name, our Lord and Savior is present with us.
And it is not just on Sunday that God invites us to show up at the banquet of life. Far from it! Our moments and our days are full of the gracious love of God, who invites and invites and invites us to be part of the celebration He has prepared.
This week, my prayer is that we will show up for the banquet. That we will actually be alive to the moments that nourish and sustain us.
Maybe a bedtime story for a child. Maybe a quiet dinner with a loved one. Maybe an honest conversation with a friend, or a stranger. Maybe a few minutes of gratitude before the day begins.
There will be a knock on the door of your heart and you will sense the invitation to come to God’s banquet. You will know that all is prepared and it is time for you to come. You will feel the urge to make excuses for yourself and be too busy to attend the party. But what a shame it would be to miss it!
Because the largest part of success is JUST SHOWING UP.