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Focus from the Rev. David F. Sellery, Priest-In-Charge, St. John’s Church, Salisbury, CT RSVP - Matthew 22: 1-14

On the surface, this is a very dark gospel. Jesus sees Calvary coming. He knows that the powerful want him dead. But he doesn’t flinch. Over and over he pounds home his message: Repent and embrace the kingdom of God… or face the consequences. There's nothing sweet or soothing here. Our loving Savior is saying: Put up or shut up. Turn away from sin. And come to my feast. Or perish with the proud. The choice is ours.

There's a line attributed to Thomas More that the nobility of England would have snored through the Sermon on the Mount. But there’s nothing sleep inducing here. Today's gospel is full of very hard edges… invitation and ingratitude, rejection and retribution. It’s a four-alarm wake up call. Gone is the sunny radiance of the Sermon on the Mount. No more is Jesus punctuating his teachings with crowd pleasing miracles.

In the words of Peter Finley Dunne, Christ has come to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. This morning he’s asking us: Which side are you on? There’s no middle ground here.
Every new day presents us with the same question… confronts us with the same challenge. We are invited to live God's kingdom. We are asked to shed the rags of sin and put on the wedding garment of grace. He is calling us to come to his feast. God's love is there for the taking... and never to be taken for granted.

In this and in every gospel, Jesus speaks to his immediate audience, but he also speaks directly to us, right here, right now. For those in Jerusalem who heard and rejected his words, the destruction of the temple and the wrath of God awaits them just over the horizon. For those of us who read and accept his Word, a life in Christ will be followed by an eternity of joy.

From beyond the beginning of time, God has known and loved us. The Father created us to be happy with him. He preserved his Chosen People to hand on his commandments. He sent his Son to die for our salvation. Then he established his Church to teach us and to nurture our faith. All of this was done to prepare you and me for the feast. And every day of our lives we are invited anew… to come, to live, to rejoice in the praise God and to love our neighbor. Every day the choice is ours... eternal feast or endless famine. Are you coming to the feast or are you staying in your sin… in your inertia… in your pride and preoccupation?
You’d think that this decision would be the original “no-brainer.” But how often we get it wrong. We are so busy getting and holding, wanting and consuming… that we ignore the invitation placed before us. We are so self-absorbed that we can’t hear Christ’s constant call. Sure, we’ll get to it sometime. But not just yet. We forget that we live in a blink of eternity. The days of our own physical temple are numbered. The days of the wedding feast are endless.

It is one of the great tragedies of our time that so many who have been baptized into the Faith… across the full spectrum of Christian denominations… have drifted away into secular oblivion. And with them they have dragged a generation of innocent children who may never know the Lord.

For those who have strayed… and for all of us who cling to the Lord… this gospel is a reminder that our generous God is a just God… but, above all, he is a loving, merciful God. He doesn’t give up on us, even when we have given up on him. He doesn’t stop calling when we have stopped listening. Every day he is present to us in those around us. He knows our failings and our foolishness. Yet every day he invites us again and again. This morning, let's accept the King's invitation. Let us put on Christ… the wedding garment that we received in baptism. Let’s RSVP. Let’s tell him: Thank you, Father. Joyfully… humbly… gratefully… we are coming to your feast.
eDevotions from The Rev.Bob Dannals Daily Devotionals - Proper 23, Year A: Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 'The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet...' - Matthew 22: 1

As Jesus describes what heaven is like he speaks not of angels or clouds but of a banquet, a wedding feast. A wedding reception in Jesus' day was no small affair; the celebration lasted an entire week. In Jesus' story, the king prepares a fabulous feast, but no one comes. He surveys the empty banquet hall, then he does an extraordinary thing: he invites everyone in the surrounding region; in short, the whole world. In quick order the entire assortment of God's children are enjoying the banquet meal.

Challenge and Opportunity:

Jesus told this parable in the Temple precinct in Jerusalem, their version of the Park Cities in Dallas, or the upper East Side in Manhattan, or Buckhead in Atlanta. The area was a bastion of wealth, influence, and religious connections. He uses this parable to get their (and our) attention. Imagine the story playing out in our neighborhood around the church. It could have taken place at one of the country or eating clubs. Jesus tells his hearers that every assortment of person was there: the buttoned-up business executive, the tattooed motorcycle rider, the chiseled athlete, the low-income single mother, the counter-cultural teenager, the stay-at-home suburban mom, the brilliant academic, the rock-star plastic
surgeon. They're all there! The good news is that the gathering also includes us. In our imagination, then, while we are mingling and eating in this depiction, we are given a vivid experience of the Kingdom of God, now and in its final reality. What do you think?
Clergy Confidential: Finding God in Daily Chaos by Tim Schenck Patriotic Duty

It was quite a weekend of football here in New England this past week. The Patriots pulled out a victory against a tough Houston Texans team in classic, last-minute Tom Brady fashion. Boston College hung valiantly with national powerhouse Clemson before being overwhelmed in the fourth quarter.

Yet for all the action on the field, it was the conversation outside the lines that had the greatest impact. The posture of players during the singing of the National Anthem became more relevant than the final score. Kneeling or standing was subjected to greater analysis than blocking and tackling and the deep divisions within our nation were again exposed.

The emotional impact of this latest flashpoint is profound and there are few moderate voices on this issue — just log onto Twitter. The two trending hashtags #TakeAKnee and #StandUp point to just how polarizing this issue has become. The players who have chosen to kneel during the anthem — predominantly though not exclusively African-American — are either vilified as “whiny, millionaire athletes, disrespecting our nation” or celebrated as “prophetic voices fighting against injustice.” As with many divisive issues, where you stand depends on where you sit.
As someone who spends a lot of time both kneeling before an altar and standing behind one, I feel attuned to the rhythm of honor, sacrifice, service, and respect. Yes, as a Christian, my allegiance is ultimately pledged to the cross, but I understand the emotions surrounding loyalty and community.

What I don’t understand is how patriotism has somehow become the exclusive domain of the military. This is so often the response from people incensed at players taking a knee during the anthem — that to do so is a direct slap at our country’s soldiers. Serving one’s country through the armed forces is absolutely a patriotic act. I am thankful for those who have served, those who are serving, and those who have lost their lives in defense of this nation. They are indeed patriots.

Yet what gets lost in this perspective is forgetting that protest is also a form of patriotism. Rosa Parks sitting down on that bus in Montgomery is as patriotic an act as soldiers storming Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

We may not be able to solve the deep divisions in our country overnight but maybe we can work together to broaden the definition of patriotism. I’m convinced that patriotism transcends posture. So while it is patriotic to enlist in the armed forces, it is also patriotic to volunteer at a local food pantry; or have a heartfelt, honest conversation with someone who holds a divergent viewpoint; or donate money to support
hurricane relief; or listen to the concerns of those crying out for racial justice.

One of the main reasons I served in the Army was to defend everyone’s right to voice their opinion — whether or not I agreed with it. That’s the Constitution I vowed to defend and that’s the America I dream about. What makes America great is our openness to debate and difference — not blind allegiance or a disregard for those who don’t look or think like us.

Patriotism, like much of life, is not always so black and white. It’s not just a matter of loving it or leaving it; of standing or kneeling. There are shades of gray in the complex society in which we live and recognizing that patriotism comes in many forms is one way we can authentically honor America.

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