Thanksgiving Everday

Good Morning Sisters and Brothers,

Grace is a central part of our Wesleyan theology. It is the foundation on which our entire denomination and the sense through which we read all of scripture. This grace flows from the great love that God has for all of creation and is a gift which is given freely without the need for human action or response. This grace helps to stir our desire for God and connection to the Creator of the Universe. In my estimation it is the single greatest gift that our Creator could give to us in this life. It is this grace that we see in our parable for today. It is this grace that is offered freely and with persistence from our Creator. There is nothing that we can do in order to earn this grace or to not earn it. It is a free gift that is given to all humans and is not given to simply the select few. God’s love is abundant and for all of God’s creation. Today we will be exploring the multiple ways in God’s grace has real impact on our daily lives, while also discovering how we can be more thankful too. Because this week we will come together with family or friends and sit around a table with a lot of good food. Though we may do this often, it is on days like Thanksgiving that we are more free to do so with all the people that we love.

There will be conversation, laughter, joy and maybe even some debate about the politics in our country today, though I hope not too much. If you are like my family, you will have an opportunity to share about the things that you are thankful for this year. And though it is not quite thanksgiving day yet I will share with you all that I am thankful for the great opportunity to be your pastor and see you all work together in ministry for others. I am thankful for the heart that this church has for mission and ministry, whether it be the bear ministry, suicide awareness, quilting, the food pantry, or the many other missions that we do. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve with you all through a season of uncertainty.

Thanksgiving is a special day because it affords us a chance to reflect on what God has been doing in our lives. We can reflect on how the spirit and grace of God has been moving in us over the past year. It is honestly a great holiday to have prior to Advent by giving us a day in which we can get into that mindset of thankfulness for all that God has done to provide for us and what God is going to do to provide for us. It is also a time for us to enjoy in some much needed food!! Something that I think is safe to assume all of us Methodists and especially life long Methodists can approve of. We truly do know how to prepare for and host a banquet, which is usually how I would describe this day at my parents house.

You can’t have a party without a lot of food and this is something that we can see is the case with this wedding banquet from our Matthew passage today. This king has prepared a huge wedding feast, killing his oxen and fattened cattle to make sure that there will be enough to go around for the important guests that have been invited to attend this party. The king has prepared this feast for those who have already refused to come out and join him.

With any parable there are many different things that we can learn from them and this week I noticed something that I believe is extremely important for us. When I have thought on this passage before I thought about how it can be an image of the paradise or eternal life that God is preparing for us. What I have found so interesting more recently is that this passage shows the persistence and grace of the king to come to those who have already rejected him and refused to attend his party and invite them again. I think that if I was the king I would be frustrated and offended with these ungrateful people. They have been invited to the party of a lifetime and are refusing to come. Yet the king continues to invite them. I can not think of a better example of God’s abundant grace with us, who may not always do our best to respond to the invitations that God gives to us.

So often when we read passages that describe paradise, like this one, we think about the life to come after this one. We speak about the life that will be free of all pain and suffering and though this is where our hope lies and though this is not wrong it does not always speak to what we need to be thinking of or working towards today. The Kingdom which is promised to us is not something that is simply for the future. The Kingdom which is promised is not simply an abstract idea of what God will present later because it has already been given to us!! We are living in the midst of that future Kingdom. As theologians we call this the already and the not yet. The tension between the Kingdom that we are experiencing now, but that has not been fully realized and embodied yet.

In this parable of the wedding banquet we see the king who extends these invitations even to those who refuse to attend. This King shows grace that is abounding and what may seem reasonable. This King helps to set the tone for the second round of guests that will be invited. The tone being set is that there are certain expectations for those who are invited and how they are to respond. This King makes the choice in response to that rebellious first group to open this invitation up to everyone. The king, who has sent our servants to bring invitations to the guests, sends out a third group with a new message that corresponds to the great commission. The invitation is no longer just for those who had previous accepted the first invitation and chose to not come, but is instead extended to all.

This passage was written in such a way and the parable by Christ was taught in such a way of showing how this whole paradise and after life thing would work as well as the change that is expected when you take on this life as a Christian. The image that is presented is of a party that is open for all to come. This party or paradise is not given only to the select few, but is presented as a gift for all to enjoy. The King started with the invitations given to the select few, think the Israelites, and when they were not accepting of it in full the King opens it up to the rest, think the gentiles. We were given the gift of eternal life because God in Christ offered it to all of us. Christ has invited each and every person to come and be apart of this family that he is building. This is something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day. When we sit down and bless our meal with family or friends this week, we are able to glimpse the paradise that Christ has offered and is preparing for all of his creation. This is Good News!! It is also an incredible example of God’s grace given freely to all people on this planet that we call home.

This grace and love that we experience from our Lord should then compel us to change. We need to be able to observe our own short comings and see where God needs us to grow. God has not left us alone in this journey, but through the grace that has been given to all of us we can be made new each and every day. It is through the grace that is in each and everyone of us that we can develop more and more into the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we make the choice to follow Christ and to accept his invitation to this great banquet we inherently are asking him to change us by that renewing of our minds. We are praying that God will move in us through the grace that is already present to see the world in a new light and respond to where we see God working in this world. In the early church they had this description of our new identity in Christ. They described this new identity of conversion as donning a new set of clothes. The early Christians expressed this conversion experience as a changing of clothes, taking off the old clothes of this world in order to put on the new Christian Identity.

This great and wonderful banquet that the King was inviting others to come to required that you put on the right clothing. You were expected to come ready and prepared to enter the party. You could not simply show up to the party and come in if you were not willing to change clothes. In the same way when we are responding to the calling that Christ has given to join his family and be a part of that kingdom and come to that feast we are expected to be renewed. We are expected to develop and become more like that image of Christ. Though God does not make us do this on our own we are expected to live in such a way that God could say “well done, good and faithful servant”.

Friends, this is such an important passage. It is especially important as we sit around a table this week and enjoy the feast that we have prepared together. It is important as we embrace our loved ones and experience a glimpse of this paradise that we understand what this means for us. It means that God has abundant grace that is never ending. This God who has made us loving in their image will constantly send us invites. This God has removed the stipulations of who is invited and that all are now invited. And if we choose to accept this invitation we are expected to come ready with the right clothes. We are expected to leave behind the things that separate us from one another and be the Kingdom of God now. This banquet is already present with us. The love which God inspired the writers of our good book with is a love that we see in the writing of someone like CS Lewis. It is this love that we have for one another that will help to bring about this Kingdom here on Earth. It is this love that will assist us in putting on that cloak of Christ. It is this love that will change the world and make it as it was supposed to be. There is nothing more important in this life than allowing for the grace that God has presented us with to be the driving force for love in our world. It is our job to make sure that this is shared with all persons and that they know why we are sharing it with them. Amen.