Monday, October 6, 2008

many are called, but few are chosen

Matthew 22:1-14

What a seemingly strange text. Many are called, but few are chosen? What does this mean in light of Jesus' proclamation in Matthew that the poor and sex workers will go ahead of you to heaven. Will they only then be kicked out for not having the proper clothing?

That's a hard pill to swallow, unless it is a metaphorical understanding that we are called to be clothed in Christ. Even then, Jesus' own words that there will be others in heaven and with him that we would not expect would lead me to believe that this text is in tension with Jesus' calls for inclusion. Last weeks entry speaks more about that.

How can we believe that many are called, but few are chosen and still believe in the priesthood of all believers?

Some of these questions can be answered by nuances in the greek meaning of the word many. I had always read the many to mean the final group of people that came to the party. Yet, in the greek the word "many" is the equivalent to "all." All were invited but only a few bothered to show up or do what they ought. This is talking about the entierty of the story, not just about the last group that showed up. This new reading suggests that all are invited, and we are the ones who need to respond appropriately.

Yet, as a Lutheran pastor, I would not want you to think that I am saying that we are justified by our works.

While this passage may lend itself to the reading that if you do the right things you will have life and get to party with God(dess), I believe the deeper meaning comes from not splicing this text from the rest of Matthew. It is very fitting in Matthew's text that the poor would be the ones to overwhelmingly respond to the call. My concern with the one member of the lower class that is killed, caused me to forget that 100% of the upper class got it wrong.

Isn't that always the way that people, like me in this case, remember the slight of the poor more than the slights of the upper crust. Perhaps some people. Or, it could be that so much of my work is about making sure every person, regardless of their socioeconomic class gets fair and equal treatment, that I am just responding to my call to speak out for the poor.

No, we couldn't have expected the poor person to show up in the right outfit. Yes, it is better that he atleast made the effort to show up (probably knowing he would be killed). But, you and I both need to care equally for those in the highest offices as we do for those sleeping on the lowest sidewalks (and the otherway round).

This text teaches me my own biases. That's the point. No matter who we are rooting for. We are not only equal in our sinfulness, we are equal in our sense that our neighbor isn't getting their fair due (good or bad). We are the hands that need to be working to maintain God(dess) justice (Isaiah 56) and/or reminding God(dess) of the justice that has been promised, but is woefully overdue!

We've got work to do. It want save us, but we are all called nonetheless.

Proper 23A/Ordinary 28A/Pentecost +22

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