19 Pentecost
Sunday, October 11, 2020

The readings scheduled for Sunday — replaced for the much-anticipated celebration of the generous ministries of Sheryll Grogan and Lorraine Kamholtz — are worth a glance today because they offer insight into the Christian Life.

Matthew gives us a story — a parable? — about a king who had invited his citizenry to a feast on the occasion of his son’s wedding. All of the invited guests had excuses to stay home so they declined the invitation. When the king sent his servants back to re-invite his citizens and they refused again, the king razed the city and had the citizens killed. (So already, we know this is probably NOT a story about a gracious, loving God, right?) So, the king sends the servants to bring in anyone whom they see on the road, “both good and bad” into the feast, and the banquet hall is filled!

Yet, we find the king still a bit peeved as he catches sight of a man at the banquet — assuming it is one of those ‘good or bad’ people found by his servants — who is not wearing a wedding robe. The king grills the man and has him bound hand and foot and is then thrown into the darkness of the night. The story ends with Matthew writing, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

On first glance, this sounds outrageous. Is the king overreacting to someone who, though called in at the last minute, had no wedding robe to wear? Why would a king treat his subject with such violence over something which the man had no choice or control?

On further study, however, I find a larger issue at stake here: who is considered “in” and who is considered “out?”

Those who first were invited must have thought themselves as “in” folks. They lived in the kingdom of a generous monarch and believed themselves privileged, already basking in their good fortune as people entitled to an invitation. Not responding to the king’s call to participate more fully in the life offered them, they found themselves quickly on the outs.

Turning to those who previously had been on the outs of his kingdom, the ruler invites these folks in to celebrate his son’s wedding. These outsiders quickly become insiders when they say yes to the invitation, and are then able to enjoy the benefits of food, party and good dancing!

For whatever reason, a man with no wedding robe stood out. The king takes notice and effectively tells him, “You are no longer with those who are in.” With that, the man is tossed out.

I find this story helpful as I remember that the moment I think I am in with God and that I have some protected, privileged entitlement and deserve to be called a follower of Christ, I find myself on the outs. When I start to think that I have earned God’s grace and blessings through my baptism, or through regular attendance at church, or through my pledges and offerings, or through my “right thoughts” – I am on the outside of grace. Believing such, I no longer need the grace of God, and I live my life ignoring the call to reconcile the world to God, which is the central mission of all of us.

In Sunday morning’s Adult Forum we’re discussing how most of us live unaware of the privilege we have in society, and what we are willing to do to protect that privilege – to the detriment of others. What this ignorance buys us, sadly, is a false sense of security; that we are “in” with God — perhaps having earned our salvation? — and that we need not consider the plight of those who are “out.”

For the most part, we did not seek this privilege nor are we aware of its hold on us. The most insidious consequence of privilege is that it typically falls into our laps early in life, probably at birth, and survives unexamined for the benefit it provides. I think that’s the real risk to Christians. If we refuse to confront our privilege or deny its reality, we do so at the cost of oppressing those who do not enjoy the same privileges we have.

Daring to enter this discussion, is a small gathering of people of St. John’s who are taking this journey together. If you wish to join the conversation, we meet online Sunday mornings at 10 am; if you’d like to join us find the ZOOM link in my Saturday e-blast, or, if you didn’t receive it, email Scotty King and she’ll send it to you.

We are reading the book “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown. We have completed the first four chapters (only 66 pages of a quick read) and we ask that you please read it before joining the discussion.

Because so few people signed up for in-person worship tonight, Saturday, October 10, our usual Saturday night in-person service was canceled. It takes quite a bit of work to host this worship service, and we weigh the work our volunteers must do against the number of people asking to come. When it is so few, it becomes a burden to those who have volunteered to prepare and disassemble the required materials. Please make your reservations for next week, October 17, on our website home page beginning Monday morning.

St. John’s continues to pray as a community on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 9 a.m. The worship bulletin for Sunday, October 11 is here.

On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings, we pray together online at 8 p.m.

We have an online Bible Fellowship on Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m.

To ensure participants’ online security, we don’t publish the worship/study ZOOM links; if you did not receive the church-wide email from me with the links, and would like to attend services, please email me and I’ll add you to the e-blast, and send you the links.

Rev. Karen and I offer separate group office hours each week on ZOOM. My time is Tuesday morning from 10-11 a.m. Should you need a one-on-one session, just reach out and we’ll get something scheduled. Here is the link to my group office hour.

Rev. Karen’s office hours are Thursdays from 10-11 a.m. at this link.

Many are called. Have you chosen to live as if you have no privilege?

Blessings and peace.