Friday, August 24, 2012

Beggar's Banquet

"Tie him up, hands and feet, and throw him
into the darkness outside!"
Here's a tough one: After the right people refuse to come, EVERYONE--even the riff-raff--gets invited to this wedding banquet a king is throwing for his son. We like that part. But then when the king shows up, he finds this one guy not wearing a wedding suit and he tosses the guy out. We don't talk about that part.

Jesus has a way of getting on my nerves sometimes, as he does with this parable from Matthew 22:1-14. He gets on my nerves when he catches me off guard and when I don't understand him. He's supposed to stop at that part where everyone gets to come. The chosen ones refuse so the servants go out to the streets and the slums and make everyone feel cherished and special by inviting them to this sumptuous banquet.

What are you doing, Jesus?! 
You messed up the whole story!

The camera shifts to the banquet hall, to the grand double-doors where homeless vets are dropping their "will work for food" signs and filling their plates at the banquet table; where prostitutes are tugging awkwardly at their short skirts and sitting down at the king's table; where even corrupt Wall Street golden boys are coming empty-handed to stand at the back of a line that stretches out the door. The camera pans back to reveal the line of undesirables stretching across the grounds, out the front gate, and down the street. The music comes up as the credits roll. The End?

No, because at least one guy doesn't have the right clothes? So he's outta there! What are you doing, Jesus?! You messed up the whole story!

I think the irritation comes from the subtlety and seeming randomness, characteristic of a parable. There's a scene that I think is understood for Jesus, but which the movie needs to show to make sense of it all. After getting their fill at the banquet, the homeless vet gets up and finds an old dealer friend and the two go off into a room and start shooting heroin; the prostitute starts hitting on the groomsmen to try and drum up some business; the Wall Streeters make rotten business deals with unsuspecting guests at the dinner table. Everyone has a good time while widows sit alone at their kitchen tables and AIDS-orphans forage for food in the dumpsters. But we're at the banquet, so everything is fine, right?

It's not enough to come to the banquet. We also have to change our clothes. It may not be heroin or prostitution or white-collar crime. But compulsive eating and pornography and consumerism will do nicely. We each have our stinky rags that we parade around in as if we're fine, though for most of us it's our underwear. We keep our rot to ourselves, satisfied that we're at the banquet. We're satisfied that we're telling everyone they're ok: "God loves you and your cute little cancerous corruption..." Oh, we might pick and choose a few things we don't like, a few types we don't allow: "You can't stay at the banquet and be _____!"

Thing is, Jesus seems to have something to say about it. And I'll warn you, it might get on your nerves.

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