Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
Each year Her Majesty the Queen invites a number of members of the public who have made a positive impact on their community to a Garden Party in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Tea and sandwiches are served with a slice of cake, but the highlight must be to see the Queen who will come down at 4pm to take tea in the Royal Tea Tent with specially selected guests. Dress, of course is formal, morning suit or lounge suit for the gentlemen and day dress with a hat for the ladies. Obviously any old dress will not do, and so time for an expensive new one! As only a relatively few members of the public are invited to the Party it is a great honour, something that will bring great joy, so that the Royal invitation will no doubt remain on the mantelpiece for years to come as a reminder.
In Sundays Gospel reading (Matthew 22:1-14) we hear about another garden party. Here Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to the wedding feast of a king for his son. Here, too, many people are invited but, strangely, the select few who were originally expected to attend declined, and so the king ordered his servants to scour the highways and byways to bring in any person they found. Thus the party was filled with a variety of people who might not normally have been seen in polite society, “good and bad alike” (Matt 22:10); even the thief crucified with Jesus found a place at table. You see, rather than just a select few being invited, everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation is welcome in the kingdom of heaven. And, yes, like the guests at the Queen’s garden party they were attired in their best wedding clothes.
Now, think about that for a few minutes. How wonderful is it to know that God welcomes each and every one of us into His kingdom “good and bad alike”! Remember, however, that although we are all invited we do not have to accept His invitation; as the parable tells us many did not. What about you, will you accept His invitation? Maybe you think yourself unworthy but our loving compassionate God loves every member of his Creation equally.
Let me repeat that, we are all invited to God’s wedding banquet; in accepting we must allow the rags of our old life to be exchanged for the freely given robes of holiness and right living. ‘Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ’ as St Paul says in his Epistle to the Romans (13:14).
And what should be our response to such a wonderful invitation? St Paul again, this time from his Epistle to the Philippians that we also heard on Sunday: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say Rejoice.’ Philippians 4:4
I invite you to join with me in a simple prayer: ‘Father it is such an honour to be invited to your banquet; make us worthy of our calling. Amen’.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years