Yesterday as a part of my sermon I used Matthew 22:1-14. This is the parable of a king who puts on a wedding banquet. All the things are in place for the banquet, there is only one problem, those who were invited we not there. The people who the king specifically invited did not show, so the king sends out messengers to the invitees to reinforce the invitation. The results, the people still do not come. In fact they kill some of the messengers. In the end the king invites who ever will come to share in the celebration. In a curious end of the story the king identifies one person at the party who was not prepared for a feast as such. So the king casts this individual to the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
There have been many people who have written about this parable, most of them way smarter than I am. The general feel of the parable interpretation is that those who didn't come are the religious people, those who come to the party are the everyday people looking to follow God, not a religion. The person who was thrown out in the twist ending is a religious person who tried to sneak into the banquet, but was not truly prepared for the feast of the King.
The amazing part is the religious people who were suppose to know better, didn't. The people who supposedly had their act together missed the boat. Rather than cancel the party, the king goes out and gets new people to share in the party. That would never happen now... would it?
The most dangerous thing in the church in America today is not Satan, though formidable, it is not an increasingly secular society. No the greatest challenge is from the people who are church people and nothing more. People who have been in the church, can tell you about it, can articulate the tenets of faith but are not interested in coming to the party. For almost half a century, using that term makes it seem longer, the church in American has been trying to reach those already "connected" to the church. Many a messenger has been killed and mistreated along the way. I say it is time to invite new people to the banquet. The mainline/oldline church in America is not simply broken it is on death's door. Unfortunately it is not dead, if death were to happen resurrection could occur. Resurrection cannot be experienced if there is not death.
Could it be that it is time to let the religious people go their way, and go to the streets to invite those who are looking for a party to go to?