Radical Preaching

Can preaching again have something to say?
This blog marks the attempt to bring the theological vision of Radical Orthodoxy into the worship and preaching of the local church.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Preliminary Look at Matthew 22:1-14

Initial Thoughts on the Parable of the Wedding Feast

  1. The Father hosts a wedding feast for his son and invites
    "friends" to the dinner (vv. 1-3a).
  2. The "friends" reject the invitation and then violently reject
    the repeated invitation. The king responds to this rejection of
    his hospitality (vv. 3b-7).
  3. The King invites everyone to the party, except those who rejected
    him (vv. 8-10).
  4. The King tosses out the man who refuses to dress in his
    wedding garment (vv. 11-13).
  5. Many are called but few are chosen!?! (v. 14).

Context of the Parable

This parable comes after Jesus' triumphal entry in the midst of a series of confrontations between Jesus and the temple authorities. At some point, the Pharisees join in, forming a strange alliance between the two parties. They band together to question what gives Jesus the authority to speak and interpret the Law as he does. Jesus responds with a series of judgment parables (The Two Sons and the Parable of the Wicked Tenants). We often miss the radical nature of this section. Jesus is not there to cleanse the temple and reform the temple. He is there to judge the temple.

The parable of the wedding feast is both a kingdom and a judgment parable. Clearly, the parable paints a beautiful picture of the kingdom of God and describes it in rich detail. It also discusses that initially only "friends" are invited; however, here is where the judgment begins. The Father extends his invitation graciously to his friends who refuse him. In response, the Father throws open the doors and invites everyone in- both good and bad. When he arrives, though, he discovers one who refuses to wear a wedding garment, yet stands in the wedding hall preparing to participate in the feast. He, too, violates the host's hospitality and is cast out into the darkness as any wedding crasher would be.

Here Jesus sounds particularly harsh, "Many are called, but few are chosen." Yet, is this as harsh as it sounds? The close friends of the king are invited twice to come to a rich feast in celebration of a wedding. They are judged because they refuse to come to the party and celebrate joyously. As a result of their refusal, the king invites everyone in- the good alongside the bad. Only the man who refuses to dress appropriately for the party is cast out. He rejects the king's hospitality by refusing to participate fully in the party. Thus, it is not bad decisions or his past that condemns him, but only his refusal to participate in the King's feast! Judgment is brought about by refusing the King's invitation.

Potential Themes in Radical Orthodoxy
  1. The concept of "gift."
  2. Participation in the triune life of God leading to deification for humanity.
  3. Michael Hanby's development of doxological selfhood.
These three ideas are deeply interrelated, and all emerge out of Milbank's Trinitarian theology. Specifically, I will be working out of John Milbank, Being Reconciled, and Milbank et al., Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology.

The point of this conversation is to help make Radical Orthodoxy (RO) accessible for preaching, so I hope to try to minimize the sometimes incomprehensible vocabulary of RO. However, it will require we learn a new language together, but a language I believe will free us to preach the Gospel boldly freed from the shackles of modernity.

Grace and Peace,


Blogger Eric Lee said...


Neat. I just started reading Hanby's chapter on 'Desire' in the blue Radical Orthodoxy book today. It seems to be a good one.



October 04, 2005 11:24 PM  
Blogger St.Phransus said...

"Only the man who refuses to dress appropriately for the party is cast out. He rejects the king's hospitality by refusing to participate fully in the party."

I wonder if the guest's showing up is the "accepting of the kings hospitality"?

What if it were impossible for the guest to have the right dress for a party such as this- what are the implications toward the host?

Where does the idea of gift lie then- maybe the host has to reimagine how the gift is given or received (ie, the restrictions or "laws").

October 06, 2005 9:23 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

My thoughts would be that the parable seems to suggest that all these people were yanked off the street quickly and brought to the party, that no one had time to go home and get dressed.

What if the king provided everyone a wedding garment and the man refused to wear it? That was my interpretation. Specifically, I was thinking about earlier in the Gospel where Jesus describes the Pharisees rejection of both John and himself. They rejected him as a drunkard, as one who stayed with sinners too much. These are the ones who will show up at a good party and criticize the caterer, the drinks, the decorations, etc. You know the type, "Well, we don't do it that way at my house." They refuse to party, because the party is not done the way they wanted it (Jesus' messiahship for the Pharisees and temple authorities).

I think your point about gift is a good one. There is a lot of tension playing out in this parable, as we would expect with it taking place on the immediate ascent to the cross. I would say there is a dual movement of Jesus' desire to gift his people (Jerusalem, O Jerusalem, if only you would listen...) and the impending judgment that comes via the cross for those who refuse the gift and kill the servants who bring the gift.

October 07, 2005 7:17 AM  

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