Enemies of Gratitude - A Feeling of Entitlement - Wellington First Assembly

Wellington First Assembly

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Enemies of Gratitude - A Feeling of Entitlement

Enemies of Gratitude – Entitlement

I’m going to begin today with a question, a quick survey?
If you received a wedding reception invitation from someone you didn’t know, would you go?
If you received a wedding reception invitation from a wealthy celebrity, all expenses paid would you go?

Back in July 2014, a young woman and her fiancé sent out a text invitation to their friends, inviting them over for a wedding reception, photo shoot, and BBQ.  As happens with cell phones, numbers get changed often as people switch carriers, and one recipient quickly shot back – Who is this?  

After the reply came back, the unintended text receiver went ahead and confirmed their reservation – saying, "you have the wrong number, but yes, my boys and I will be there."

The bride quickly replied back, texting “Oh sorry, not an invite for strangers!

The person on the other side replied – “We are still coming!”[i]

Now that’s an uninvited guest!


Please stand with me as you are able as we read in God’s Holy Word, from the Gospel of Matthew 22 8-10.

8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So, the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Our scripture text today is all about a wedding reception.  A banquet.   Not just any banquet – but the mother of all banquets.  An expensive extravaganza, where no expense was spared.  I spent 10 years in the Hospitality industry and saw countless wedding receptions hosted in our facility.  Horse and carriage coming down the path, dropping off the bride and groom, helicopters dropping in the newlyweds, and other crazy stunts.  Over two decades ago, the final tabs for some of the ornate receptions topped $25,000.

Let me tell you, the banquet described in this passage made those weddings look like little local shindigs.  About 5 years ago now, the English royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton cost $34 million.  That is probably the best comparison for the story that Jesus is telling.  We’re not talking Party City and Dollar General stuff here!

If you are living check to check, picking up extra items at the food bank to make it through the month and you get a legitimate invitation to this type of wedding – there are three questions most people ask themselves…

1)    How hungry am I?
2)    What should I wear?
3)    How in the world did I get an invite?

These are questions that people of entitlement do not ask.  People who feel privileged do not care.  They assume they deserve it.  They have people who have people to get them what they want.  Their basic needs are taken care of – ample food, lavish clothing, magnificent shelter.  When you live in that situation – you lose focus on what gratitude really is all about.  Entitlement is an enemy of gratitude.
How do you know you aren’t lulled into an entitled feeling?  You are always asking these questions.  You recognize your humility in the situation, you see your dependence upon the provision of God, and you know that there is nothing that you, in your own abilities did, to deserve any of this.


Let’s look at that last question first.  How in the world did I get an invite?  The simple reason is this – someone else was a no show.  Someone else cancelled.  Someone else thought that the wedding reception was not worth their time.  Someone else thought that the bride and groom were not worth celebrating.  Someone else thought the king wasn’t worth their time. – So, a spot opened.

We didn’t read the previous verses – you can read the entire chapter at home later today.  But let me give you a recap.  There was a guest list.  And your name was not on the original one.  Other names were.  Why did they not come?  The simple answer – they thought that didn’t need to.  Let’s remember an important fact about royal weddings in that era – and to some degree true all the way through the 20th century.  Weddings were peace treaties between kingdoms.  Attending a wedding showed that you were allies with the other party. You were loyal and had mutual respect.  To not attend, indicated that you disagreed with the politics, that you might be considering war, that you no longer that you needed them.  If you didn’t show, it indicated that you thought you were entitled to something based off a treaty or a relationship that you made years ago – a relationship that you had not put anything into.

As was customary in that time, two sets of invitations were sent out – the first, announcing the event, proclaiming, save the date.  Giving people ample time to make the necessary arrangements. Sometimes these announcements were a whole year or two ahead of time.  Since events like this only happened every decade or so, it would be the major social event on any calendar.  And yes, you did need time to prepare for these royal banquets.  They weren’t just a couple hours around a bonfire eating brats!  We know that the banquet King Xerxes had, recorded in the book of Esther, lasted 187 days.  That’s six months. – Now that’s a vacation!

If you were invited, you were expected to go.  And if you didn’t show, things could get just a little hairy.  Xerxes queen doesn’t show up one night at the banquet – and he dumps her to get another queen.  David doesn’t show up for one of Saul’s banquets – so Saul orders a most wanted poster and orders David to be shot by arrow on site!
And this is what happened here.  The King sent out his servants, they handed out the invitations – but none of the nobleman, none of the chosen ones, none of the ones that the King had mentored, protected, and served even made plans to come.
OK, maybe they just wait till the last minute to make their plans.  So, the second notice comes.  This notice says – Hey, the banquet is this weekend.  Everything’s ready.  The oxen and fat calves have been slaughtered.  In other words – We’ve got the beef!  In my home – this would be the dinner bell ringing – it’s time to eat!

And what was the response?  Nope.  I don’t value you anymore.  I’m not paying any attention.  Nope, I got more important things to do.  Nope, I know you’ve taken care of me, but I’m not going to show my gratitude – I need to focus on my own little farm.  Nope, I’ve got a business to run, Things to do, places to go.

And those were the mild responses.  The majority of the people turned on the king’s servants, assaulted them, and then killed them.

Open rebellion.  An act of war.  In what was supposed to be an affirmation of a peace treaty, violence reigned.

So, what do you do if you have a party with no guests?  You make new friends.  You invite others.  And that’s how your name got on the list.  The king only wants one thing.  He isn’t concerned about your status, your business holdings, the production rate of your farm or your factory – yes, he wants them to be better and to grow – but no, that is not the root of his concern.  The king desires a relationship.  The king wants to get to know his people.  The king wants to share the bounty that he was with those who want to receive it.

The problem the original guest list had was this – they thought there were privileged and entitled to do what they wanted to because of a once past relationship they were no longer actively participating in.

That’s dangerous for family members, that’s dangerous for marriages, and that’s dangerous for a relationship with you King.

Whenever we allow ourselves to believe that we deserve what we have or that we are somehow worthier than another, we will find ourselves incapable of gratitude.

You and I are on God’s guest list for the banquet.  Which way will we respond?  In apathetic amusement? Or in wondrous amazement?  Our eternal life depends upon it.



What should I wear?

Another question arises – What should I wear? 

Come on!  How many fashionistas are out there!  Do I look good in this?  I need new shoes to go with this outfit!  My ripped jeans that I shovel out the barn with might not be the appropriate thing to wear to a royal wedding.  I can guarantee that in the hour before a date, both teenage girls and guys are making sure they are looking spiffed up!
Make sure you wear the right thing.  If you walk down the red carpet, guys tend to wear a tux, ladies wear an evening gown, right?  There is a dress code for formal weddings.  The invitations will often tell you what that is.  I’ve seen some invitations say – black tie required, others say, Hawaiian themed, others say, wear your boots!  If you accept the invitation to the party – wear what the host requests!

This question has a whole different connotation between the person who only has one outfit and the privileged person who has multiple walk in closets.  The first is asking out of necessity, the second is asking out of vanity.

In the next couple verses, we read how the King is making his way through the party, stopping and greeting the guests at the tables, making sure that everyone is having a good time and not missing anything.  He stops, because one guest stands out.  That guest is not wearing the proper clothes.  He is not wearing the traditional wedding garment.

The King knows that these guests were assembled quickly.  He knows that he told his servants to go into the highways and byways and invite anyone who wanted to come to this party to attend.  He knows that he was providing paid time off for them to do this.  He knows that provisions were made so that people could change into the appropriate attire without it being an insurmountable task.  We don’t know how many days we are into the feast and celebration now – but any guest would know by now that they should probably not offend the host.

So, the king asked a question.  Friend.  He begins.  Folks.  God calls us friends.  He even calls the strangers, the outsiders, the ones not in the loop – friends.  This is God’s natural position to us – one of caring, support, love.  God makes that assumption.  He gives us the benefit of the doubt.  When he invites strangers into his house, they are no longer strangers – they are friends.  The scripture says both the good and bad were invited in.  God was making the initiative, taking the lead – reaching out to those who deserved to be there and to those who didn’t deserve to be there.  A quick hint – in reality – no one deserves to be with God.  It is by his grace that we are there.
“Friend,” the king asks.  What are you wearing?  Why aren’t you dressed up like the others?  The implied question is why aren’t you taking advantage of the hospitality I am giving you.  Why are you insisting to stay in the rags you walked in with?  We have baths, we have clothes, we have everything you need?

Note how the man responded.  Listen carefully to his answer.  (PAUSE).  Did you hear it?  Listen closer!  (PAUSE).  No.  You didn’t hear it.  There was no answer.
I think the outcome would have been different if there had been an answer.  If the wedding guest had said, I lost my way, I couldn’t find the locker room – The king would have directed him to it.  But the guest stayed quiet.  There was no excuse on his lips.  His momentary silence shouts volumes.  And in that silence, both the king and the guest knew the outcome.

In this parable, it is quite clear what the wedding garment is.  Not just the fancy dress-up robe that one wears to parties.  No, this is the robe given by the King.  The robe of righteousness.  The garment of praise.  Revelation 19:8 describes this robe at the marriage supper of the Lamb.  It is what marks the life of the true believer.  In salvation, Christ exchanges our old clothes, our corruptible being for new clothes, an incorruptible life.  Our old ways lead to death.  Our new ways lead to redemption.
This garment is the robe of discipleship.  For the King, it doesn’t matter how you got to the wedding.  You could have had a horrible life and done awful things.  You could have been a goody two shoes.  It doesn’t matter – because at the wedding, our past pales compare to the glory of the King.    The question is, what are we going to do about it?  Are we going to stay the same as we were before, or are we willing to change?

So, what’s our lesson?  Get changed.  Put on the new you.  Burn the old.  Celebrate new life in Christ.



The third question that non-entitled people who are ready to show gratitude ask is this – How hungry am I?

It’s world series time.  Yes, I am rooting for my LA Dodgers!  Tied up 2 games to 2.  Both great teams.  Both wanting to win.  For the Dodgers, it’s been 29 years since they were in the series last.  For the Astros, it’s been 12 years since they lost in humiliating fashion.  Let me tell you.  Both groups of fans are hungry for a win.  It’s been a long time coming.  Coaches and managers will tell their teams – dig down deep, how hungry are you, how bad do you want this?  None of these teams are content with the last trophy sitting on the shelf in their locker room. They want a new one.  They want to enjoy a victory feast.

How hungry are you?

The group who received the first invitations, were not hungry.  But the second ones were.  The first group forgot what hunger panes were.  The second group lived in near starvation, subsistence living every day.  The first group forgot what it was like to be given help and aid when they were young and poor and did not share their gain with a generous spirit.  The second group had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  They had a chance to be welcomed.

Coming to the wedding is just the first step.  Being welcomed by the king is only the beginning.  The banquet of salvation will last more than 187 days.  It’s a journey, a lifetime of adventure that will never end.  Isaiah 25:6-8 announces this banquet – that in that day the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast and he will swallow up death forever.

How hungry are you?  How much do you want what God has for you?  How deep is your pain that needs to be comforted?  How scarred is your identity that needs to be restored?  How anxious and scared are you that you would do anything to have a peace that settles upon you?

If you are hungry – than Christ is ready to feed you.  What should our response be when the invitation comes? 1) Come immediately, run without delay, drop everything else you are doing and embrace Him.  2) Dress for the occasion – Put on a new garment, let your praises be acceptable in worship, love God and love your neighbor, do what is right.  3) Always wonder how you were put on the guest list, never thinking that you deserve it, and always being grateful that you were given this opportunity.



REMEMBER THIS
Brian Erickson states this well – When we lose sight of the radical grace of the invitation, we have forgotten who we are.

This parable, while originally proclaimed by Christ to a group gathered around him in the last weeks before his crucifixion, not only challenged the people of that day, but slaps us in the face too.

We, the recipients of God’s grace.  We, who call ourselves Christians often tend to act like the first group that invitations were sent out to.  We get to busy, we get self-involved, we think we don’t need God’s help anymore in our daily lives.  This parable is a warning to us.  Do not get caught in the trap of entitlement – because the way there of is ruin!  It’s when we think we are entitled, when we think we deserve things because of our own identity, our own position, our own righteousness, that we judge others, shun others, make fun of others.  I pray this is not true in my life.  I pray that this is not true in our church.  As a congregation, we are called to welcome in the unwelcome-able, because that’s who God loves.  Let us live this way.

Shall we pray.