Slovenia is a country that is vulnerable to the whims of its neighbours. Its history has been turbulent, like Israel, it’s about the same size as Israel, it is victim to the slings and arrows flung by others. To put size in context it’s about two-thirds of the size of the Anglican Diocese of Huron, which runs from Tobermory to Simcoe to Windsor. Anyone who wants to overrun Slovenia, as they have frequently, is almost free to do so. The country has a mountainous terrain and there is no similarity with our agriculture, it is of a much smaller scale, it relies on its natural resources, both above and below ground, to survive but it does mainly because, again like Israel, it controls trade routes. It is a predominately Christian country.
It is a poor country too, with people living on half of what we do in Canada. There are many poor, no wonder the women of Slovenia chose the Parable of the Great Banquet for their Scripture. It illustrates once again how wealth and comfort distract from our life’s purpose of entering the Kingdom of God, and going to the Banquet. There are too many diversions in our lives from the task of seeking salvation, taking care of property, possessions and status takes a lot of time. The homeowner throwing the banquet is really ticked that his first guests would not come. I have the feeling that the homeowner would have invited the poor, the physically challenged, the blind and the lame of the town and of the countryside anyway because there was plenty of room at the table for everyone. He just expected that those who had been blessed with so much would show a little appreciation. When you get three squares a day though, a banquet invitation is not so appealing, to them it becomes somewhat ho hum, but to those living hand to mouth it’s a great benefit an opportunity to be seized.
It’s like boarding an aircraft, it’s done in order, first class first, second class next and then the rest who get to sit near the toilets. Can you imagine the pilot, how ticked he would be if none of the first class passengers took their seats, how was he going to fill the plane in an orderly manner, and take off on time. Would the pilot get everyone else in and then say to the first class “You didn’t answer the call, sorry” then shut the door and off the plane would take full of ordinary folks now with an abundance of comfortable seats, champagne and delicacies.
That would seem really odd to us wouldn’t it. The airline would do everything it could to stuff those high paying passengers in. So think how odd it must have seemed to the ancient Jews who heard this parable. They believed the rich were rich because they had been favoured by God. No way would God not continue His favour to them, except it obviously disproves the belief that the rich are rich because they are especially blessed by God.
You can look at it this way. The first class, the first invited, are those who have always had religion in their lives. They attend Church regularly, have served in the leadership and sit comfortably in their pews. They are self-satisfied and complacent so when it comes to knowing God, they’ve got God pegged. They know what’s what and when they are called they might say “I was at a meeting last night that went late, I don’t feel like coming today, I’ll be there Sunday”. The others who seldom go to Church because they are embarrassed about how they look, or smell, or because they limp and have difficulty keeping their balance, are those who have been impoverished spiritually, they have so many unanswered questions they don’t know where to begin, perhaps their life of desperate distractions has clouded their minds, but when they hear God’s call, they run to respond, no matter the time of day, they have nothing better to do than to be in God’s presence. None of us have anything better to do than to be in God’s presence but some of us don’t realise it. You recall the Beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3) that’s those folks.
When everything every day is a challenge then God’s call to the Banquet is a joy to the spirit, a clarion call to the heart that you are loved and wanted. You go !
The women we heard from are challenged by everything every day. Just like wealth and comfort, hardship and frustration should not distract us from the call. From what we heard today it does not distract Marjeta, Mojca, Marija, Ema or Natasha no wonder they chose this text.
Now the challenge for us is can we put aside our distractions. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, able bodied or not, can you look for the higher purpose in your life to love God and your neighbour ? Can you trust that God will take care of you ? Can you open your heart to God and listen to His call ? Can you answer yes to the invitation to the Banquet ? I hope and pray that everyone in this room, everyone who has shared in this World Day of Prayer, will find their seat at the table, it’s there. All you have to do is go and find it. Amen.