The texts for this week (we almost always follow the lectionary) create an odd juxtaposition of themes. Matthew 22:1-14 seems, at least at first glance, to be yet another affirmation that God is capricious tyrant, a violent bastard with a terrible temper. Meanwhile, over in Philippians 4:1-9, Paul gently and beautifully reminds us to “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice!”
How the hell do we pull off this mashup? I’m going to try it by pondering the possibility of “Gleeful Outsiders?”. (And, yeah, everybody’s favorite fictional show choir is auditioning for the part of pop culture reference in the sermon.)
Matthew offers a scary and violent parable that is hard to read, that makes us want to close our eyes and skip to the next chapter. Yet, as Walter Wink writes, “Parables are tiny lumps of coal squeezed into diamonds, condensed metaphors that catch the rays of something ultimate and glint it at our lives.”
So if we can force ourselves to consider it, this parable raises questions such as: What – and when – is this Kingdom of Heaven? Just who is being cast out? Where does all this leave us, today’s hearers of this tale?
Sallie McFague offers deep analysis of parables. A taste:
Just as the parable does not illustrate ideas better stated nonparabolically, and so become dispensable, so Jesus is not merely an illustration for the kingdom which can be more adequately grasped apart from him — say in mystic encounters or in abstract formulations. His task was not to impart correct concepts about the kingdom but to make it possible for men to respond to it. . . . He not only tells shocking stories but leads a shocking life toward a shocking end. Just as the parables have familiar elements in unfamiliar plots, so Jesus’ life has familiar features of Palestinian life in startling juxtaposition.
What do you think? How might this parable speak to our condition today?