“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast and they were unwilling to come.” — Matthew 22:2-3

A number of years ago, John Hasty, then president of Great Lakes Bible College, slipped away from a meeting in downtown Chicago to visit a stamp store for his son. He recorded his impressions of City Hall Square in the college newspaper: “On one edge of the square a crowd passed out handbills chanting, ‘Impeach Nixon Now!’ On the other side of the square a group of Arab sympathizers clustered about a man with a bullhorn who was vigorously renouncing the U.S. involvement in the Arab-Israeli war. And of course there was a gathering of Israeli sympathizers demanding a U.S. guarantee of guns, tanks and airplanes to Israel to defeat Egyptian aggression.

“In the middle of the plaza on a small platform a young woman shouted that at exactly 12:30 (p.m.) she was going to strip off her clothing in protest against something. And she did; to the crowd’s roar of approval. A team of policewomen abruptly stopped her show and escorted her into a waiting patrol car.

“Elsewhere in the busy plaza some young men and a group of bunnies from the Playboy Club threw snowballs at each other. The snow was provided at an estimated cost of $5,000 by a portable snow machine.”

While watching all these activities President Hasty became aware of some music. In the spire of Temple Church, which overlooks City Hall Square, the carillon was playing its noontime concert. Above the noise of the crowds he could hear the hymn, “Near the Cross.” It begins with the words, “Jesus, keep me near the cross....”

“There midst all that hate, sensuality, conflict and wantonness,” he later wrote, “was the Christian message of salvation ... but no one was listening. The message was there but no one was listening.”

The message of the wedding feast in Matthew 22 is so relevant for society today. The feast was prepared, the message sent out, but no one was listening. Verse 5 says, “But they paid no attention and went their way....”

Why would anyone reject such a joyous invitation? The kingdom of heaven is filled with celebration! It resounds with the music of happiness. Remember the shepherd who found his lost sheep? The woman who recovered her lost coin? The father whose prodigal son came home? Their immediate action was to throw a party! Even the angels of heaven joined the festivities.

Weddings in Jesus’ time were occasions of celebration. Fathers saved for years to be able to provide the best food and finest hospitality for as many guests as possible. Nothing was too good for a son’s marriage.

I am still amazed when people think that the Christian life is dull and dry. They have no idea the excitement and joy they are missing when they say “I don’t want to become a Christian yet. I’m having too much fun. I’m not ready to give this all up for the church.” For experiencing some temporary pleasure they are forsaking an eternal reward.

This parable of Jesus reflects the fact that our Christian faith is not a solitary experience. The kingdom of heaven is an uncomfortable place for those who want to practice their religion all to themselves. John Wesley once said “Christianity is essentially a social religion; to turn it into a solitary religion is indeed to destroy it.”

The early Christians did not think of their relationship with Christ as solitary. Acts 2 describes the social life of the early church. From the beginning, it states in Verse 42, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” In Verse 44, it goes on to state, “All those who had believed were together and had all things in common.” They took care of those in need, according to Verse 45. And in Verses 46-47, they worshiped together, ate their meals in an atmosphere of celebration and found favor with all the people.

Our King invites us today to be a part of the same joyous celebration. It is an invitation and not an order. The invitation is ours to accept or reject. What better way to make sure that 2021 is much different than 2020 than by choosing to follow the Acts 2 example?

We like to talk about America as a favored nation. We sing, “God Bless America” and fully expect God to do so. We are a wealthy, powerful nation; the leader of free nations, What a responsibility! But when God offers a place at His banquet table He demands a responsible decision. And He continues to seek additional guests. Whether we accept the invitation or not, the party will go on. His eternal purpose will be fulfilled. How will you respond?

Emmett Murphy is a retired Christian church pastor.