All Faith But No Love
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Parable of the Wedding Feast by A.N. Mironov, 2014
If we have all the faith in the world but hath not love we are like wedding reception without any guests.
When was the last time you received a wedding invitation in the mail and what were your thoughts and feelings about it? For some of you, depending on the relationship, it may have been a matter of great discernment. You may be the type whose stomach knots up, overcome with anxiety about the thought of going. Or, you may be one of those who can’t believe the person actually wants you to attend because of your past experiences with them. With either case, you really do not want to go and you RSVP with a simple, “My regrets.” You move on, thinking about a token wedding gift to send.
What are some of the specific reasons why people do not want to go?
1. You did not attend their wedding
2. They are not planning to invite you to their wedding
3. They cannot afford it
4. An “Ex” will be there
5. They can’t find a babysitter
6. They can’t find a dogsitter
7. They only have so many vacation days
8. They don’t approve of your marriage
9. You are not as close as you thought
10. None of the others invited are attending either
For 2020, we could also throw in COVID which is self explanatory.
The reception of guests, or lack thereof is only half the story. The marriage rate overall is in decline, so we should expect fewer such invitations in the mail. During the Great Depression marriages dropped significantly, to about eight marriages in 1000 people. It then peaked at a historical high after WWII to 16 marriages per thousand; but since the 80’s, marriages in the US have dropped consistently. Today, we are at a paltry 5 marriages per thousand, a lower rate than in the 1880s when there was a 30% growth rate and 76 million people in the US, compared to our current 7% growth rate and 330 million people. Fewer births and fewer marriages seem to go hand in hand. Maybe it is because people live longer, are more independent and don’t really see the need to be ‘hitched.’ Sad, but true.
Another factor we need to be looking at is the relationship of marriages and church life. The days of the big, ceremonial weddings in the church, followed by the festive reception, with food and drink to die for, are at an all time low as well. June begins the wedding season and October, traditionally is the big month for weddings we seeing a lot fewer requests for such weddings today in the church. Last year at our church, we only had two requests, compared to ten such occasions in 1980. In the last decade alone, we have seen requests for church weddings cut in half. “Clergy and Churches, once the gatekeepers of the social respectability that marriage afforded, are now often reduced to paid extras and photo-ops.”
The cost of a marriage is a major argument, with the main expense line item today going to the venues outside the church such as banquet halls, country clubs, museums, wineries, rooftops and yes, of course, the beach. Throw in the other expenses such as the band, photography, food, alcohol, the rings, the flowers, and the “DJ” most should budget the average of $30,000 per wedding today. But the most important factor, the one where people seem to let slide, on why marriages are fewer than ever is because people are no longer being raised in religion. People are no longer accepting the invitation by God to attend the wedding banquet of His Son, Jesus.
There is a story of God’s invitation to His chosen people whom He called to join Him in a promised land, a new marriage feast if you will. You may recall, Moses went up to Mt. Sinai to hear God speak while Aaron remained below with the exiles. Anyone who saw the Charleston Heston version of The Ten Commandments would see the psalm come to life. With their revelry and debauchery, a huge party if you will as they impatiently worshiped the calf made of gold from their necklaces and rings. God was enraged by this behavior and was going to kill them but Moses asked for something unique. He asked God to give them more time to accept His invitation. As the Lord of hosts, God gave the commands in which the people would now live, but still there were those who refused. To accept would be too costly for them and many would perish in the outer parts. They may have been seeking the love of the God of their choosing, but they had no faith in the God that led them to freedom. Faith without love is like a wedding banquet with no guests.
There is another story of the parable of the King inviting everyone to his son’s wedding. There are actually two parables. The first is the King inviting people who he chose for his Son’s wedding banquet but they rejected the invitation. Some actually beat the messengers, worse they even killed some of them, and yet others simply blew God off. No RSVP. No regrets. Maybe they couldn’t find a babysitter or a dogsitter, or truth be told, they simply did not approve of the Son who would soon rule over them. They didn’t approve of the marriage and none of the others were going either. But they would regret it because the King killed the murderers and burned down their city.
In addition to this parable is a successive one, when the King invited anyone off the street who would come. Now, the banquet is full and all would seem well, but the King noticed one person who was not dressed appropriately for the occasion. They were not wearing a wedding robe. He was ordered to be tied up and thrown over a cliff for his appearance. How mean of the King, we would suspect. This man could have been poor. He could have been an outsider, a different ethnic not knowing the culture, but there is more to it. Jesus is talking to one of his disciples. It is not enough to be called as his disciple, but being chosen means he expects you to join him for the right reasons. He is making a case to be married to those who follow him. The Jewish elite rejected the invitation and you see what happened, but what of this account? Who is the person who rejected Christ? It was Judas. Judas may have accepted the invitation to the banquet of Christ’s leadership, expecting by faith he would rule, but he wasn’t dressed appropriately. He did not relate to the love of Christ which allowed the healings to take place and for the populace to reciprocate thanksgiving and homage to the King. At the Last Supper this becomes evident where Judas betrays Jesus and the result is that he is bound and cast into the utter darkness.
When Jesus said many are called but few are chosen, it means it is two parts. By faith we receive the invitation and by love we receive him. How often do we approach the altar, to receive and give thanks for this Holy Eucharist but our hearts and minds are elsewhere, perhaps still worshiping another God that has dominion over us. Put away these thoughts, at least for this time of celebration in order for God to reveal His work in you. We need more people to come to church and to receive the sacrament, that blessed invitation we accept by faith and reception of love. Who among you will come? Who will offer themselves as a bride for the groom? This is what God wants. If we have all the faith in the world but hath not love we are like wedding reception without any guests, where many are called but few are chosen.
 The Rev. Jon Roberts