Invite everyone you can find to the wedding
I saw just that happen once – a long time ago in Northern Ireland. A rich man - a pub landlord – funny how pub landlords in Ireland are always rich men – can’t imagine why. Anyway, this man held his daughter’s wedding feast at the biggest hotel in a town a few miles outside Belfast. But this was in the time of the Troubles. And on the day of the wedding, there was a lot of trouble in the city, with fighting and shooting and bombs and road blocks, so many of the invited guests were too frightened to come. And so there we were - only about ten or fifteen people in an enormous hall set with dinner for two hundred and fifty. The bride was crying; the groom was silent; everyone was tense. Nobody was talking. The atmosphere was horrible!
At the back of the hall stood the father of the bride – a big stout man and I have never seen a man look so angry. His whole face was purple; the veins were standing out on his forehead; his expression was working like a bulldog chewing a wasp. Just once I have seen the like. Manchester United supporters may remember that photograph of Sir Alex Ferguson in his last year at Old Trafford, losing at home to Liverpool.
And then, just as I was watching, something inside him just suddenly snapped. He could stand the strain no longer. I saw a look of decision come into his face. He went very quietly to the manager of the hotel, grasped him warmly by the throat. (Remember he was a pub landlord and in moments of stress we all go back to what we do best.) And he said very quietly, but with a certain emphasis to his tone: “Bring all your staff, all your cooks and barmen, porters and chambermaids. Let them bring all their families because we are still going to have a party. This is still My. Daughter’s. WEDDING!”
The manager – wisely in my view – just nodded.
So they all came, pulling on their good clothes as they came. And they were delighted. Normally they spent all their time serving other people. Never before had they had a party in their own hotel. So they filled up the empty spaces. And we ate. And we drank. And then we ate some more. And drank some more. And gradually the party started to warm up. The hotel band happened to have come along. So they pulled out their musical instruments and we had some music. And people started to dance. And the party was just beginning to really swing, when...
Well, you know what’s going to happen next, don’t you? All the people who had been delayed on the road finally arrived in a bunch. And there was total confusion. And it was packed. It was heaving. It was massive. It was Brilliant!
Eventually, in the early hours of the morning, as we all tottered our various ways unsteadily home, we all agreed that it had been the best wedding we had ever been at!
The lesson of that moment – the lesson of this Gospel – is that God does not have favourites. Anyone and everyone, black or white, slave or free, rich or poor, gay or straight, expresso or cappucino, is welcome to the wedding feast of his Son.
And when we celebrate, we do not celebrate for ourselves alone. We celebrate with the entire Body of Christ – the Church – the largest organisation of humanity there has ever been.
In our Eucharist today we are united with Christ and with one another. And beyond this place we are united with more than a billion people all over the world. And beyond this time we are united with the billions of people who have gone before us marked with the Sign of Faith. And into the Future we are united with the billions of people who will follow in our own Footsteps of Faith.
Let us pray that all of us may find and respond to our own invitation to the Fullness of Life.