A Letter from the Associate Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery
Undeserved Grace or Violence?
August 17, 2017
Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
The first time we saw our house it was winter. The leaves had fallen and the ground was hard and cold. I remember trudging out to the back yard to look for the right spot from which to inspect the roof. The back patio was littered with these tiny, worn pits. So I picked up a few and rolled them in my hand. They reminded me of tiny apricot pits and I wondered which one of the leafless trees produced such interesting seeds.
After we bought our house, when the spring had come, I was amazed to discover that we had become the new stewards of a mini Eden. Our small, city backyard was home to a cherry, apple, pear and peach tree which had been the source of those once-mysterious pits. And it was the crown jewel of the orchard!
I remember the joy that first summer in discovering what God had provided. I was the recipient of fruit from a tree that I did not plant and had not tended. It was undeserved grace! The second year we pruned the tree but a late freeze caused a humble harvest. We enjoyed the few peaches that we won from the birds and the bees! But this third year has been equally amazing! After God’s gift of sun and rain, some gentle tending, and a well-timed winter, the little tree nearly collapsed under the weight of its fruit. It yielded more than we could eat; more than we could freeze; more than we could shelve. So we shared the bounty and gave some to our friends and neighbors. And as the tree kept yielding fruit, we visited everyone nearby.
Some friends and neighbors readily accepted the tasty offering, delighting in the unexpected treat. But sadly, some neighbors refused the offering with suspicion or indifference. As I pondered the peaches, I was reminded that not everyone accepts the free gift of God’s grace, either.
This made me think of a parable Jesus once told of a king who was throwing a wedding banquet. In the parable of the wedding banquet (Matthew 22:1-14), Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a king throwing a banquet for his son. The king sent his servants to let the invited guests know that the banquet was ready but the guests would not come to the party! Undeterred, the king again sent servants to describe the sumptuous fare, but the guests made light of the invitation and went away to their own (misguided) self-interests. Sadly, through this parable, Jesus describes the ways of hatred, “they seized the king’s servants, mistreated them, and killed them.” (Matthew 22:6)
The king dealt swiftly with evil, denouncing those ways of violence and destroying those guests. But it is interesting to ponder what the king did next. He sent his servants back into town! “Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” (Matthew 22:9) In other words, the ordinary, the poor, the good, the bad, those just happening down the road got an invitation to a royal banquet! Those invited only had to honor the king’s invitation and cloth themselves with love to share in the festivities!
For those of us spending our days serving the King of kings, it is heartbreaking to see the pictures from Charlottesville and that our invitations to God’s grace have gone unaccepted by so many! Sometimes by those in the pews, by those in the neighborhood, or by those in this nation who continue to choose violence over grace. This parable reminds us that although everyone is invited, not everyone accepts. Nevertheless, as God's servants, we are called to keep inviting. And, by doing so, we will continue to see God’s chosen come into the Kingdom of Heaven!
The Rev. Ayana H. Teter, Associate Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery
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