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Kingdom-of-Heaven Life -- RSVP

The gospel appointed for this Sunday starts out reminding us that the life which God intends for us is Kingdom-of-Heaven life, a "God-love life."

Living a Kingdom-of-Heaven life does NOT mean having faith, while we live, in some future thing or place or experience called "heaven" that awaits us only after we die. It does NOT mean doing the best job we can while "down here," and only experiencing the qualities of heaven after our years here on earth are over.

Rather, living a Kingdom-of-Heaven life means having faith that the thing or place or experience called the Kingdom of Heaven is coming, God's will is being done, on earth (in our lives, here and now) as it is in heaven.

Modern-day puritans always seem to want to make God less over-the-top generous and joyful than God really is. But again, if we read the Bible ourselves and not just rely on what other people tell us about it, we'd find, as in Sunday's gospel, some rather astonishing things. Things like Jesus comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding banquet. A marriage feast.

(Now when you hear "wedding banquet" don't think of some stuffy, dry, contrived formal wedding reception in a rented hotel ballroom. Think of the best party you've ever attended (or, if you are one of those modern-day puritans, think about the best party you've heard about). If parties aren't your thing, think of the happiest time you've ever had. Picture it lasting three days.)

As the 23rd Psalm reminds us, even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death - even though there are places of deep darkness, in Kingdom-of-Heaven life, we fear no evil. God's rod and staff - God's means of discipline, God's commandments and sacraments - comfort us. Again, God is compared to a gracious host, preparing a table for us, filling our cups not with a conservative pour as if we were at some wine-tasting, but to overflowing.

Taking nothing away from the fact that there are, in life, places of deep darkness, and taking nothing away from the fact that there is in fact evil all around us, life is meant to be - life is designed to be - such a feast: while walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear nothing and we lack nothing. We feel guided and guarded and shepherded, by God.

God really does intend that kind of life for us. Not just on some exception basis, not just to get glimpses of it, but as a rule.

So what keeps it from happening, other than just occasionally? If Kingdom of Heaven life is how life is supposed to be lived, what keeps us from living it that way?

We do. You and I do.

This Kingdom of Heaven way of life is God's intention and invitation, but it is not automatic.

That's because God has given us the terrible and wonderful gift of freedom.

God has prepared a wonderful banquet called Kingdom of Heaven life, and God does invite us to come join it. But it's an invitation...not a command.

The Lord God of all History
Requests the Pleasure of your Company
Sunday October 12, 2014 and Thereafter

And what's at the bottom of that invitation?

It's not, as I used to see from invitations from the (previous) Bishop to serve on various committees, "Please indicate your acceptance of this appointment by phone or return mail." That kind of "invitation" was simple to deal with: you pretty much know your response, and it is one of obedience. You do what you're told. (And that's fine.)

But that's not what's at the bottom of God's invitation. The invitation to Kingdom of Heaven life, the King's banquet, is not a command performance.

It's not even the "regrets only" that you sometimes you see that at the bottom of an invitation. "Regrets only" is a subtle form of coercion, because it presumes you are coming unless you let the host or hostess know otherwise.

No...what's at the bottom of God's invitation is R.S.V.P.

R├ępondez s'il vous plait.

"Respond, please."

No command performance. No presumption of acceptance. And even though -- as Sunday's parable illustrates - we human beings don't have a great track record on how we've responded to that invitation, the invitation is still there, still ours. Still yours.

A beautiful invitation to an even more beautiful Kingdom-of-Heaven, wedding banquet, God-love life.

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