Our Father’s Welcome

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I was kicked out of the electoral register because I did not vote (Singapore’s rule). But the electoral commission wrote to me to apply to be included in the register. They want people to vote. They are not trying to exclude people. At the same time, there must be a register that excludes people. Can you imagine a situation when being a person and being present are enough reasons to give a vote? Millions of foreigners can then come into Singapore on polling day and vote! While exclusion is necessary, the real desire is for inclusion. So even when I was expunged, they continued to reach out, asking me to be inside. I submitted a simple declaration that I was overseas (I’m not sure if they checked), and received an immediate reply that I am back on the register.

Jesus tells a story of a wedding banquet (Matthew 22).

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.”

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.’

The first batch of guests who reject the invite referred to Jews who reject Jesus. The second batch of guests are Gentiles who respond to the banquet invite. But the climax of the story is the one who comes to the banquet without wedding clothes. This person comes, but he comes on his own terms. He rejects the protocol that requires him to wear wedding clothes.

We don’t know enough of the ancient customs, but it may be like those restaurants that require a jacket for dining, and they provide a loan jacket if you do not have one. If you refuse to wear the jacket that is provided, you will not be allowed to dine in that restaurant. Whatever the custom, it was not burdensome. It is clear the king is not trying to exclude but to include.

Our Father in heaven welcomes us to be part of his family so he can call us “Child,” and we can call him “Father.” When we receive that through baptism, we are included into his family. We become his children. God is clearly welcoming and inclusive. But inclusion has no meaning unless there is an exclusion. Unlike the electoral register that excludes people in prison, the inclusion of God is even greater. It welcomes all. But we need to confess Jesus in baptism.

The Holy Communion is like the Wedding Feast in the story. There are those who will argue they can be part of the banquet because they accept the invite. But that person gets into trouble. It is not because of the king’s rejection that he is cast out. It is because of the person’s rejection to be included through his own refusal to come on God’s terms.

The Word of God is clear. “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sin.”

We eagerly invite all to the Lord’s Table of Holy Communion – through baptism. We have no right to make our own rules and say you can come on your own terms. The king requires wedding clothes. The Holy Communion requires confession in baptism.

We urge each person to receive God’s invite to the banquet (the Holy Communion) through baptism. While the Jews reject him, Jesus prophesies that Gentiles will come to the banquet, but we come with wedding clothes. We become God’s children on his terms. Baptism is a necessary confession of faith, and it is given to us freely.

Pastor Peter Eng

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