A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

Quality of Life Sermon on Matthew 22 October 9, 2020

This sermon was preached on October 11, 2020 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube channel Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Psalm 23
Philippians 4: 1-10
Matthew 22: 1-14

One of the goals of parenting, caregiving, teaching or mentoring, is to help another person achieve a healthy, vibrant and sustainable life-to have what we often refer to as “quality of life.”  Such as when my children were very young, I knew that making them take a nap would ensure a better rest of the day. Now that doesn’t mean that they were always receptive to this nap. Sometimes I had to make them lie down to get them to rest. They thought I was being mean and unfair because they wanted to stay up and do what they wanted to do. But I knew that if they didn’t rest, they would be crabby and melt down later and it wouldn’t be good for them or anyone around them. Their resistance to this reality is not unique as we often can’t see consequences for our choices, for ourselves or those around us. I usually think that I know what I need to have the kind of quality of life I want and deserve. And yet, I have to admit, when I consider my own quality of life, rarely do I consider the impact of my decisions on others.

This idea of our quality of life is front and center right now in our culture. We all have our individual opinions on what is a good quality of life and tend to think that we should have autonomy over those opinions. Where we go, what we do, where we live, what we buy, and what we share. We all want security: financial, health, food, housing, work, etc. And we are sure that we each know the best way to have a good quality of life. The crisis comes when others don’t agree with us and when our decisions for ourselves impact one another in negative ways.

Jesus challenges our concept of “quality of life” in our parable today. This is a hard parable, and I seriously considered preaching on one of the other two texts, except I realized Psalm 23 and Philippians 4 only support what Jesus is saying in Matthew 22. This parable is filled with invitation, rejection, killing of the messengers, destruction of the city, the good and the bad gathered off the streets and ultimately someone thrown out of the wedding banquet. Not a lot of good news it seems, as reality abounds in this parable.

Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. Wedding feasts were about unity, the combining of clans, cementing of relationships and alliances. They were political. Attending a wedding feast was a statement about your allegiances and how you lived. You didn’t attend a wedding feast lightly or just to make an appearance. In this harsh parable Jesus offers that we must understand that we have been invited to God’s wedding feast. God is offering us a relationship that is important and permanent. All too often, we walk away from the invitation of this relationship because it might seem risky to accept it, to be seen at the feast, or we mistakenly think our daily lives are the real invitation from God. We look for ways to avoid making visible our allegiance to the good news of Jesus in the world. We make light of the importance for showing up, and not just showing up half-heartedly or because we have nothing better to do. God desires for us to show up fully clothed in our baptisms, fully clothed with the love for our neighbor, fully clothed in the understanding that we can’t be speechless, like the guest who didn’t understand that half-way doesn’t cut it. We show up knowing that our quality of life is not something that we decide for ourselves nor is it what we can control and master. No, good quality of life, only comes from our lives in God through Jesus Christ who lived, died and was raised from the dead to usher in quality of life for all to flourish today and forever. Good quality of life requires something from us, it requires that we do the things that may not make sense or seem too hard. Good quality of life means that we recognize that our quality of life is interconnected to the quality of life of each other.

When we show up fully as God’s people, living the message of love for the world through Jesus, in the hardest of situations, that is a good quality of life. Paul, in Philippians, was writing from prison, probably about to be killed and yet, rejoiced in his quality of life in the grace and mercy of Christ that he shared with the people of Philippi. A good quality of life is a life lived for God and for others. It’s not living perfectly, or the absence of hard situations, but it’s the ability to deal with what is, even if what it is, is hard.

 Our presence matters, and not just for appearances. How we live our lives, our actions as the people of God must be clear and plain. Jesus offers that the wedding guest not clothed correctly was thrown out, and I wonder if that is because when our inside intentions don’t match our outside actions, we have the possibility of harming those around us. We can’t talk about loving our neighbor while refusing to wear a mask to keep them safe, or deny them healthcare, or go hungry, or sleep on the streets, or the right to immigrate, or to allow racism to abound. We are called to consider what will further human flourishing, not just our own. God’s invitation is indeed for all and how we respond matters. When I don’t respond fully as a person of God, I not only undermine my own quality of life, but the quality of life of others around me. When I’m silent on matters of injustice, when I avoid hard conversations with a misguided notion of keeping the peace, when I stay in my comfort bubble because my privilege allows me to, when I don’t do the hard actions of putting my money where my mouth is for reparations for Black and indigenous folks, then I lessen the quality of life for others in the world. For Jesus, our quality of life is bound up in one another, as a community, AND our individual response matters as it impacts the community. For Jesus, our quality of life can be rich only through our connection to God and accepting the invitation to God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. Our quality of life is not about us, and yes, when we think it is, difficult, unpleasant and harmful events unfold in our midst, this is the reality of the parable and our lives. Our quality of life is full with promise and hope and when we open our hearts, spirits and souls to life fully with God in God’s kingdom, and we are connected to the joyful feast of life that never ends in Jesus.
You are loved. You are beloved. Go and be love. Amen.