God’s Zoom Call (Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

Sermons on YouTube…

Like many people, I’ve become accustomed to Zoom meetings over the last six months.  In this time of social distancing, we’ve used Zoom to have meetings for work; to hold classes; and even to meet with friends.

Really, we’re lucky to have this tool – and others like it – to stay in touch and keep things going during this time.  Even 10 years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to do a fraction of what we can now do online.  Still, meeting with others by video conference lacks personal touch.  There’s no catching up with people after the meeting in the parking lot.  And while we can eat and drink while we’re on a Zoom chat, it’s just not the same as having dinner or happy hour together in the same place.

But Zoom meetings often do have their advantages.  When I have a Zoom meeting, I never have to drive anywhere to get there.  If I carefully adjust my camera (or even turn it off) I don’t have to change out of my grubby clothes or clean up for a meeting!  And in fact, if it’s a meeting I REALLY don’t want to be at, I could mute myself, turn off the camera and do something else unless the convener of the meeting calls on me!

I know a lot of teachers have had this problem recently with online classes.  Kids turn off their cameras, mute themselves, and sometimes are totally not paying attention to the class.  Probably many of us have been in work meetings where we’re pretty sure adults are doing the same thing!  People are technically there, but they’re just checked out.

And I think if Jesus was crafting today’s parable right now, he might have used a Zoom meeting, where everyone was invited, but when the chair of the meeting looked around, he found one attendee who was muted, had his camera off, and was completely checked out of the meeting.  He was technically there, but that was about it.

That’s really what’s going on with this one wedding guest.  He’s been invited to a great and wonderful gathering, but he’s not wearing a wedding robe – that is, he’s not invested in the party, he’s not really paying attention to what’s going on around him, and he’s not being part of the party.  He’s just there.

So the king comes in and asks him how he got in without a wedding robe.  Now, there are some biblical scholars who believe that the tradition in those days was that you received a wedding robe as you entered the wedding hall (much like the old days when they gave you a flower lei when you got off the plane in Hawaii.)

But even if that’s not the case, there could have been some good reasons that this guy might have given.  He might have told the king:

  • I’m too poor to own a nice, wedding robe …
  • I’m a traveling merchant, and my wedding robe is back in my home town – this is all I have to wear …
  • I had no time to go and buy another robe, because you wanted me here right now…

But as Jesus tells the story, the guy was silenced – he had no excuse.  He was like someone caught with his camera off and not paying attention because he didn’t really care about what was going on.  So he got booted from the meeting!

The thing is, this guy was at a magnificent party – not a meeting he really didn’t want to be at.  But he totally missed the significance of the invitation, the value of being included and the opportunity to enjoy the party.

And that’s really Jesus’ point in this parable – don’t miss out on the party God has called you to – and has included you in even right now.  For indeed, the party of the kingdom of God isn’t just something that we get after we die.  The party has already started, and we’re already invited into it.  It’s just that sometimes, we’re not listening, we’re not watching and we’re too busy with the stuff we need to deal with back in the town.

While we often focus on the one guy who doesn’t want to be part of the party, Jesus really wants us to turn on our cameras and unmute ourselves so that God can transform our:

  • Attitude toward the life we’re living right now – the folks at the wedding would still need to deal with life back in the town; but now, their lives were about more than that – they knew they were included in something bigger and more important than just their daily chores and headaches, and that had to condition the way they looked at life from here on out…; Jesus wants us to see being included in God’s love and God’s kingdom as an experience which transforms us and give us a sense of transcendence and purpose in the midst of all the other stuff that so often pre-occupies and distracts us; it’s supposed to give us a sense of transcendence that assures us that there is something more important than even the election; and that’s supposed to change how we experience and live life right now…)
  • Perspective – if you’re part of the party, and paying attention, you see things that others who didn’t come can’t see.  And you can share those things with others…  As people who are part of God’s party, we’re supposed to be the people who see and point out signs of hope, and promise and love, instead of just adding to angst that’s all around us, or just sharing the latest outrage on social media…
  • Actions – people at the party are called to, well, party!  They’re called to be people who are actively engaged in a different way of living… To be involved in God’s party means that we’re called each day to live differently because of God’s presence in our lives – to be good stewards of ourselves and all that God gives us to be signs and instruments of God’s presence in the lives of others; it’s not that we can solve all the problems, or sometimes even make a big dent.  But we can be agents and signs of the party in the midst of a world that desperately needs to see and experience those signs…

Here’s the other reason I think Jesus might have used a Zoom call if he were telling this parable today:  when you’re on a Zoom call, you’re still at home and in the midst of everything going on at home.  But (as long as you turn on the camera and participate), you’re also part of something that probably involves a much bigger group than just you and the immediate world around you.

This is the way it is with God’s kingdom in our lives right now. We’re already part of God’s Zoom call.  God is working to speak to us, to show us signs of hope and to call us into something bigger than ourselves.  And that’s supposed to change and transform how we live our lives right now, not just prepare us for an afterlife.

So Jesus calls us today to tune in to God’s party.  Even and especially in the midst of chaos and anxiety, practice being open and receptive to God’s presence in your life.  Even and especially in the midst of chaos and anxiety, look for the signs of hope and life, and share them with others.  And even and especially in the midst of chaos and anxiety, be a sign and instrument of God’s love in the world, which really is more lasting and significant than anything else.