The parable of the large banquet.

There once was a very wealthy man who decided to give a large banquet. He invited a lot of people. On the day of the banquet, he sent his servants to go remind everyone who had been invited because everything was ready.

Without exception, all of them sent excuses instead of coming. Some of them said they had to work on their farm, some at their business, and some said they had just gotten married. All of them were too busy to show up to this feast that they had been invited to a long time ago. Some of the guests were quite abusive to the servants as well.

When the host learned the news, he told his servants to go into the streets and alleyways of the city and invite anyone they could find, including the poor and handicapped. The servants did this and there was room for even more people, so the host sent them out to get even more guests. The host was determined that none of the original guests would enjoy his banquet.

MT 22:1-10, LK 14:16-24

When the host came in to look at his guests, he saw a man who was shabbily dressed – not appropriate for a grand feast such as this. He asked him how it was that he was admitted in without appropriate clothing. The man didn’t know how to answer, so he didn’t. Then the host told his servants “Tie this man up by his hands and feet and throw him out with the trash. For many people are invited but few make the cut.”

MT 22:11-14

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The parable of the two sons.

“What do you think about this story? There was once a man who had two sons. He asked the first one to work in the vineyard, and the son refused, yet later he changed his mind and went to work. When the man asked his second son to work in the vineyard, that son said he would but then he didn’t go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they replied.

“Mark my words, tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of Heaven before any of you! John the Baptist came to warn you about your evil ways and you didn’t repent and return to God. The tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even when you saw this happening for yourself, you refused to change your minds and believe John’s message.”

MT 21:28-32

The parable of the vineyard owner.

Jesus began to teach them again using parables.

“There once was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it and included a winepress and a watchtower. He leased it to tenant farmers and then he went away for a very long time. When it was harvest time, he sent his servant to the farmers so that he could collect some fruit from them. Instead of giving him fruit, the farmers beat the servant and sent him away with nothing. The landowner sent another servant and they treated him just as badly. Then the landowner sent a third servant and the farmers killed him. He sent other servants, and they were all either beaten or killed.

Finally he decided to send his much loved son thinking ‘Surely they will respect him.’ But the tenant farmers talked amongst themselves and decided that since this was the heir they should kill him and collect the inheritance for themselves. They did just that and then threw him out of the vineyard.

Because of their shameful behavior, the owner of the vineyard went there himself to destroy the farmers and let other people manage his land and crops.”

Jesus asked the religious leaders if they had ever heard the verse from Scriptures that says ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this and it is wonderful to see!’

“Therefore it follows that the kingdom of God will be taken away from the original tenants and given to those who are good stewards and can produce healthy fruit. All who stumble on this rock shall be broken, and all those who this rock falls on will be ground to dust!”

The chief priests and scribes started to look for a way to arrest him because they knew he was speaking these words against them. However, they were afraid of the crowds because they regarded him as a prophet, so they left him alone for the time being.

MT 21:33-46, MK 12:1-12, LK 20:9-19

Musings on friendship

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher approached me with an unusual request. She asked me to befriend a girl who was a little odd. I’ll call her Susan.

She and I both liked to read, specifically science fiction. She wrote a little then too. We both thought Steve Martin was very funny.

Her father was dead, but worse, her father had been abusive. Her mother had to work a lot to support them, so spent a lot of time alone. This was unusual at the time – most families stayed together. Single mothers were unheard of. They lived in a tiny house that was just behind the school. At the time, that size house would have been considered poverty level. These days, the micro-house people would think it was immense.

She had wild hair – too curly to be manageable. She was a bit overweight, and smelled like cat. Perhaps she had Asperger’s. Perhaps she just didn’t know how to fit in.

Did this hamper my social life because I was seen with the weirdo? I wasn’t much of a social butterfly anyway. I would have been just as happy being alone. I never understood all the fuss people (girls) made over boys and makeup and pop stars. Perhaps the teacher thought I needed a friend, rather than the other way around.

Did this help her? She got to socialize with another person. But it was an artificial relationship. Like an arranged marriage. It definitely stopped her from becoming worse.

I didn’t think of it in this way at the time. More than thirty years has colored my feelings. In a way I feel cheated – I made very few other friends while in elementary school. She stuck with me. Out of habit? Desperation? Did this keep others away?

I was far from normal – but I had a stable home. At the time I felt it was a big honor to be asked – this meant I had extra to give. This meant I had a kind heart.

This has softened me to the plight of the “other” the weirdo, the loner. Folks say “he was quiet, and he kept to himself” – yes – so introduce yourself. Talk with him. Become a friend. It is hard to be a friend to the friendless, but it is important. It may save a life (or hundreds), the life of the person, or the people they might harm.

Back in my day, unhappy loners just killed themselves. These days they kill innocent strangers.

However, this hampered my ability to make friends in a different way – it became the pattern for my friendships. I fixed problems. I was the one who listened. I was the one who understood. But when I had a problem or needed to be listened to, nobody could help.

She showed up, unannounced, at my workplace one day years after school was over and asked if we were still friends. I’d not called, she’d not called. We were adults now. This was after my parents had died – -and she had been nowhere during that very traumatic time.

What is friendship? A name in a phone book? A connection on Facebook? If only one person is making the effort, then it really isn’t a friendship.