Theme: The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
Bible refs: Matthew 22 vv 1-14
Location of clip: 1 hr 6 mins and 32 secs to 1 hr 10 mins and 2 secs
This is the story of JM Barrie and the journey that led him to create the play Peter Pan. After failed attempts to write a new play Barrie bumps into the Llewelyn Davies family in the park one day, and so begins an awfully big adventure. Throughout the following summer Barrie gets to know the family, and plays regularly with the four boys, inventing games about Indians, Pirates and a magical place called Neverland. As he plays with the boys so a new play begins to take shape, one about a magical boy who can fly and will never grow up. The rest, as they say, is history.
It is the opening night of JM Barrie’s new play, Peter Pan. No one knows whether this childish story will capture the audience, and the theatre owner has massive doubts. J M Barrie has the inspired idea of saving twenty-five spare seats, dotted around the theatre for some special guests. On the evening these guests turn out to be orphans. Not wealthy, not used to going to the theatre. But these orphans set the audience alight. From the outset they are caught up with the magic of the story and they bring the rest of the sophisticated audience along with them. Bemused businessmen and pompous ladies of leisure are quickly transformed into mesmerised viewers, caught up with the wonder of this enchanting tale.
We need to be careful. Waifs and strays are getting into the kingdom ahead of us. Those of us with wise ideas and educated thinking may well be put to shame.
In the clip the orphans are the key to the play. Without their imagination, without their faith in the story, the play may well have flopped.
Jesus told a cautionary tale. A king throws a party and no one wants to come. They are too busy, too sophisticated, too educated, too spiritual. Some of them even murder the servants who bring their invitations. So the king invites those who aren’t too busy, those who aren’t too sophisticated, educated or spiritual. Those who aren’t too busy with church things. He invites the orphans, the waifs and strays. People of the street. Raw recruits. It’s often galling isn’t it, to meet people who have a raw faith, they haven’t thought things through, been on the best courses, and heard the great sermons. They just love God. And they put me to shame.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m totally committed to the idea of intelligent faith – I think it’s vital. But there’s nothing like seeing people with sheer enthusiasm and simple trust for bringing us back to what really matters.
Jesus didn’t just tell parables about the kingdom being a party open to all, he lived it out. He fed thousands on a hillside – a feast which included the poor and the hungry and the marginalised, along with the educated, rich and religious. He trashed the temple because its system excluded those who lived poor, unclean lives. They couldn’t afford to go and wouldn’t be clean enough anyway because they lived with open sewers.
Here’s a modern version of Jesus’s parable, taken from Top Stories:
Recently I met a woman who threw a big party. She had lots to celebrate, she had just passed her driving test and finished her Open University degree and that weekend she won a thousand pounds on the lottery. So she decided to spend it all on her friends. She bought food and drinks and she decorated her house and she sent out lots of invitations via Facebook and Twitter. She had loads of friends so she knew she would need to organise plenty to eat and drink for them.
No one came. Instead the text messages began to trickle back in.
Sorry I’m going away next week, I need to pack.
Sorry, I’m already busy. Got another party to go to.
Sorry. I’m getting my hair dyed.
Oh, I’ve had a busy week.
Oh, I’ve had a busy day.
Oh, I’m watching the X Factor Final.
She sat on the stairs and cried. This was one of the best times of her life, and nobody cared. She was desperate to celebrate and her friends wouldn’t come. She’d grown up with some of them too, known them all her life. She grabbed her coat and went for a walk, she had to get out of that house. That empty party house. She found herself walking through town, and came across a massive queue outside one of the town centre churches.
‘What’s going on?’ she asked a harassed looking woman at the front of the queue.
‘We’ve run out of food love, every Saturday we have a free supper here for anyone who wants to come. But it’s got so popular we can’t cater for everyone, and look! This week there’s more than ever. I don’t know what we’re going to do.’
The woman began to smile.
‘I know where there’s a free party,’ she said. ‘Lots of great food, lots of good things to do. And no one to enjoy them.’ She stepped into the road and turned towards the growing queue of people. ‘Come on you lot,’ she said, ‘Follow me.’
1. Have you thought much about Jesus’s relationship with prostitutes, the poor, the overlooked and ‘unclean’? I find this inspiring but also disturbing, because I am so poor at doing things the way he did.
2. It must have been offensive to the law-abiding religious people to hear that the sinners were getting in ahead of them.
Why did Jesus shock them in this way?
3. Have you ever felt like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son – annoyed when other people are treated too lightly?
4. Ever been tempted to find a few waifs and strays to drag into church? How would they get on if they did come in? How would you get on?
5. Did the clip make you think about anything else?