Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
Matthew 22:1-14

1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so 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 a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”
A clergy colleague of mine has cerebral palsy. While he could get around easily enough with crutches most days, there are seasons when a wheelchair is not only more comfortable, but safer for him. He requires some assistance for things like getting his stack of books (Bible, hymnal, etc.) from the car to the pulpit. Certain tasks require some forethought - he would always ask about the accessibility of a funeral home or cemetery ahead of conducting a funeral. The places that were consistently inaccessible were the churches he served. Of course, churches would install ramps at entry points, add hand railings at critical junctures and measure the width of door frames for accessibility. But, consistently the one place that was never accessible was the pulpit. There were always stairs to the pulpit and the most anyone seemed willing to do was install a railing, which was of very little use if he needed his wheelchair.

My friend is not presently pastoring a church. He took a leave of absence. It just became too much to constantly have to ask for the most obvious needs. It was hurtful that no one could ever seem to make space for him and his body, even when the accommodations were not that difficult (just move the pulpit! It really isn’t the ark of the covenant. We can touch it and not wither).

The words of the parable are harsh. “Many are called, but few are chosen” have been used to justify the exclusion of some for the comfort of others. The king in the parable is often mistaken as an allegory for God so that we can justify our desire to be comfortable with our company by arguing that it is divine providence. 

The God I know is not ruthless or graceless as the king in the parable. Institutions can be ruthless and graceless, exclusionary and demeaning. Institutions sometimes shame people the way a wedding guest without fine clothing might be shamed. The God I know would give a guest a beautiful garment without expectation of payment, just so a guest could be included. The God I know would draw a wider circle, rather than dig a moat around ridiculous expectations of clothing.

My friend was not only called, but he was also affirmed by the church to have the gifts and graces to serve as a pastor, but he was not chosen by that same church to live out his calling because they simply would not make space for him. It really could have been as easy as moving a pulpit or building a ramp, but the church did not choose that. God calls each of us, God chooses us. It is our job to mind the barriers and obstacles we build. We cannot let institutions get in the way of who God created us to be.
Gracious God, where we see weeping and gnashing of teeth, give us the empathy to critically examine the outer darknesses we have constructed. Give us the tools to help each other live our callings to their fullest. Amen.
Amy Jones
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at:
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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