Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Gospel of Melvin: The Parable of The Wedding Feast



The carpenter was on a roll. He launched into another one of his nutty stories.

   “A king’s son was getting married, so he sent out invitations.” (At least it wasn’t one of those “Furnish Your Own Firkin” kind of things. Wine, meat, music--all provided! Yup! With the rich, it’s first class all the way. AND they always include plenty of fresh fruit! I remember this one time, a Sadducee was throwing a party, and he ordered my entire week’s stock of honeydew! It was glorious! Of course, I didn’t get an invitation to the feast, but it was still a memorable occasion for me.)
   “On the day of the wedding party, when the food was nearly ready, he sent his servants to tell the guests that dinner was ready and it was time to come to the party. But everyone began to make excuses not to come to THE gala event of the year! “
   “Sorry,” said one of them, “I’ve just started a business in secondhand formal attire: Gedaliah’s Garments (wedding clothes a specialty), and I’m too busy.”
   Another said, “I’d come, but I’ve just joined up with the Zealots, and so I’m politically opposed to fraternization with the wealthy and powerful.”
   A third said, “I’ve just bought a crate of watermelons, and need to go examine them.” This last he said, looking toward the fruit stand of a certain upstanding merchant, and adding, “Because you never know what you’re really getting!”
   “Ultimately, everyone who was invited turned down the invitation! Enraged, the king sent his soldiers to kill those who refused his invitation and burn their villages. ‘And start with those jokers who gave the bride and groom potholders at their shower!’ ”
   Then the king told his servants, ‘Go out into the streets and the alleys, and invite the poor, the blind, and the lame. They’re used to begging, and so they won’t care if their roast is cold or their wine is warm.’
   This they did, and, after a long while (since it takes a long time to lead the blind to a place, and help the crippled into seats, and convince the beggars that it really is worth their while to follow you,) it was discovered that there were still empty chairs at banquet!
   Again, the king sent forth his servants, “Go out to the highways and the hedges! Bring in the highwaymen and the hedgehogs, the good and the bad, and even the melon merchants! The rent on these tables & chairs is ridiculous, and I’m gonna get my money’s worth!”
   This they also did, and the tables were full of riffraff, who were soon full of lukewarm roast and tepid wine. Even so, it was a great party. However, there was one guy in the place not dressed in wedding clothes.
   “Hey!” the king demanded. (That’s the way with kings! They never just ask. Always demanding and commanding and bellowing!) “How did they let you in without wedding clothes?”
   The man replied, “I had wedding clothes, but I lent them to my neighbor Gedaliah, and never saw them again, until I saw them in his shop window, and for thirty shekels no less! I hope his store burns to the ground!”
   The king was more even more enraged. “The proper attire was being handed out at the door! You’ve no excuse!”
   “It’s true. I just didn’t like the color and style. I’ve got to be me, you know? I’d hoped not to be noticed, but I guess that’s what you get for sitting this close to the head table. Next time I’ll sit in the back.”
   “There won’t be a next time!” bellowed the king. “Guards! Throw this worm out into the darkness, and make sure he lands in the thorn bushes, so that there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth!”
   And so they cast him out toward the valley of Hinnom, where the worm does not die, but the fire and smoke goes up forever. For if you fail to do good deeds before those who can reward you, then shall your Heavenly Father reward you?*

* In the absence of actual punctuation in the text, as it typical of the Greek & Hebrew of the time, it is possible that this last may intended to be a statement, rather than a question. In fact, the true sense of Melvin’s text may be that God will reward you for dishonoring those on earth who may be capable of giving you such transitory rewards as food, drink, money and honor. However, in light of the eschatological punishment meted out to the offender, it seems likely that we ought to view his action as morally offensive. Thus, we ought to read the final statement as a question, with the lesson being, as St Heresias put it, “Take advantage of every opportunity for gain; for it is sinful not to do so.”