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First Presbyterian Church In Orange, NJ



Volume LXVII No. 7                                                               May 2009


Of Wedding Feasts and Holy Interruptions


As I write this I am thinking about the parable we studied last night in our Wednesday evening discussion group:  The Parable of the Wedding Feast.  (Matthew 22:1-14)  Like so many of Jesus’ parables, it is deceptively simple   you know the story:  There is a king who throws a wedding party for his son.  He invites the local dignitaries, important businessmen and big time land owners to share in his son’s joy.  None of the invitees had time to go to the king’s party. In fact, some of them were so annoyed with the invitation -that they manhandled and even killed the messengers.  So the enraged king sends an army to decimate the city of those whom he first invited and then proceeds to invite everyone – good and bad alike – to the wedding feast.  Then there appears to be a second part to the story – almost an addendum:  Some poor fellow gets into the party without a ‘wedding garment’ and he’s bodily removed from the proceedings.  


The interpretation seems simple: there were those whom God first called to partake in the joy of salvation. They largely rejected that call, ultimately putting to death the Bringer of Salvation.  So the Good News goes out to others and they accepted.  Simple.  Or so it seems. You see, I believe that all holy scripture is inspired by God and given for our understanding (2 Timothy 3:16) and as such, I am convinced it has something to say to us today, something more than simply, ‘well, that is how it was in those days.’  I believe it’s entirely too easy for us to say, ‘Okay, so those other people who rejected Christ, or those who reject Christ today are the first group of invitees and we are the second.  They’re out.  We’re in.  Oh – and that poor fellow who got kicked out… well he must be… _______ (okay, you fill in the blank!)’


Because this is a parable of God’s eternal Kingdom and because I believe God’s kingdom begins right now, in the life God has given us, I’m pretty well convinced that the invitations to the wedding feast are still going out right now.   The more I think about this parable, the more I see it as a story for today; and the more I realize it might not be so easy to determine what part we play in that story.


So, who are we in this story and what does it have to do with us?  A very large clue may be found in the reaction of that first group of invitees.  When they received the king’s invitation – an invitation to partake of the king’s joy – it was met in some cases with indifference and some cases with outright violence.  These individuals did not want their lives interrupted by the king, or the king’s son and his wedding – for after all, isn’t that what a wedding feast is: a huge interruption.  One needs to take the time, not only to go to the party, but also to find the clothes to wear, the gifts to bring, in those days a wedding feast lasted for days.  Today, it might involve a lengthy car or plane trip, an overnight stay at a hotel… it can be an interruption; an inconvenience.  Now if the wedding is for our nearest and dearest, well of course, we are filled with joy at the prospect. But what happens when it’s a long lost high school classmate who has invited us?  A distant cousin?  A former colleague from a job we were not that fond of?  The prospect of the wedding becomes an interruption. And if you are anything like me, interruptions can make one upset, even angry.


            I had a wedding feast experience a few days ago.  It wasn’t actually a wedding, but rather a funeral, though in a way, the effect was much the same.  By the way, I need to interject as I relate this, that I am not proud of my initial reactions.  I received notice that the brother of a colleague had passed on.  I knew it was the ‘right thing’ to go to the funeral.  But I will confess, I didn’t want to.  I didn’t know the man.  The funeral was two hours away by car.  I needed to cancel an appointment to make the time for the trip.  It was an interruption.  I must further confess (much to my shame, by the way) that I was annoyed.  But somehow, something told me I needed to respond to this invitation.  When I arrived, early, I was met with, much to my surprise, not words of welcome, but words of suspicion from the clergy of the church where the funeral was taking place, “Who are you?  Why are you here? Are you sure you’re in the right place?”  I have come to realize in that experience I nearly was part of the first group – the ones who reject the invitation – in this case, an invitation to show support to a colleague in ministry and to celebrate the life of a believer who has been taken to the nearer presence of Christ.  At first, I didn’t want any part of it – I was too busy.  Then I became one of those who were on the highways and byways—invited as part of a general invitation to the good, the bad… to anyone who would come.  And that invitation, for some reason that literally only God knows, I heeded.  Then, very much to my surprise, I was cast in the role of the one who didn’t have the right ‘garment’ for the ‘feast’. To the pastor of that church – I didn’t look right.  I wasn’t a member of his flock, I didn’t look like I belonged in his neighborhood.  And here’s where grace came in.  Do you remember what the man who did not have the right wedding garment said when he was confronted?  He said NOTHING.  (Matthew 22:12) He was speechless.  But, in the case of my experience, I think the Holy Spirit gave me what I had to say, or maybe it was common sense. And maybe sometimes that’s how the Holy Spirit operates. But at any rate, what I said was, “I’m here because my friend told me his brother died.  I want to be here to support him.  In fact, I have a right to be here.”  The suspicious pastor moved aside and let me in.

            The invitations to enter God’s joy – to be part of God’s kingdom keep coming.  And they are always an interruption – always an interruption of what we think is important; of what the world tells us we should be doing or thinking. And those invitations always require a response.  And like all invitations, we must decide what to do with them. We can be the ones who say, “No, I’m too busy to heed God’s call… to busy with the important things of my life to do this extraordinary thing that I’m being invited to.”  Or we can realize that the invitation comes to us from our Nearest and Dearest – the One who redeems us and calls us to Himself and wants us to be part of that wondrous, extraordinary, eternal marriage feast of His Son. 

            One last thought – about that poor fellow who got kicked out of the wedding feast. When he was confronted by the king, he had nothing to say.  When he was asked, “what are you doing here?” his response was a blank stare. If ever you are asked, “what are you doing here – doing this work, worshipping this God, sharing this Gospel?”  and most often those kind of questions come from inside of ourselves.  Your answer may be this, “I’m here because the King invited me.”


Wishing you peace and blessing in Christ our Lord,


      Anthony Mark LaMort, Minister of Music


News from the Missions Committee

          The response to our annual giving to the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering was most generous!  The little fish banks brought in a total of $152.77 in pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollar bills . . . quite a large and heavy amount of rolled coins to take to the bank

            Another $656.00 was given in the One Great Hour of Sharing envelopes, making a total of $808.77 for our 2009 response to the needs of people throughout the world whose lives will be improved by your donations.  Thank You!



The Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN)

            Our next project of helping others does not involve the giving of money, but the giving of self.  We are now approaching our 26th year of housing homeless families in our church building as part of IHN – The Interfaith Hospitality Network for the Homeless of Essex County.  The response so far from our several Support Congregations has been heart-warming, but there are still gaps to be filled.  Where can you help in this upcoming (May 3 – 10) week of helping those in need?  The sign-up chart is on the bulletin board across from the Missions board . . . and we are especially looking for Evening Hosts and Overnighters.

            Evening Hosts arrive at the church by 5:00 – 5:30 pm, ready to greet both the families and the volunteers who are preparing and serving the evening meal.  You join the families for dinner, and leave when the Overnighters arrive – usually about 8:00 pm

            Overnighters are those who stay overnight, and who prepare a simple buffet-style breakfast, ready by 6:30 am.  Lunches can be prepared by the guests either after dinner or during breakfast 7:15 am, at which time the Overnighters are free to leave as well.

            One other way that you can help is by taking home on Sunday, May 10th (Mother’s Day) – some of the laundry which will be In the Colonial Room.  Sheets, pillow cases, blankets, towels, wash cloths, mattress pads-all need to be laundered for our next scheduled IHN week in October.



               MUSIC EVENTS


Mother’s Day Concert!  Sunday, 10. May 3:30 pm.  Section leaders and soloists from First Presbyterian Church of Orange in a program of favorite arias and songs.  Special guest: Mr. John Hammel.  Reception to follow.


Blues Coffee House.  Sunday, 24. May 3:00 pm.  The ‘Mac Blues’ band, our very own version of the ‘Blues Brothers’ (Roosevelt Abrams and Patrick Morrisy), John Hammel and Kevin Brown perform selections from the far reaching Blues genre.  Reception follows concert


Drop By recitals: Sunday – After the 11 AM Worship Service

(Generally 2nd and 4th Sundays)


May 10 “With a French Accent  Organ music     from France spanning three centuries.


May 24  Stylus Phantasticus:  The Music of Buxtehude”  Organ music of Danish born        composer Dietrich Buxtehude.


June 14  Little Organ Book”  Chorale Preludes   from J.S. Bach’s “Orgelbuchline


June 28  Rag Time Organ”  Piano Rags of Scott   Joplin arranged for pipe organ


July 12  Organo Americana” Arrangements of    Patriotic or otherwise uniquely American     music.


July 26  Listener’s Choice”  Organ improvisation             based on hymns chosen by the audience!







                A SACRED DONATION


            It was around 9:15 pm on Monday evening of St. George's recent co-hosting with Wyoming Presbyterian for the Interfaith Hospitality Network families, and the weekly meeting of an Alcoholics Anonymous group upstairs from the parish hall had just ended.  An unknown man from that group strolled into the parish hall where the IHN volunteers had provided six or eight ten foot square living spaces for our adult guests and their children by setting up rolling metal and cloth partitions. Cots, mattresses, and the few possessions our guests could carry with them from one host congregation in the IHN network to the next, filled these spaces.  As the man took in the scene, a little girl of about three toddled by on her way to the kitchen with her mother for a bedtime snack.


            I walked over to greet our visitor, who immediately asked me what was going on here!  I explained that we were hosting temporarily homeless families who had suddenly lost their apartments for a variety of reasons such as fire, or eviction with or without cause, and that congregations all over Essex County hosted them week by week until they found housing.


            He interrupted to ask me if we accepted cash donations.  I, of course, replied "yes."  He took a money clip out of his pocket, peeled off a bill, and handed it to me.  I thanked him profusely, but he turned abruptly, muttered that he must go, and went out the door.


            I looked down at the bill in my hand.  It was a hundred dollar bill.


            God works in mysterious ways.

Brian Bamforth, St. George’s Episcopal Church, Maplewood



A Thank You Note to First Presbyterian Church Orange

            The Gantuah and Tulasi Families wish to express their profound gratitude to the Congregation of First Presbyterian Church in Orange for supporting the thanksgiving (memorial) service of Madam Christiana Tulasi.


            Our profound gratitude to Rev. Ed Clydesdale for his time and the wonderful service he conducted.


            We thank the Church Session, Bess Whaley, Anthony LaMort, Charles Christian, Beverly Douglas, Rebecca and Alex Douglas and the whole congregation for their support and kindness.  Our guests felt so much at home.


            We are so very grateful and proud to be part of the First Church Family.


            Again, we say thank you all and may God Bless everyone.


Prayer Concerns

Abiding Peace Throughout the World.

This month we seem to have a need for special


Roosevelt Jr. and family –Toni’s son

Ida Douglas (mother of Beverly Douglas)

Phoebe Nwangw (mother of Elizabeth Achebe)

Chiemezie Okobi

The Okani Family

The Pierce Family

Emmanuel Shu (Joan Shu-Osobo’s brother)

Barbara Zeevalk