November 30, 2012

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king, who gave a wedding feast for his son. Matthew 22: 2

Did you hear the story of the two men who were rescued after spending four days in the wilderness of Glacier?

The pair set out for the park’s Two Medicine area, intending to camp out for a couple of nights during a 17-mile hike. On the second day the weather turned nasty—snow, temps in the 30s, gusty winds. One of the men slipped off a ridge along the Continental Divide and fell about 100 feet. He was uninjured, but the two hikers had to figure out a way to get back together, then handle their predicament.

Unfortunately, their trail map blew out of their hands, so they finally decided to head down the mountain and set up camp for the night. Continuing bad weather the next day convinced them their best bet would be to hunker down and wait for better conditions.

Their good sense continued. “They rationed their food, collected firewood and materials to create a fire and smoke, turned their cell phones on during the day, displayed their space blanket for possible reflection during the day and used it to stay warm at night, and created an SOS message with logs,” Glacier spokewoman Denise Germann wrote in a release. Four days later, after authorities were alerted of their disappearance, the men were spotted by searchers. Aside from being cold and wet, they were reported to be in fairly good condition with no injuries.

“We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this incident, and perhaps we all can learn from this experience and these two men,” said Glacier National Park Chief Ranger Mark Foust. “These hikers were prepared with appropriate equipment and they used their situational awareness skills to determine how to respond to the unexpected in the backcountry.”

Contrast that with two incidents in Utah’s Zion National Park this fall. A man died while canyoneering when he got hung up upside down in a waterfall and couldn’t free himself. He and his wife didn’t have much experience with rappelling, and made the mistake of using a different anchor than the one listed in the route description.

Another couple intended to tackle the park’s 11-mile Heaps Canyon in one day, even though they’d encounter a nearly 300-foot rappel, a water course and other obstacles. Two days later, rangers noticed that their car was still parked at the canyon’s trailhead (although they had obtained a wilderness permit, they apparently neglected to inform anyone else where they were). Rescuers eventually found them alive but stranded in the lower part of the canyon, and had to bring them out by helicopter.

Three episodes of trouble, three divergent outcomes. The difference? The first group was prepared. Sure, they hoped for a safe adventure, but they were ready in case something went awry. Once it did, as the Chief Ranger noted, they used both their equipment and their common sense to wait out the trouble, and trusted in the fact that their loved ones knew where they were.

The couple in Heap’s Canyon, on the other hand, ignored a park ranger’s advice and were stranded, their predicament discovered only by chance. And the canyoneerer put his confidence in the wrong piece of equipment.

These incidents remind me of the responses in the parable of the wedding banquet, found in Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 14:16-24. A king was throwing a feast in honor of his son’s wedding, and as was the custom in Bible times, not only sent out many advance invitations, but on the day of the dinner also sent out messengers to bring in the guests. Everything was ready…but the invitees wouldn’t come (Matthew 22:3, Luke 14:18). In fact, they “paid no attention and went their way” (Matthew 22:5), and gave excuses like, “’I have bought a piece of land, and I need to go out and look at it,’” and “‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out,’” and “I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come’” (Luke 14:18-20). Matthew even says the some of the invited guests went so far as to beat up and kill the messengers (22:6).

Naturally, the king was furious. To refuse an invitation at the last minute was just not done in that society. To kill an innocent person for no reason at all was inexcusable. The king sent out his army to destroy the murderers and their city (Matthew 22:7).

But there was still the matter of the wedding celebration! “Then [the king] said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad” (Matthew 22:8). When the hall still had room for more, the king told them to go out again and “compel them to come in, that my house may be full” (Luke 14:23).

Wow! That would be like walking down the street in London, and suddenly be invited by a palace attendant to join in William and Kate’s festivities!

But you know what my concern would be? That I wasn’t prepared. That I didn’t have a nice dress on, nor a present handy that was worthy of a royal couple!

I guess the king is this parable thought of that, too. He didn’t supply a present, but he apparently did provide clothes, because he knew they couldn’t be expected to have a suitable outfit with them.

Yet…one guest didn’t avail himself of the new clothes (Matthew 22:11). He had been invited and provided for, and wanted to be part of the fun, the excitement and the honor, but he wanted to do it his own way. He thought he was good enough as he was. When he was confronted about it, however, he was speechless (v. 12). He had no excuse. The king had him tossed out (v. 13).

God calls each one of us to an adventurous life with Him (John 1:12, 3:16, 10:10; Romans 10:13). Some will be indifferent to the summons, some will make excuses, and some will even be hostile.

But God never gives up. He keeps on inviting—everyone. And just as the king invited the good and the bad, God doesn’t care what you’ve done, where you’ve been or what you do or don’t have. He’s not asking you to spruce yourself up before you join Him, and He’s not looking at you to give Him anything—He just wants you to come! He’ll clean you up!

The Glacier hikers who were prepared for trouble fared the best, but even they had to be saved by professional rescuers. Vigilance, skill and common sense only get us so far. I imagine that the Zion hikers wondered at some point if they were going to get out of their predicament alive. Did the saying, “Prepare to meet your Maker” pass through their mind? Were they ready for that eventuality? I couldn’t say.

But let me ask you—are you prepared? Are you just doing what seems good to you, hoping everything will turn out all right in the end, trusting in your own instincts instead of going by the route laid out by the One who says “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6)? Or are you ready to accept the compelling invitation of a gracious King? There’s nothing else you have to do to attend the banquet—He’s already made the provision through His Son Jesus, the Professional Rescuer, the only One who can “clothe you with garments of salvation [and] wrap you with a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).

Meet me at the table, won’t you? Let’s sit together!


  1. Elise Daly Parker says:

    I’m at the table. Loved this “He’s not asking you to spruce yourself up before you join Him, and He’s not looking at you to give Him anything—He just wants you to come! He’ll clean you up!” What a relief.
    My daughter set out on the Appalachian Trail one April vacation. They were a lovely group of five young women who were sorely unprepared for the unseasonably cold weather. My daughter, for one, had on keds…definitely not good hiking shoes for the snow. And the girls also neglected to bring both sets of stakes for their tents, so they only had one tent and that wasn’t enough. They ended up in a shelter for the night and had to abandon their adventure. Thankfully, this bunch is quite a bit more prepared spiritually! Ah memories…

  2. Peggy Parker says:

    What an insightful and inspiring piece. Reminded me to take care of much I have neglected. Thank you.

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