Be a winner, and lose!

Matthew 22:1-14

All her life both parents had encouraged her to sing. Well, I say encouraged, perhaps ‘pushed’ would be a better word. Her whole life had seemed to be singing lessons and singing competitions. While her friends had been out having fun, she was training, being groomed for fame. It was hard work. All the time.

Now it was the national competition and Mr. Big was one of the judges. He was ruthless, but he could make dreams come true. Her parents’ dreams anyway.

She let them dress her and do her hair. Other people did her make-up and chose her shoes. Her skin itched and her feet were sore. The clothes were too tight and her hair was dyed. Seriously? She was only 16.

Her parents were thrilled when she got into the quarter-finals, even more so when she got into the semi-finals. When she won they were ecstatic. Her mother fainted.

Then there was the tour, every night singing in a different city. She didn’t see her parents much anymore. She lived in theatres and hotels. They were all much the same place, just a different name.

Mr Big was nice. They got close. She stayed at his home. He was her ‘first’. It wasn’t what she expected. She didn’t feel close to him. She felt lonely and used.

When the concerts started moving to smaller venues, and her debut album tanked. Mr Big moved on to someone else.

He called her to the office. Looked at her like he didn’t know her, talked about contractual requirements and said: “That’s the way it is kid”. She was grateful. Her parents mourned. Her mother cried.

She took a job singing on a cruise ship, really just to get away from her parents. And for the first time she made friends. Alex was her ‘bestie’. She drank with him, laughed and snuggled with him. They got high together. He listened to her. Shame he was gay, but for the first time she felt genuinely cared for, as if she actually mattered to someone.

She went home for a week. Her parents had split up. Her father was with some girl that she vaguely recognised. She was close to her own age so maybe she’d been at school with her? Her mother was drinking heavily, and although her welcome was warm enough the house was cold. After one especially heavy drinking bout her mother stared at her, coldly, as if she were a stranger.She pointed an accusing finger at her and slurred: “You stole my life”, and then she passed out.

The same national competition that had propelled her into the limelight was running another season. There was a young girl singing, pretty in pink, with big blue eyes. She had a lovely voice and an innocent quality. She sang well, and Mr. Big stood to applaud her, smiling widely.

She hoped desperately, for her sake, that she lost.

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again 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.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then 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.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:1-14

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