Texts: Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
Theme: God’s grace invites everyone to conversion to God’s way of life, in accepting this free gift the people of God commit themselves to living God’s way.
These texts speak of great grace and severe judgment, with the harshest words and toughest judgment reserved not for the outsider but for people who claim to be followers of the Triune God. One of the emphases of the missional church movement is the need for the continual conversion of the church, and these texts fit that emphasis.
Two themes wind through these texts. First, in opposition to Frank Sinatra’s classic “I did it my way” this Sunday’s texts remind us that “doing it our way” leads to trouble. Aaron and the people of Israel decide to do it their way – and the golden calf results. Paul urges the church to take steps to end the disagreement between Euodia and Syntyche – both of whom appear to have wanted it their way. In Matthew, Jesus warns of the danger on the one hand of doing it our way and missing the wedding banquet – and on the other of ignoring the instructions to guests and attending the banquet our way. (This is Matthew’s telling of the parable of the banquet not Luke’s, the preacher needs to be careful to not preach Luke’s more familiar version.)
The invitation to conversion is extended to all, it is an all-encompassing invitation – the Israelites, the two combatants in Philippi, those invited to the wedding banquet – all are invited to stop doing it their way and start doing it God’s way. Those who recognize that their way is broken are open to accepting the invitation.
Second, there are expectations that come with accepting the invitation to be the people of God. God expected the people of Israel to remain faithful during the time Moses was receiving the Law, but they weren’t faithful. The two in Philippi should have been able to get along and live in peace, but they couldn’t. All the wedding guests were expected to be properly attired. In the parable of the wedding banquet the king’s anger burns most hotly not against those who did not accept his invitation (although he is angered by their decision), but against the one who came to the banquet unchanged. It is only Moses reminding God that God’s reputation would be at risk that prevents God from destroying the people of Israel.
Having accepted the invitation to be part of the family of God, God’s people are expected to live up to their calling; that being: from Exodus, to be faithful to God; from Philippians, to be together in unity; from Matthew, (looking ahead to the end of chapter 22) to follow the great commandment.
At least two exegetical problems arise in these passages:
Exodus 32:14 (NRSV) “the LORD changed his mind”. Much has been written about this, and while the preacher will not be able to answer all the questions such a statement raises, the preacher does need to acknowledge that in the mystery of God, God is both all knowing (including knowing what God will do)and capable of changing God’s mind (not having decided for all time in every situation what God will do).
Matthew 22:11, 12 – is the wedding robe something the guest received when they arrived for the wedding and has not put on; or is the wedding robe something they were expected to bring with them? This question has theological implications. If the wedding robe is a metaphor for God’s grace imputed to us which we receive independent of our action then not wearing it is a rejection of God’s grace. If the wedding robe was to have been brought by the guest, then not having one is a failure to live up to the calling of being a follower of the king. It is possible to preach this text while keeping the answer to that question open, but the preacher does need to have thought about the exegetical problem.
On the Matthew text:
“The phrase “everybody they could find, the bad as well as the good,” (Matt. 22:10) points to the gratuity of the gospel, its grace and nondiscrimination, its distinctive openness to outcast and failures, to problem people and the unimpressive. The flawed, as this Gospel has taught repeatedly, are especially dear to Jesus’ heart.” Frederick Dale Bruner
“It is good for those that have a place in the church, often to put it to themselves, “How came I in hither? Have I a wedding-garment?” Matthew Henry
“Just as I am, without one plea”
“The Wedding Banquet” by Miriam Therese Winter (This tells Luke’s parable)
Eternal God, You have revealed yourself to us in Your Word.
You call us to worship you in spirit and in truth.
But we confess that we often worship
not your true self but who we wish you to be.
We too often ask you to bless what we do
rather than seeking to do what you bless.
Forgive us for seeking concessions
when we should be seeking guidance.
Forgive us when our worship shapes you into what we want
instead of shaping us into what you want.
Help us to meet you here, that we might bow
before Your unspeakable majesty
And so live for you now and ever, in Christ.
— From The Worship Sourcebook
Evangelectionary for Oct. 9 (Canadian Thanksgiving)
Texts: Deuteronomy 8:7-18; Psalm 65 or Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15;
Followers of God as recipients of grace remember the grace they have received and live humbly,
thankfully, and generously.
Each of the passages reminds us that God’s grace comes in concrete form – in Deuteronomy it is the giving of the land “flowing with milk and honey”; in the Psalm it is abundance of God’s provision; in Luke it is the healing of disease and release from isolation; in 2 Corinthians it is the gift of Jesus Christ, God’s “indescribable gift”. God’s graciousness is not a generic blessing – it comes in particularity (this land, this bounty, this healing, this Jesus). The recipients of God’s grace have particular things to point to, to remember, saying “God gave this.” In a world where entitlement is the language of the day, the church is invited to point to God’s gifts.
The passages are clear, being recipients of grace changes people.
From Deuteronomy, recipients of grace are invited to remember the gift given and to live humbly with the gift. Living knowing the gift was not earned or deserved for it was all grace.
From Luke, recipients of grace are invited to remember where the gift came from and say “thank you.” Living thankfully, counting our blessings, changes our lives as we become grateful people.
From 2 Corinthians, recipients of grace are invited to live generously. Recognizing they have benefitted from God’s generous gifts to them, they seek to follow that example – sowing generously.
Humility, thankfulness, and generosity are learned by following the examples of others – these readings give us three examples – the people of Israel (whose faithfulness to God was not the most consistent), the Samaritan leper (who was a cultural outsider), and the Corinthian church (known for its arguments and less than perfect life) – of groups or individuals who understood they were recipients of grace. No matter who we are, no matter what our story, we too can be examples of humility, thankfulness, and generosity for we too are recipients of grace.
“Ingratitude is a very common sin. Of the many that receive mercy from God, there are few, very few, that return to give thanks.” Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
(Obviously ingratitude is not a new phenomenon.)
My son spent a week in Uganda this August. He returned talking about Godfrey a man who makes $14.00 a week selling eggs and some grain. Godfrey and his wife have four children of their own and they have taken in his brother’s six children who were orphaned by AIDS. The neighbor is a single mother with nine children, her husband a number of years ago went to the Sudan to find work and has not been seen since. The ten people lived in a small hut, Godfrey built his neighbor two more huts so the family has more room. The neighbor’s nine children often eat at his table. Godfrey gave each of the visitors from North America a gift. Where does this generosity come from? Eight years ago Godfrey was given a piglet and 8 chickens by a church-related NGO – Godfrey now shares the grace he has received.
“Count your many blessings”
“For the fruits of God’s creation”
“What surging well of joy is this?” Jane Parker Huber
Holy God, you have given us many good gifts.
Today we thank you for all of them,
but we confess that sometimes
we love those gifts more than we love you.
We confess wanting more and more things:
food, clothes, toys, and money.
Forgive us for not being content and thankful.
Forgive our selfishness.
Help us to love you more than anything else.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
— From The Worship Sourcebook