Readings 13 Oct 2002
28th Sunday of "Ordinary Time"
Exodus 32: 1 -14
This is an account of unfaithfulness, heartache and change of mind - the people's abandonment of the covenant, Moses and Aaron's (verse 5) attempts to salvage the situation and God's relenting from God's desire to wreck a vengeful havoc on the people. Uncomfortable that Moses has not re-appeared from the mountain after 40 days, the people's fears take over. So soon after God's gracious granting of the Law, the ten commandments, they (the people) fashion for themselves an idol to worship. On it they pour their praise for having "brought you (them) out of Egypt." Why does God turn from God's own anger at this unfaithfulness? Was God moved by Moses' pleading and compassion for his people? Whatever, the story of the golden calf was a solemn reminder of God's jealous love and a summons to the people to faithful response. Under Moses' leadership, they are given another chance.
Psalm 106: 1 - 6, 19 - 23
The ancient people of God actually sang - or chanted - their own history of unfaithfulness to the covenant in the psalms. Here is their confession in the face of "God's mighty acts" and "enduring love". None have maintained justice or constantly done what is right. Specifically in verses 19 - 23 is their recall of their action of idolatry in the rebellion at the foot of the mountain (see Exodus account above). Yet there is a prayer seeking again God's favour and aid. These words of petition (verses 1 - 6) before God's grace might apply to Moses in his plea before God in that event.
Phillippians 4: 1 - 9
Here we see Paul's pastoral heart! The Christian gathering at Phillipi (a house church?) are his "joy and crown", whom he "loves and longs for". Paul does not wish to condemn Euodia and Syntyche for their arguing, but wants to rescue and rehabilitate. So he commends rejoicing, gentleness, calm trust, prayer and peace. Are these our first recourse when we know someone has done wrong? What a 'shopping list'. Paul's is a summons to values - the important underlying base of Christian community and behaviour. What is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. Like the Phillipians, the solution for so many of our dilemmas, decisions and problems would be given us in a focus on what we set our minds upon. That's the answer!
Matthew 22: 1 - 14
This week's gospel passage is the vivid story told by Jesus of a Wedding Banquet to which the notables and the wealthy could not come. Instead, as a picture of God's reign, those of the streets were ushered in to the feast. Commentators Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh write that, "Such double invitations are well known from ancient papyri. They allowed potential guests to find out who was coming and whether everything had been arranged properly. If the right people were coming, all would come. If the right people stayed away, all would follow suit. Trivial excuses follow." [Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, Ausburg Fortress, Minneapolis, 1992]
Years ago in a comedy troupe called "The Flying Fettuccinis" we performed this parable as a sketch. After a well-healed couple can't attend the King's function because it's their weekend on the yacht with Lady So-and-So, a knock at the run-down door of two derelict brothers tells them they're invited. They chuckle between themselves that their "tuxedos are at the dry cleaners" and "the limo (limousine) is in for a service" before realising the point.
Who would be the guests who would refuse such an invitation today? Who would be called in their place?
Note verses 11 - 14 are the warning to those who refuse the offer of a wedding robe provided by the King. What is the warning to us?
Comment: [Early Sermon thoughts]
I won't actually be preaching next Sunday. Brougham Place will be in the capable hands of Reverend Ian Price while I am at Mylor leading a Uniting Church Leadership Training event for 18-25 year olds.
However, I am struck by the common element of salvage and rescue in these readings - that a situation which seems to be 'lost' can actually be turned around by patient prayer bringing a change of heart.