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Worship Resources, Prayers, Bible study

Ordinary 28 Year A

 


invitationIntroduction

Today the passage from Matthew tells about a magnificent banquet held by a king, to which the rich and famous would have been invited. The story tells that suddenly the guest who had all promised to be there, suddenly turned down the invitation, made excuses and became enemies of the king.

It sounds ridiculous, why would everybody treat the king in such a fashion when they had been invited as special guests to his feast ? The story might seem to lack credulity, it appears far fetched, people just don't behave like that. Even if the guests wanted to abuse the king surely they would wait until after they had enjoyed the party!

Jesus has a serious point to make. God has called people to his banquet, special guests - but people do not accept the invitation. No doubt Jesus has certain people in mind when he spoke, people who had been violent towards him in his ministry, even though he was sent by God. Today the story has a further meaning. Now the invitation is made to you and I, each one of us is invited to share in the celebration of God's kingdom. You have your invitation, are you going or not?

Opening Verses of Scripture    Philippians Chapter 4

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!


Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear the prayers of your people who call upon you; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Common Worship

Lord of creation, whose glory is around and within us: open our eyes to your wonders, that we may serve you with reverence and know your peace at our lives’ end, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Common Worship Shorter Collect

Lord, in your goodness, open our eyes to your light and so fill our hearts with your glory, that we may acknowledge Jesus as Saviour and hold fast to his word in sincerity and truth. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen   Methodist Worship

God of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things, graft in our hearts the love of your name, increase in us true religion, nourish is us all goodness and of your great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Methodist Worship

First Bible Reading  Exodus 32: 1-14

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him." Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD." So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' "I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation." But Moses sought the favour of the LORD his God. "O LORD," he said, "why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.' " Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
 

Second Reading  Philippians 4:1-9

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yoke fellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you
 

jesus invitation to a banquet

Gospel Reading  Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. "Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' "But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he 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, and 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 wedding clothes. 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "For many are invited, but few are chosen."
 

Post Communion Sentence

Almighty God, you have taught us through your Son that love is the fulfilling of the law: grant that we may love you with our whole heart and our neighbours as ourselves; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Commentary

The reading in Isaiah is one of praise to God, who has done marvellous things. It is about victory and it looks forward to God’s ultimate victory, when the reign of God over his re-created world is to be ushered in with a feast, a coronation festival. It is for all men, for the covenant of his mercy is all-inclusive. The feast described will mark his triumph at the end of history, and he will bring to an end the reality of sorrow and suffering which have marked the reproach of his people. We see too the idea that God’s ultimate triumph over his enemies will be also a victory over death and pain. So all peoples will say “This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation”. And when in REV. 21:4 the words of this passage were quoted, it was in the light of a new certainty which was theirs who knew that Christ was risen.

Our gospel reading today is also about a banquet or feast. This is what Tom Wright has to say:
“Of course, when Jesus told the parable it had a particular point and focus. (It’s possible that verse 7, the bit in brackets, was added later, perhaps by Matthew himself, so that his readers would make the connection between what Jesus was saying and the terrible events of AD 70. We shall see more about this when we get to chapter 24) The parable follows straight on from the devastating story of the wicked tenant farmers in chapter 21, and rams the point home. Everyone would know what a story about a landowner with a vineyard was referring to; equally everyone in Jesus’ day would know the point of a story about a king throwing a wedding party for his son. (Jesus may well have told this kind of story several times; there’s quite a different version of it in Luke 14.15-24.) This story is about the coming of God’s kingdom, and in particular the arrival of the Messiah. Israel’s leader in Jesus’ day, and the many people who followed them, were like guests invited to a wedding—God’s wedding party, the party he was throwing for his son. But they had refused, for the most part; think back to Jesus’ sad warnings in 11.20-24. Now Jerusalem was refusing the invitation as well. God was planning the great party for which they had waited so long. The Messiah was here, and they didn’t want to know. They abused and killed the prophets who had tried to tell them about it, and the result was that their city would be destroyed.

But now for the good news - though it wasn’t good news for the people who were originally invited. God was sending out new messengers, to the wrong parts of town, to tell everyone and anyone to come to the party. And they came in droves. We don’t have to look far in Matthew’s gospel to see who they were. The tax-collectors, the prostitutes, the riff-raff, the nobodies, the blind and lame, the people who thought they’d been forgotten. They were thrilled that God’s message was for them after all. His love reached them where they were, but his love refused to let them stay as they were. Love wants the best for the beloved. Their lives were transformed, healed, changed. Actually, nobody really belies that God wants everyone to stay exactly as they are. God loves serial killers and child-molesters; God loves ruthless and arrogant business men; God loves manipulative mothers who damage their children’s emotions for life. But the point of God’s love is that he wants them to change.” And this shouldn’t be seen as a threat or something unpleasant top be avoided. It is all good. Life can become an adventure in God’s love, so we can experience the life in all it’s fullness promised by Jesus and discover, like the psalmist that “goodness and mercy will follow all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” No wonder Paul tells us to “rejoice”. Richard Ledger

 

Meditation

Ramadan - Understanding other faiths
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan began on the sighting of the new moon, 4 Oct 2005. During the 29/30 days of Ramadan all adult Muslims must give up food, drink, smoking and sexual activity during the hours of daylight. Sawm (fasting) is the fourth pillar of Islam.
Listen to Umh Haider of Basra
"Ramadan isn't about how much you eat or drink, it's an examination of the faith inside of your soul. God said that 'your reward depends upon your effort,' and that 'all the other months of the year are for the people, but this one month is for me.' Ramadan is the best month to clean your heart and soul. When you feel hungry you can remember the suffering of the poor, who are usually hungry, and by remembering you can help them always. Ramadan isn't just to forbid you from eating and drinking; it's to forbid you doing any bad thing. During Ramadan, Islamic activities increase, like praying, reading from the Quran, and helping others. These activities strengthen Islamic relationships because you must join with other Muslims."

 

Hymns

  1. Tell out my soul

  2. The trumpets sound

  3. Come sinners to the Gospel feast (Tune Fulda)

  4. To God be the glory

  5. Mine eyes have seen

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian, if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die.

 

God, the journey ahead is one into the unknown. To move forward with confidence, I need to know that you are with me. Make your presence known to me. Show me your glory. Pass by me in this time of prayer and show yourself to be with me. I will declare your glory. I will speak your name. I will declare your presence so that my companions on the journey may be encouraged. Help me today, God, to be distinct—to stand out in the courage and hope and faith, born of glimpses of your passing through my life—that I might be a source of courage and hope and faith to others. Amen. Jana L. Norman-Richardson Book of Daily Prayer

When we stand gazing upwards, bring us down to earth: with the love of a friend through the songs of the sorrowing in the faces of the hungry. When we look to you for action, demand some work of us, by your touch of fire, your glance of reproof, your fearful longing. As ruler over all: love us into action; fire us with your zeal; enrich us with your grace to make us willing subjects of your rule. Janet Nightingale, Christian Aid, from Acts 1-2

Lord Jesus Christ, you said, ‘May they all be one, just as, Father, You are in me and I am in You, so that the world might believe it was You who sent me.’ Dear Lord, bring together in love and peace all who believe in You. Amen Cardinal Basil Hume OSB (1923-99)

It is not far to go for you are near, it is not far to go for you are here. And not by travelling, Lord we come to you, but by the way of love, and we love you. Amen (Amy Carmichael 1868—1951)

There is no place where God is not, wherever I go, there God is. Now and always he upholds me with his power, and keeps me safe in his love. (Author unknown)

O most high Almighty, good Lord God, creator of the universe, watch over us and keep us in the light of your presence. May our praise continually blend with that of all creation, until we come together to the eternal joys which you promise in your love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (F H Joweth 1841/1923)

Great is, O King, our happiness in thy Kingdom, thou, our King. We dance before thee, our King, by the strength of thy kingdom. May our feet be made strong; Let us dance before thee, eternal. Give you praise, all angels, to him above who is worthy of praise. (Prayer in sacred dance of the Zulu Nazarite Church)

I...ask the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, to give you the Spirit, who will make you wise and reveal God to you, so that you will know him. I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. (From Ephesians 1)

Lord Jesus, it’s a shameful thing when you’ve set invitations to all who will come and we stand at the door and turn people away. It is shameful how we find ways to justify, in Your Name, the lines we draw between us, the exclusions and suspicions, the greeds and power-plays, that harm the least, and protect our special interests. And so we pray: Lift us above our pettiness and self-protection, and use us as Your agents of justice and mercy; May Your grace open our doors, stretch out our arms and turn our attention to the excluded, rejected and neglected ones. May Your wisdom teach our minds, open our hearts and challenge our apathy to find solutions to the conflicts and self-created threats in our world. May Your love release our energies, ignite our abilities and inspire our action to heal those who carry the scars of abuse, war and disease, to comfort those who grieve the loss of loved ones or opportunities, to restore the ones who have failed or fallen, to nurture the life that breaks out in every person and every part of our planet. And make us heralds of Your kingdom who extend Your invitation to all who will listen. Amen.

Additional Material

Opening Verse of Scripture—Isaiah 9:1,2

The people living in darkness have seen a great light: on those living in the in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day—before we read, we pray

Almighty and everlasting God, we offer you our grateful thanks for your fatherly goodness and care in giving us your gifts and the fruits of the earth in through the seasons. Give us grace to use them rightly, to your glory, for our own well being, and for the relief of those in need; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


First Bible Reading Isaiah 25:1-10

O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvellous things, things planned long ago. 
You have made the city a heap of rubble, the fortified town a ruin, the foreigners' stronghold a city no more; it will never be rebuilt. Therefore strong peoples will honour you; cities of ruthless nations will revere you. 
You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert. You silence the uproar of foreigners; as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled. 
On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine-- the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. 
In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation." The hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain; but Moab will be trampled under him as straw is trampled down in the manure.  

Commentary

In the passage from Matthew this week we read about a very special invitation to a banquet. It is not just an ordinary party to which a man invites guests, it is an invitation from a king. When kings threw banquets and invited you along you went, not because you necessarily wanted to, but because it was expected. It’s just like the boss inviting you round for a meal, if you want to get on you go, you don’t say you have a better offer or make excuses. So, the best food and drink would have been prepared, servants were sent out to "summon the invited guests to the feast." According to the custom of the time, the guests would already received the invitation and were waiting for when things were prepared and they received the announcement to come to the feast. The guests had already accepted the invitation and been catered for!

But the story takes an unexpected twist. At the last minute and for some unexplained reason the cream of society behaves quite rudely. They claim they have more important things to do, important business to conduct and so, cannot come to the feast. What an insult to the royal house! They are utterly unappreciative of the offer which is made. They are so ungrateful that one not only refuses to go but kills the servant who bring the invitation.

So in the story Jesus is clear, the deviant guests were not outsiders. When people heard Jesus speaking about a king inviting people to a banquet they would know exactly what he was speaking about. The King is God and the people who were invited were the Jews. God was planning the great party for which the Jewish people had waited for so long, but now at the last minute they were refusing. The prophets who had proclaimed the coming kingdom had been ridiculed and killed, the Messiah was present and ready and they all rejected the offer.
The hearers would also come to realise exactly what Jesus meant when he spoke of the King sending his soldiers to destroy the city. After the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 the pieces of the story would all fit neatly into place.

So what about those who came? Since the guests who were invited refused, the invitation went out instead to all and sundry. people who would never have imagined being invited to such an event heard the call, the labourers, the down and outs, the criminals and just ordinary folk. Nobody who came would be able to boast of anything they had done to get there. They could claim no privilege or rank. None of them had a special status. They came because they were hungry, not because they could afford it or were posh. So the parable becomes our story too. We are now the recipients of God's gracious hospitality and generosity. We are Christian people because of God’s generosity, not because of any good we may have done. We claim no right and we feel privileged to find ourselves in the banquet hall. We are from the highways and byways no longer. We are honoured guests. Just like the guests invited to the banquet in the story, each one of us is invited as a special guest by God to his celebration. It is a truly remarkable thing that God should bother with us at all and yet he goes so far as to make us honoured guests.

In the midst of a troubled and turbulent world, where the frailty of life is ever before us, the simple message of this parable should come to us as a great reassurance. In spite of the seeming unimportance which attaches to us in the universe, nevertheless our lives are significant. Life might so often seem cheap and unimportant and yet we are individually watched over and cared for by God. The realisation that God is involved with each of us should change the way that we think about things, life is no longer a series of abstract choices, we are not adrift subject the vagaries of life. This message should cause us to have much peace and a sense of purpose for the future which gives real meaning to our lives. Sadly for many people this is simply not the case, offered such a magnificent invitation they choose to ignore the blessings of God and miss out on the generosity of God. The message of the story is clear, if you choose not to go, then somebody else will take your place. For this reason we should not be slow to respond but willingly answer God’s call on our lives.

Watch your dress sense.

Of course the final part of the passage is a a real challenge in bringing to our minds the clothing of the guests. Clothing is a common New Testament metaphor for spiritual change.

  1. Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Rom 13:14

  2. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

  3. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5  

When we are invited to a special celebration it is customary to consider the appropriate type of dress, Turning up without doing so is clearly inconsiderate and might be considered insulting to the host. For the Christian, the clothing about which we are concerned is not visible garments but rather character and behaviour. Our lives should not just demonstrate the same old predictable behaviour, rather we should exhibit something of the holiness and goodness of God. We take off those clothes which are unsuitable and change into something appropriate. For those who are called by Christ it is unthinkable that we should not now be spending time getting dressed in the right clothes.   Charles Royden

Meditation

In times when you are sad and troubled, do not give up the good works of prayer and penance which you have been in the habit of doing. For the devil will try to persuade you to abandon them, and unsettle you. Rather, practice them more than before, and you will see how quickly the Lord will come to your aid. Theresa of Avila in A Life of Prayer

Hymns

  1. All my hope on God is founded
  2. Amazing Grace
  3. Rejoice the Lord in King
  4. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
  5. Love divine, all love’s excelling.
  6. I’ll go in the strength of the Lord
  7. Come sinners to the Gospel feast Tune Fulda
  8. What a friend we have in Jesus
  9. Mine eyes have seen the glory
  10. Morning has broken
  11. Jesus I am resting
  12. Joy to the world
  13. One more step along the world
  14. We have a gospel to proclaim

     

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

O God, from whom to be turned is to fall, to whom to be turned is to rise, and in whom to stand is to abide for ever: grant us in all our duties your help, in all our perplexities your guidance, in all our dangers your protection, and in all our sorrows your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen St Augustine, 354-430

Almighty God, source of every blessing, your generous goodness comes to us anew every day. By the work of your Spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness, give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience. Indeed we pray you to pour out your Holy Spirit upon us - your Spirit of joy and laughter - of comfort and of strength - that we might celebrate with you and you with us, as we offer our worship and ourselves to you this day; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Dear God. Fill us with those things that are good: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and honourable. Help us to put into practice what we have learned from your Word. Loving God, you have invited us to feast in your promised Kingdom. May we never be so busy that we cannot turn to you, and thankfully celebrate the power of Your Son. Amen