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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 guests 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

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gift of faith that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to that which is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy;
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. CW

God, our judge and saviour, teach us to be open to your truth and to trust in your love, that we may live each day with confidence in the salvation which is given through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

First Bible Reading  Exodus 32: 1-14

When the people of Israel saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.’ They rose early the next day, and offered burnt-offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’

But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, ‘O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with 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 consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.”’ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people. NRSV

Isaiah 25:1-9

Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name;for you have done wonderful things,plans formed of old, faithful and sure. For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin;the palace of aliens is a city no more,it will never be rebuilt.Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;cities of ruthless nations will fear you. For you have been a refuge to the poor,a refuge to the needy in their distress,a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;the song of the ruthless was stilled.

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples,the sheet that is spread over all nations;he will swallow up death for ever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.It will be said on that day,Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. NRSV
 

Second Reading  Philippians 4:1-9

My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.  NRSV

jesus invitation to a banquet

Second ReadingPhilippians 4:1-9

Gospel Reading  Matthew 22:1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to the chief priests and Pharisees 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, maltreated 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.’ NRSV


 

Post Communion Sentence

We praise and thank you, O Christ, for this sacred feast: for here we receive you, here the memory of your passion is renewed, here our minds are filled with grace, and here a pledge of future glory is given,
when we shall feast at that table where you reign with all your saints for ever. CW

 

Commentary

This weekend I have a wedding invitation to the school chapel at Bedford School, followed by a dinner reception. It all starts about 2.00pm and will no doubt finish late, far too late considering I have an 8.30am communion! It has been in my diary for months and months, probably since early last year and I completed my RSVP a long time ago so that Henry and Eve would know that I was going. It would have needed to be something really serious to prevent me from going because it is going to be a happy celebration and I am planning on having a good time. Am I going - Of course !

In the passage from Matthew this week we see Jesus telling a parable about another special invitation to a celebration banquet. This isn’t just an ordinary invitation to which a man invites guests, it is an invitation from a king. I remember last year receiving an invitation to a garden party at Buckingham Palace from Her Majesty. Now I know that if Queen Elizabeth received a reply from me saying I wasn’t going to make it she would not send the palace guard round to chop off my head. She might be upset at me not being there. My reason for going was because this was a big deal, of course if the Queen sends you an invite then you know this is going to be a really important gathering. It’s not every day you get to wander around the grounds of Buckingham Palace and walk through all those corridors you see on television.

.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! Yet in the story from Jesus those who the king invited turned down the invitation. They never turned it down because there was something that really prevented them from going, they just made lame excuses. Frankly it is all rather strange and it becomes even more confusing when we read that the reaction of some is not just poor excuses but they kill the servants who bring the invitation.

This is a parable which doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination and those who heard it would have a pretty good idea what Jesus was getting at. The King is God and the people who were invited were the Jews. God was planning the great party which the Jewish people had known about and waited for a long time, but now at the last minute they were refusing. The servants who were killed were the prophets who had proclaimed the coming kingdom had been ridiculed and killed.
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. Charles Royden

Meditation

 

An invitation to a wedding or a special party is often seen as a good reason to go shopping. Ladies will sometimes spend hours discussing their outfits beforehand but gentlemen also usually make an effort even if the clothing is an easier choice. In the parable Jesus tells of somebody thrown out of the party because they don’t have the right clothes, what was he getting at? we can’t be sure but it is worth remembering that clothing is a common New Testament metaphor for spiritual change.
Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Rom 13:14

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

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  

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.   
 

Hymns

Download hymn sheet

  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
  15. To him we come
  16. The feast is ready
  17. We come as guests invited
  18. My God and is thy table spread
  19. Give thanks
  20. The kingdom of God is justice and joy
  21. What a friend we have in Jesus
  22. Like a mighty river flowing
  23. Give thanks with a grateful heart
  24. I come with joy to meet my Lord
  25. Rejoice the Lord is King
  26. The trumpets sound the angels sing
  27. To him we come
  28. We come as guests invited
  29. Jesu lover of my soul
  30. Tell out my soul Come sinners to the Gospel feast
  31. Mine eyes have seen the glory
  32. To God be the glory

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


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

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

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

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit!
O what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge,
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
in his arms he’ll take and shield thee,
thou wilt find a solace there.

 

My God, and is thy table spread,
and doth thy cup with love o’erflow?
Thither be all thy children led,
and let them all thy sweetness know.

Hail, sacred feast which Jesus makes,
rich banquet of his flesh and blood!
Thrice happy he who here partakes
that sacred stream, that heavenly food.

Why are its bounties all in vain
before unwilling hearts displayed?
Was not for them the victim slain?
Are they forbid the children’s bread?

O let thy table honoured be,
and furnished well with joyful guests;
and may each soul salvation see,
that here its sacred pledges tastes.

Rejoice! the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore;
mortals, give thanks and sing;
and triumph evermore:
lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
rejoice, again I say, rejoice.

Jesus, the Saviour, reigns,
the God of truth and love;
when he had purged our stains,
he took his seat above:
Lift up your heart, etc.

His kingdom cannot fail;
he rules o’er earth and heaven;
the keys of death and hell
are to our Jesus given:
Lift up your heart, etc.

He sits at God’s right hand
till all his foes submit,
and bow to his command,
and fall beneath his feet:
Lift up your heart, etc.


 

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