Sermon Notes for October 9, 2011

17th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A, Proper 23)

Exodus 32:1-14
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14


  • If you are into storytelling, you’ve got a fine one in the Exodus passage.  It doesn’t tell a powerful story of Israel’s faith, but one that sounds more like an indictment on folks just like us. Golden calves, false gods, leadership that caves, people who want it all and want it now. It is certainly truth telling.  And then there’s Moses’ side of the story.  He pleads with God for mercy on this sorry bunch of idolaters.  Moses calls on God to remember: remember your promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; remember that you planned to make a huge nation of them.  And just when you thought that God was a mean God, full of vengeance and damnation, God makes a U-turn.  And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.  (You could even take up the whole theme of how God listens to the pleas of God’s people–and for those who believe that God would never change course, well, this is proof of the alternative.)
  • Of course the Psalm is an excellent compliment to the Exodus reading.  It retells the same story poetically and proclaims the theme: “God’s mercy endures forever.”  This is one of those Psalms that sound great in chant from a monastic choir.  Can you song this verse: “We have sinned as our forebears did; we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.”  Followed up with this verse: “So he would have destroyed them,had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath from consuming them.”  There is still One that stands in the breach for us.
  • The Epistle is an excellent lesson to preach as well. Paul’s call to “Rejoice!”  Rejoice always–in the midst of good or bad.  Whatever may come your way, rejoice for all that God is doing.  I especially like how Paul thanks persons in particular, call them by name.  If you believe that women have no place in ministry, you’d better argue with St. Paul.  Notice he thanked them first in this lesson.  He writes to the Philippians: 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. (This not “Don’t worry, be happy” but “Don’t worry, give thanks and know that God is with you.”)  That benediction should be used to close worship this Sunday just to hammer home the point.
  • The Gospel brings us another parable.  The parables you find later in Matthew tend to have darker themes and definitely hit the eschatological ideas differently than in earlier parables.  As Jesus gets closer to the cross, he tells stories that challenge us to make decisions and spur us to action.  Following Jesus is not for wimps.  The parable of the wedding banquet has some violent themes that make us cringe a bit—but you get the point—if you get invited to the banquet, say yes.  And there will be all kinds of folks invited to the banquet, so get over it.  And after you have said “yes”, be sure to be prepared for the banquet.  Jesus wants fully committed followers who are “All In.”  For many are called, but few are chosen.
  • Some great, quick notes at Comments
  • Standing in the breach from Christian Century, 2008
  • John Donahue’s “What Shall I Wear?”  is excellent for the eucharistic homily


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