Engaging the Word: Readings for 10/12/14 (18th Sunday after Pentecost)

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By Barbara Klugh

Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14 . Go to www.lectionarypage.net for the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings the Israelites dance around the golden calf, Paul’s letter reminds us to keep the unity in our community, and Jesus tells the Parable of the Wedding Banquet.

Exodus: In last week’s reading, God appeared from the top of Mount Sinai with smoke, lightning, and thunder to the Israelites and gave them the Ten Commandments. The People said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Later Moses entered the cloud and was on the mountain with God for forty days and forty nights. During this time, God gave Moses the code of laws concerning worship, the construction of the tabernacle, feasts, sacrifices, the priesthood, and much, much more (eleven chapters worth).

Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin (1594 - 1665). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In this week’s reading, the people grew tired of waiting for Moses to return and persuaded Aaron to “make gods for us.” Aaron told the people to bring their gold earrings; he used the gold to cast an image of a calf. The people proclaimed the idol as the gods that brought them out of the land of Egypt. So the people had already broken Commandments one and two. Aaron said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” The people got up early, offered sacrifices, ate and drank, and “rose up to revel.”

God saw what was going on, and said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely.” It’s interesting how God now refers to the Israelites as Moses’ people, like he is disowning them. Then God said, “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.” God is ready to start all over with Moses alone.

Moses begs on behalf of the Israelites, saying if God destroys his people, the Egyptians will say that God brought them out of Egypt to kill them. Moses also reminded God of his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob). God was persuaded. “And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.”

Not in our reading, but when Moses descended from the mountain carrying the tablets of the Covenant, he heard the noise of the people reveling, and he saw the calf and the people dancing, he broke the tablets, symbolizing the broken covenant. He burned the calf, “ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.”

You have to applaud Moses. The reluctant leader, boldly and successfully persuades God to refrain from destroying the sinful Israelites, but teaches them that committing sin does have consequences.

Psalm: Our psalm begins with praise to God for his goodness and mercy, and then recounts seven instances of Israel’s corruption and God’s compassion. Vs. 19-23 tell the story of the golden calf. Throughout history, God delivered us despite our sinful rebellion. Still does.

By Joker Island (Own work). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Joker Island (Own work). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Philippians: Throughout Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he emphasizes the importance of Christian community. In this week’s reading, he continues to encourage the Philippians to be of the same mind. Apparently two Christian workers—Euodia and Syntyche—have a difference of opinion and Paul, without going into detail, urges them “to be of the same mind in the Lord.” Paul asks an unnamed “loyal companion” to help the women reconcile their differences.

Paul presents a series of reminders to the Philippians and us: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Paul says that we should be gentle, for God is near, do not worry, but make your requests known to God. And God’s peace will guard your heart and mind. We need to fix our hearts on what is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, and excellent. Paul urges his readers to use him as a role model, “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.”

Matthew: This week Jesus, still in the temple with the chief priests and Pharisees, continues with another parable—this time comparing the kingdom of heaven to a wedding banquet given by a king for his son. In Jesus’ time it was common practice to send out invitations to a feast without stating the time; then when everything was ready, the servants would go out and summon the guests. In this story, all the guests refuse to come when everything was ready. They even “made light” of it and went about their normal business. Some mistreated and killed the slaves. Not surprisingly, the king becomes enraged and sends out his troops to destroy the murderers and burn the city. (One commentary suggests that this may refer to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.) Then he sends his servants out into the streets and invite everyone they find, “both good and bad,” and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Wedding Banquest, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564 - 1638). Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

Wedding Banquest, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564 – 1638). Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

The day will come when God will stop inviting those (the chief priests and Pharisees) who are hostile to Jesus. Then God will invite others—a mixed group, like us.

There’s a kicker to the parable, found only in Matthew’s gospel. When the king comes to visit his guests, he noticed a man who was not wearing a wedding robe. When asked about it, 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.”

Well, this seems like an excessive punishment for not wearing the proper attire. We’ll have to find out from Daniel what’s really going on. Some scholars suggest that the wedding robe may be supplied by the host, and so not to wear it showed contempt. I’m reminded of one of Daniel’s early sermons about putting on the mantle of Christ as our Christian identity. If we live lives of service, then the mantle of Christ—the wedding garment—will be visible to all who know us.

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