St. Matthew’s Sermon 10-15-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 10-15-2017

There’s One in Every Crowd; Good!

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

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

It seems so long ago from this point in time, yet it is only about 3 years in real time, that I led this congregation through the “Theological Worlds Inventory”. You remember that, I hope. It was the questionere that helped determine which one of the five theological points of focus were most important to each of us. The five “worlds” are…

#1: The world of Separation and Reunion; which I referred to as the world of the orphan. Those with a higher score in this area tend to focus on their loneliness and insecurity and seek God in need of feeling like part of a loving family, in a loving home that offers them comfort and stability in their life.

#2: The world of Conflict and Vindication; which I call the world of the crusader. People of this class look at the world around them and when they see something broken they march out to fix it! These are the ones to whom inclusive love and social justice, as defined by God, are their most important point of focus.

#3: The world of Emptiness and Fulfillment; which I call the world of the seeker. Those centered in this category are on a continuous quest to find the meaning of life. They sense an emptiness within themselves and seek God to learn how to fill it.

#4: The world of Condemnation and Forgiveness; also known as the world of sin and salvation. This was, by the way, the most common theological world in St. Matthew’s participants. Those in this group are focused on their sinfulness and the sinfulness of the world around them; but they are also aware of, and deeply dependant on, the salvation offered by God and Christ!

And, finally, #5:  The world of Suffering and Endurance; which I call the World of redemption. Those in this world focus on their need to endure the hard times in life knowing that, by doing so, God will lift them up in the last day. These also see a relationship between the amount of suffering and the fullness of the redemption.

None of these are the wrong world, they are all important parts of the faith. None of these worlds are all black and white. And none are completely separated from the rest. In a cursory review of our results, no one scored a zero in any of the five worlds (only one with a single digit in one world); and the total of the scores for each world only varied between the lowest of 820 and the highest of 1054. (By-the-way, these were the world of Separation and Reunion, and the world of Emptiness and Fulfillment respectively). 

Also, these results not only show us what our greatest focus is in our personal connection to God, they also equally effect how we relate to others within the context of our faith; what we tend to emphasize when we talk to others about our beliefs.

And, our particular world of focus will determine what will catch our attention most when reading the Bible or other literature. This is what makes a mix of people from all the worlds important to the life of the Church. What one misses, another will see; What one passes by, another will pick up. In this matter, consider Paul’s metaphor of the Body of Christ as he writes “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another”. (Romans 12:4-5 NRSV).

Today’s Gospel reading is a good example of how this works.

A person in the world of Separation and Reunion might take notice of the common folk, who for so long lived far from the wealth and power of the king, being invited to a great banquet in the prince’s honor.

One who focuses on Conflict and Vindication is more likely to be attentive to the king’s anger and his destruction of the ingrates, the first invited.

Someone in the world of Emptiness and Fulfillment might identify with what made the king angry in the first place. He was excited about giving this great feast, he invited all his best friends, and then felt rejected, empty, when they didn’t show up. In the end, he filled the banquet hall, and his heart, with those who would be more appreciative.

One from the world of Condemnation and Forgiveness would certainly see the condemnation of the disrespectful friends and the one cast out into the outer darkness and would notice the lack of confession and plea for forgiveness of them all.

And a person from the world of Suffering and Endurance would take note of those who, a moment ago, were living in the streets but are now a part of the good life, eating a fine meal sitting in the company of the king!

Again, none of these are wrong interpretations of the story; it’s all in there waiting to be discovered! According to your theological world orientation perhaps you already saw one or more of these in the parable. Or maybe, even now, you see one more clearly than the rest. That’s fine, and it demonstrates the importance of a diverse community of believers; each can see something different and bring it to the attention of the rest, bringing greater light to the whole!

With that in mind, allow me to point out what I had not seen in this Gospel reading before but popped right out at me while preparing for today’s sermon. It’s in that very last line that reads, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Ask yourself where your focus is in the two parts of that statement? Does your mind move to “Many are called…” or to “…few are chosen”?  (Pause)

I know a number of Christians who will focus on the “few are chosen” and use that part to instill fear in nonbelievers and their fellow believers. They talk about how hard it is to receive salvation; how one must be guarding themselves constantly, being sure that they don’t stumble; warning that if they do fail, even in the slightest way, they may not be one of the “few chosen.

Personally, I find my focus being on the “Many are called” part. From this point of view, I see a banquet hall full of celebrants with only one being cast out.

Jesus doesn’t give us specific details, but I think we can safely assume that the first group of invited guests we diverse; some richer some poorer, some men some women, some faithful and some without faith, and so on. Their absence from the banquet is only their refusal to show up.

The second group were also diverse, no doubt, as they were randomly, without qualification, gathered off the streets. Their presence at the banquet is simply due to the fact that they showed up.

Now there is only that one rejected guest. He shows up! But he gets kicked out. Why, because he wasn’t dressed properly.

Of course this isn’t really about his attire, it’s about the fact that he didn’t show respect for his host or for the diverse group of other guests; he chose to be the one alone; he chose to make himself separate from the rest; the one to stand alone in the crowd rather than fully join in the celebration, and in so doing, diminished the joy of the occasion.

There are, of course, many levels to this story but in this level, the message isn’t about the fear of not being one of “few chosen” but the possibility of being the one rejected for not joining in; for taking away from the joy rather than adding to it by making yourself a part of it.

Whatever world you come from, join the celebration! Feast with the orphans and crusaders; lift a glass with the seekers and sinners; dance with the redeemed! Be a part of the joyful celebration of the marriage of the Prince to his Church! This is the calling!



Exodus 32:1-14
32:1 When the people 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.”
32:2 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.”
32:3 So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron.
32:4 He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, 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!”
32:5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the LORD.”
32:6 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.
32:7 The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely;
32:8 they 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 worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'”
32:9 The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are.
32:10 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.”
32:11 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?
32:12 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.
32:13 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 forever.'”
32:14 And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.


Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23
106:1 Praise the LORD! O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
106:2 Who can utter the mighty doings of the LORD, or declare all his praise?
106:3 Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.
106:4 Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people; help me when you deliver them;
106:5 that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory in your heritage.
106:6 Both we and our ancestors have sinned; we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.
106:19 They made a calf at Horeb and worshiped a cast image.
106:20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.
106:21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt,
106:22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
106:23 Therefore he said he would destroy them– had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.


Philippians 4:1-9
4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
4:2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.
4:3 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.
4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
4:5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
4:8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, 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.
4:9 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 22:1-14
22:1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:
22:2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.
22:3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.
22:4 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.’
22:5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business,
22:6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.
22:7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
22:8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.
22:9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’
22:10 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.
22:11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe,
22:12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.
22:13 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.’
22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”