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Related Bible reading(s): Isaiah 25.1-9; Psalm 23; Philippians 4.1-9; Matthew 22.1-14

Pass it on

Resources to share for DIY discipleship

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To the leader: this page offers extracts from the ROOTS weekly resources to share with others in your church community to help them explore the Bible and grow as disciples.

Highlight and copy the text to print, email, or put it on your church website – pass it on! Please include the copyright acknowledgement to ROOTS that appears with the extracts.

When and where? ROOTS resources can be used all week. We’ve included some notes below to suggest when and where you might share them. Don’t forget house groups, youth groups, the housebound, care homes, toddler groups and school assemblies. See also: A guide to using Pass it on.

15 - 21 October 2017

Ready to party; Matthew 22.1-14

Lectionary Bible readings RCL Proper 23 Year A

Isaiah 25.1-9
Psalm 23
Philippians 4.1-9
Matthew 22.1-14

We explore:
invitation; response; readiness.

Resources to share

To help the listener

Bible notes: Short version

Bible notes: Long version

The links between the lectionary readings

PostScript

Prayers

Live in faith

Children's Sheet

Picture pointers

 

To help the listener

To the leader: these brief notes help to set the scene for the readings.

When & where? Read out the notes before hearing the readings in worship; share on a weekly bulletin, church website, etc. with Bible references so that people can get more out of reading the passages for themselves.

man with megaphone

The reader could use these words to provide context.
Can you begin to think about how knowing God in your life has changed you? For many, such changes may not always be dramatic, but how has it affected the way you live and the decisions you make as you look to the future?

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2017. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

Bible notes

To the leader: we offer two sets of Bible notes each week. The short version comes from the Children & Young People resources and the long version is from the Adult & All Age resources. You could share a version to help people learn more about the reading.

When & where? Before or after we hear the reading in worship; in a Bible study group; distributed to people who can’t get to the service; in a youth group.

Short version

man with megaphone

Matthew 22.1-14

  • In today’s Old Testament reading, Isaiah, despite the pain of the present, looks forward to the future as a heavenly banquet when God will triumph.

  • In Matthew, Jesus’ parable is set at the wedding feast for the king’s son. The invitations are first given to a select few, but some guests find excuses not to attend and others reject the invitation more violently, so the angry king invites everyone his slaves can find to fill the hall with guests ‘both good and bad’ (v.10).

  • The wedding may be a metaphor for the relationship between God and Israel, and the banquet a sign of the covenant between them. ‘Worthiness’ thus involves being able to recognise God’s invitation and respond to it as one’s top priority. The universal guest list could represent the replacement of the old covenant between God and Israel with the new covenant God offers to all who accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

  • One of the replacement guests offends the king for not wearing a wedding robe. The garment may be a metaphor for righteousness, as Paul talks about ‘being clothed with Christ’ (Galatians 3.27). Or it could be that the man with no robe has made no effort to change, while all the other guests have done so. This suggests that the parable is about our willingness to be changed by our encounter with God. Meeting God can change us and the way we live, or, like the unworthy guests, we can reject God’s grace and remain unchanged.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2017. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

Long version

man with megaphone

Old Testament Isaiah 25.1-9

In this passage, the prophet draws on experience of the past (v.1) and, despite the pain of the present (v.2), has every confidence for the future triumph of God (vv.8-9). The emerging message is that God is the Lord of all creation, not just of Judah and Israel. Isaiah speaks of the universal reign of God. This is not simply the belief that, whatever happens, God will win through. It is built upon the confidence that God is eternally trustworthy (v.1), and despite everything, all people will come to recognise him (v.3). God’s dealings with his people are the basis for true thanksgiving (v.4), and the only realistic hope for the future (v.5). Isaiah speaks of the future in terms of a heavenly banquet (v.6), something to look forward to. The prophet knows that, at the time he is speaking, this is a distant dream: Israel has been exiled, and Jerusalem – including the Temple, the very sign of God’s presence – has been destroyed. However, although things look desperate, God will turn things around. This is not idealism but real confidence – this is how God has acted throughout Israel’s history, so why should it be different now?

 

Gospel Matthew 22.1-14

Jesus gives his audience yet another parable. This one is explicitly set at the wedding of a king’s son (though the only reference to the son is at the very beginning). To celebrate the marriage, a banquet is given by the king. In a world when time was less precise than it is today, invitations are sent out. Then, when everything is ready, the guests are summoned (v.3). But, despite the importance of the occasion, the guests make excuses (vv.3-6), and, worse still, the violence of the situation escalates (vv.6-7) – overtones, perhaps, of the vineyard in the preceding parable (Matthew 21.33-46; see last week’s readings). The consequence is that the guest list is ‘universalised’ – everyone who can be found is invited (v.9). The metaphor is clear: the original guests are God’s people, Israel, invited to God’s heavenly banquet (as envisaged by Isaiah – see above); and the judgement is on Israel, because the party goes on, but with different guests.

But there is a problem. One of the ‘replacement’ guests, called in from the street at the last minute, is not properly dressed (v.11). Is it reasonable to expect that a casually invited guest will be correctly attired? Jesus’ hearers, then and now, will not be surprised that the guest was speechless (v.12) to be challenged in this way! But this is a parable, a story, not a factual account. Some commentators argue that we are reading two stories and an unexpected twist like this is also not beyond the imagination of a good storyteller.


So, what is to be made of this improperly dressed guest? ‘Wedding robe’ (v.11) may suggest a specific – and newly bought – outfit, but in Jesus’ day this would not have been an option. Wedding guests would wear their best clean clothes. This man, rather than nipping home to change, has just wandered in, unchanged. The man is ejected because he will not change; he assumes that he has no obligation other than to show up. Again, the meaning is clear: the wedding garment is a metaphor for righteousness; all are invited to God’s banquet, but not all are necessarily righteous. While some may interpret this to mean that God grants the gift of salvation to some, but withholds it from others, the choice – whether to change or not – actually rests with the invited guest.


It is worth remembering that in the Early Church, baptism involved removing clothes, being immersed in water and then reclothed, to symbolise putting on a new life in Christ – symbolism that Paul writes about on a number of occasions (Romans 13.14; Galatians 3.27; Ephesians 4.22-24; Colossians 3.9-17).

 

The links between the lectionary readings

There is a simple link that runs through our readings this week. All three readings – i.e. including Philippians – tell us that knowing God can never leave us unchanged. To encounter God will always affect and change the way we are, and the things we do. The problem in Matthew is that the first group of guests (and the guest later excluded) remain unmoved – and therefore unchanged – by the anticipation of the banquet.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2017. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

 

PostScript: A disturbing parable

To the leader: this reflection and comment on current news and events is written afresh each week and appears on the ROOTS website by Thursday morning.

When & where? Useful for sermon preparation; includes a prayer that can be used in worship and questions for young people. You could share it after the Sunday service or use in house/youth groups sessions.

 

Prayers

To the leader: these prayers support individual and family prayer life during the week.

When & where? Print/email them in a bulletin, post on your website.

 man with megaphone

A personal prayer

May I be ready – and stay ready – to say ‘yes’ and to mean ‘yes’ when God calls me.
Amen.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2017. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

A way into prayer

Think about parties you have been to and why they have been special. What did it feel like to be invited? Did you have any hesitation about going? Now think about your relationship with God. How did it begin? Is it like a party? (What makes a party?) When are you hesitant about responding to God? Give thanks to God for the invitation and say sorry for times when you have not responded wholeheartedly.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2017. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

A prayer for all ages together

Loving God, you invite us to be your children.
Help us to be ready to do what you want us to do,
to see you in the world,
and to love as you love us.
When we say ‘yes’ may we mean ‘yes’,
and always do as we have promised.
For your name’s sake.
Amen.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2017. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

A children’s prayer

Forgive us, God,
when we are so busy doing our own thing,
that we don’t respond to your invitations.
Help us to be ready to receive
your good gifts.
Amen.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2017. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

Live in faith

To the leader: these are suggestions, linked to this week’s Bible reading, for putting faith into action.

When & where? Print/email them in a bulletin, post on your website.

man with megaphone

For children

Encourage the children to pray for the people they notice who are left out this week and look for ways to include them.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2017. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

For young people

Keep a record of invitations you receive, your response, and times when you feel left out this week. Consider how you might avoid making others feel left out or rejected.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2017. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

For adults

Ask God to help you this week to invite someone to come to church (see Open invite and Save the date).

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2017. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

Children’s Sheet

To the leader: a question to ponder, a picture to colour, activities, a prayer, and a related book/film to share, aimed at 5–9 year olds.

When & where? Print it out for families to take away, email it to families each week.

This week's Children's sheets

 

Picture pointers

To the leader: a picture from this week’s resources with questions for reflection and discussion.

When & where? Use in a house group, project as people prepare to worship, share after the Sunday service.

This week's Picture pointers

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