Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 15 Oct. 2017, Proper 23
Year A RCL: Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
“Many are called, but few are chosen.”
What a challenge we hear in our Gospel!
Our Gospel's challenge reminds me of the confrontation in our 1st lesson. [Did you notice how God says to Moses “YOUR people” & Moses says to God “YOUR people”?] You'd think by now the people with Moses would understand God is with them & will take care of them. But we humans worry, focus on what we lack, give into fear & make a mess.
If I were to ask you to stop by our house & check on our Mercedes & Jaguar [if we had them] while we're out of town, where would you expect to find them? [Both congregations' responses: The garage!]
Former neighbors asked us to stop by their new house to check on their Mercedes & Jaguar. We hadn't noticed fancy cars when they lived in the condo above us. So I ask about a key to the garage. The wife says:
“Use the front door key. They'll be in the living room.”
|It's been years since the|
Mercedes & Jaguar
encounter, so our cats
My mind races....Cars? Living room? She says check their water... Huh? ...& food. Huh??
Mercedes & Jaguar are their cats!
How had we lived so near & not known this?
What are the Mercedes & Jaguar Jesus wants us to check on in our Gospel so they can feed & water us?
I wonder if our Gospel reflects how people with Moses so quickly get out of touch with the hope & miracles they have experienced.
The excuses we hear in Jesus' wedding parable may seem believable. Yet, in Jesus' time people were invited to a wedding not knowing the date, so these invitees don't take seriously God's invitation to a joyful relationship.
Jesus makes it clear: more than our work, our life in relationship with God our King is important. The invitees miss living the fuller life we know in Jesus, the Son, whose bride, the Church, is us!
Notice what Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians: “beloved, whatever is honorable,...just,...pure,... pleasing, ...commendable,...any excellence,...anything worthy of praise, think about these things” & do the positive things you have learned, received, heard, seen.
This is how to have the God of peace with us. This is how to have what the people with Moses fear they don't have.
As one of my seminary professors1 says in her sermon about our lesson from Exodus: “...that thing we have made from Egypt’s gold...may symbolize strength & power...But as close as we draw to it, as much as we celebrate it & place it at the center of our lives, it did not lead us to freedom & will not lead us to our promised inheritance. It will tether us to slavery, to a worldview in which people are expendable, interchangeable commodities. It will moor us in the impatience of our ignorance & fear....”2
Trusting in Jesus, we can overcome ignorance & fear & have courage to do what he tells us to:
Invite others to share the fuller life he offers.
God sends an open invitation to everyone.
God's open door3 policy lets everyone come celebrate with God & God's Son. As Bible commentator William Barclay says: God invites us to join the celebration of joy4 & abundant life.
This is reason for rejoicing.
Like some invitees, we can get distracted & forget to rejoice. May we have grace to remember “God's gracious invitation needs to be met by our committed response.”5 “[We] can be so busy making a living...[we fail] to make a life; [we] can be so busy [organizing] life...[we forget to live] life...”6
What's important in Jesus' parable is not how we will be punished but “what we will miss.”7
“This parable has nothing to do with the clothes...[&] everything to do with the spirit in which we [live & worship God].”8
God loves us. God loves you.
God's love never goes away.
It is always with us.
We get a taste of it at this Holy Table.
By Jesus' dying for us, we receive a wedding robe so that we can come to this banquet, robed in the Light of Christ's Love.
Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew: Vol. 2 . Revised Ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1975.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. 2nd Ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2001.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Hughes, Rover Davis III. Beloved Dust: Tides of the Spirit in the Christian Life. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group. 2008.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
McKenzie, Alyce M. Interpretation Bible Studies: Matthew. Louisville: Geneva Press. 1998.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
Ortberg, John. If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2001.
Portier-Young, Anathea. “Commentary on Exodus 32:1-14.” Accessed: 17 Oct. 2017. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3442 Note: Dr. Poitier-Young, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity School, Durham, NC., taught the class on Old Testament Prophets, which I took at The School of Theology, The University of the South, Sewanee, TN.
Troeger, Thomas H. Ten Strategies for Preaching in a Multi Media Culture. Nashville: Abingdon Press. 1996.
1 Dr. Anathea Poitier-Young, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity School in Durham, taught class on Old Testament Prophets I took at The School of Theology, The University of the South, Sewanee, TN. 1st lesson. Commentary at http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3442.
3 Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew: Vol. 2 . P. 270.
4 Ibid. Pp. 267-268.
5 McKenzie, Alyce M. Interpretation Bible Studies: Matthew. P. 80.
6 Ibid. Barclay. P. 268.
8 Ibid. P. 270.