Sermon for the Twentysecond Sunday after Pentecost

Our readings this morning give some interesting grist for the mind. We are told that this generation lives by the mantra: I want it and I want it now. Yet the Exodus event described in today’s reading reveals a people who lacks patience as well.

Since Moses isn’t back yet, they default to the old ways in the midst of which they lived. They demand seeable, touchable gods and so Aaron demands of them the gold that adorns the ears of the women and children.

Gold earrings are in sharp contrast to the way the Israelites have characterized their situation to God. In it they claim to be brutalized and oppressed and yet at every fork in the proverbial road they long for Egypt with its plentiful food and, seemingly, the opportunity to demonstrate one’s poverty in the number of gold rings adorning one’s family.

Although he later disavows his actions, Aaron is quick to model a mold and smelt down the gold into the figure of a calf. Since later Moses in his anger picks it up and throws it down, the size of the calf would seem to demonstrate that not much gold was turned in for use.

When Moses arrives before the camp, he observes the camp in full party mode, breaks the tablets with the Commandments and charges into the camp in a rage.

Aaron begins the finger pointing in an effort to deflect Moses’ wrath from himself although he is the cultic leader and led the proceedings.

You’ve heard the rest of the story. Not the Israelites’ finest hour and there would be more in Salvation History.

How often we go back to bad behaviors and attitudes because they are familiar even when we know they don’t work for us.

Continuing in his letter to the church in Phillippi, Paul commends the ministries of two women: Euodia and Syntyche who have served alongside Paul in the missionary effort.

Once again we receive a glimmer of the importance of women in the earliest part of the church—something which has not yet been fully recovered today. It is still the doctrine of the two largest Christian denominations—the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox—that women cannot achieve the comparable positions in ordained ministry because Jesus had no core female disciples.

And Paul reminds the members of this church to rejoice always despite the petty bullying and persecutions. Rejoice, I believe, is also a call to us in these unsettled times.

Paul tells them to keep doing what they have learned from and seen in Paul. Stay the course—good counsel after another tough week in the financial markets.

Jesus provides another analogy to the Kingdom of Heaven—this time a king sends slaves to remind those whom he invited to his son’s wedding banquet that the time has come. Some make excuses; others set on the slaves mistreat and in some cases kill them. The angry king destroys the murderers and their town.

He then sends out retainers to bring in anyone they can find. They do and the wedding banquet goes forward. The analogy is clear. God has a promise with God’s chosen people but their leadership has ignored God’s call and even beaten and murdered the prophets. Now since they have spurned God, the promise moves on to others. It is clearly a prophetic comparison.

Then there is this curious incident. The king finds someone not dressed in a wedding robe and has him cast out into the outer darkness.

Some have written that this is because a festal garment accompanied the invitation. A commentary on the New English Bible finds this hardly credible. Who would have had time to change?

They speculate that this is the putting together of two different strands and that to be confronted as unprepared is the true core of this section.

We must be prepared, reflecting in our behavior and works, the redemption and friendship of God.

I am sure that these analogies bring major surprises to his audience: the common people are surprised that the Pharisees and chief priests aren’t automatically in and the Pharisees and chief priests are surprised because there is a standard of God beyond scrupulous following of rules and regulations.

And now to the summation:

  • Be responsible for your attitudes and actions.
  • Stay the course—there is benefit in being faithful.
  • Be ready for God’s invitation to something new and grand.

Amen.