Reflection on This Week’s Readings

JUSTICE FOR ALL

As we try to make sense of today’s unsettling parable, it helps to recall that it was told during the last week of Jesus’ life, as the events leading to the crucifixion were already unfolding. The Jews gathered in Jerusalem were celebrating Passover, recalling how God had led them from slavery into freedom—and yet they were living under the oppressive thumb of the Roman occupation.

The wedding banquet of the parable, like the festival of Passover, takes place against a backdrop of exclusion, injustice, and escalating violence. The king of the parable who sends troops out to wage war on those who have spurned his invitation reminds one less of God, who leads us beside still waters, than of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s King George III of Hamilton, who says, “I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.”

And yet, to a people who are oppressed and calling on God to hold the powerful to account, it is indeed good news that God will not be silent and passive forever. It matters to God how we treat one another.

In the liturgy of Holy Baptism, we are asked three times to renounce sin and the devil and all the forces that defy God, rebel against God, and draw us away from God. This renunciation can feel awkward to a people steeped in grace, yet it is critical to recognize and name the fact that there are forces in this world that would pull us into complicity with systems that deny life and liberty to our neighbors.

The God of Matthew’s parable is the same God of Psalm 23, the one who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death. Jesus reminds us how passionately God resists the powers that deal in fear and death. Instead of claiming that God is on our side, we are invited to join God’s side through our own dedication to justice for all of God’s people.

From sundaysandseasons.com.

READINGS FOR THE NINETEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

The standard Sundays continue through the final parables/allegories of Matthew. We are glad to go from these readings to the table of holy communion. This Sunday concludes the semicontinuous reading of Philippians.
God calls us to life together, described here as a wedding banquet for the prince. Christians have likened the love of Christ for the church as a marriage and holy communion as the banquet that God provides: recall the wedding imagery in the hymn “Soul, adorn yourself with gladness.” Some interpreters have likened the “wedding robe” to a white garment of baptism, and some Christians have literalized the eschatological metaphors and specify heaven as an everlasting joyous banquet and hell as perpetual weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This stunning eschatological poem invokes the images of city, ruins, palace, shelter, cloud, mountain, feast, wine, shroud, tears. God is described as swallowing up death, consuming its danger so that we remain alive and safe. The poem is chosen as a parallel to Matthew’s picture of the king providing a banquet for a surprising group of guests. For Christians, the tomb of Christ has swallowed death. Be sure that a masterful reader proclaims this amazing ancient poem.
Paul once again provides a balance for Matthew: even though there is controversy within the Philippian community, Paul still praises it as his joy and his crown. “The Lord is near”: the church recognizes the risen Lord here, in word, sacrament, and assembly.

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