There is a wealth of preaching material in the passages for today. I am struck by the following themes:
Exodus 32:1-14 – God “changes” God’s mind about destroying Israel because of the golden calf incident. This happens after Moses pleads with God on the people’s behalf. I particularly like the dialogue between God and Moses. They resemble two parents discussion the exploits of their children. God repeatedly says “Your people,” and Moses repeatedly reminds God that they are not his people but God’s. It is like one parent saying “Your son did this, or your daughter did that.” To which the other replies in kind.
Philippians 4:1-9 – This passage has a wealth of sermons in it alone. From dealing with church conflict (Euodia and Syntyche), to not worrying, to the climax of the passage for me (the following: 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. (NRSV). Having served in several churches where conflict was high prior to my arrival, these words have become a pet theme of mine. To move people out of their negative thought patterns onto something more positive is hard but essential work if conflict of any kind is to be resolved.
Matthew 22:1-14 – Another difficult parable of Jesus’. I have no problem with it until the poorly dressed slob is thrown out of the banquet. It seems harsh. But my feeling is that we probably have to fill in some details left out in the story. It is highly doubtful that the guests invited at the end have proper wedding attire at all. The host probably had to provide them with clothes. The only reason the man was not wearing the right attire then is that he refused to clothe himself with what had been provided to him free of charge. It is as though he says I will come to your party, but don’t expect me to dress up for the occasion. It is an affront to the King, and he acts accordingly. After all he had provided everything that anyone would need to come and celebrate with him.
There are some who want the benefits of celebrating the gift of the kingdom, but don’t want to do anything different in their lives to show their gratitude for the invitation. Coming to a banquet but refusing to dress according is a metaphor for this. One could perhaps tie this passage to Philippians by stating that the banquet clothes we are to wear include the attitude that Paul states we should have in the verses above.