Exodus 32:1-14 • Psalm 23 • Isaiah 25:1-9 • Matthew 22:1-14 • Philippians 4:1-9
This is most likely a very familiar story for you, while Moses is gone from the Israelites for 40 days, in his absence, the people become afraid. While Moses and God are talking about God’s gift of the Law to the Israelites, the people, in their fear return to the religious practices they have lived under in Egypt. They build a golden calf and celebrate. Although their celebration is justified as being a festival of God, it soon turns into a full fledged orgy. God informs Moses of what is going on at the base of the mountain and Moses and God express their anger and frustration with the people.
As you think through this familiar story, consider the following:
- Are the people afraid because they are worshiping the wrong thing/person?
- Are the people guilty of creating a false god, or is their guilt that they have a false image of the real God?
- Theologian Walter Brueggeman says that this passage is a depiction of a daring act of prayer – what is he referring to?
This Psalm is possibly the most quoted passage of scripture at funerals. It is a comforting and hopeful passage. It also has very distinct images that are the thread through many of our passages for this week – the image of a table where all are seated (good and bad), and we see the image of a feast.
Do you feel peaceful when you read this Psalm? If so, why do you think that is, is there a message between your feelings of peace and the metaphors used?
One other avenue to look at this Psalm….we last looked at this passage after Easter on May 3, still early enough in the pandemic that we assumed we would be back to ‘normal’ by end of summer – does it read differently to you now after we have experienced 6 months of pandemic without an end in sight?
Anytime we read in Isaiah we have to remember his mission and his proximity to the coming destruction and exile of Judah. Isaiah is calling the people back to God before they see ruin. Just like Jeremiah and Ezekiel after him, the message of Isaiah is usually very dark and forbidding – however, here we have a passage of hope and a future. It is not just hopeful for the Hebrews either, it is a hope for all peoples of the earth.
Spend a moment of consideration of verse 4 and how it is the reason for the description in verse 3.
Biblical scholar, Matthew Skinner, frequently says, ‘I have to contend with the gospel of Matthew.’ Parables such as this one in Matthew 22 serve as the justification for his struggle. You will also find this parable in Luke 14:15-24, although in Luke’s depiction it is a bit more restrained – the Matthew telling of the story is much more brutal and often perplexing.
Remember, we are in the week between the triumphant entry into Jerusalem and Jesus’ death on the cross – Luke places it much earlier in the ministry of Jesus. Matthew places the parable in this very solemn week, and it serves as the final straw for the religious leaders, verse 15 tells us that after hearing Jesus tell this parable they leave and begin planning how to entrap Jesus.
If you would like to also ‘contend’ with this passage, challenge yourself as you read it by asking yourself some contentious questions that can justifiably be answered in a variety of ways. Let the questions force you to see perspectives you otherwise would not see.
- Why did only some people receive the original invitations?
- Why would they not accept and attend?
- Is being invited a good or a bad thing?
- What is the problem of the clothes worn by one of the guest?
- What/who does this guest, with the inappropriate wardrobe, represent?
- How do you see ‘accountability’ portrayed in this parable?
- Is there a contradiction between this parable and John 3:16? Why or why not?
- If this is a description of The Kingdom of Heaven, what is the picture being painted?
As we have journeyed with the Apostle Paul and his relationship with his faith family in Philippi, we have been aware of some type of storm that is brewing among the believers. In chapter 4 we finally see a hint of the issue, two women, Euodia and Syntyche, are not of one mind. This is our primary context note, Paul has just spoken about believers being of the same mind, and now, we see the antagonists of this problem, however, we are only told that it is a ‘same mind’ issue. There would seem to be a danger of the church taking sides, but Paul leaves it to these two women to ‘be of the same mind.”
A few things we can justifiable know are true.
- The women are, or have been, coworkers with Paul.
- They are important members of the faith community and hold much influence.
- Paul knew that they knew what he was talking about when he says ‘be of same mind’ and he did not need to elaborate.
Spend a moment on verse 8. What does that encouragement mean to you?