A line from Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” (and attributed to Augustine) could be the epigraph for today’s readings: “Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.” The ill-dressed man who was invited to the banquet and then tossed into the outer darkness should serve simultaneously to wake us up and to give us confidence. The called-out ones, the ekklesia, are invited to the banquet but we are to approach the table with awe and humility.
The sermon focus might be that faith comes through need rather than acclaim or accomplishment. What does such a focus look like in your community?
Set within the growing conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities, this parable condemns Jesus’ enemies for failing to receive and honor him as the Son of God. . . Matthew used it to intensify his condemnation of Jesus’ adversaries.
The text is similar to Luke 14:15–25, but differences suggest that Matthew has shaped the story to address two settings at the same time. First, the parable recalls Jesus’ conflict with the representatives of the religious establishment. By rejecting him and his message, they have refused to participate in the feast of God’s reign. With barely veiled images, Jesus announces that God’s judgment will fall on them and the city of Jerusalem. Matthew also has in mind how missionaries from his community experienced persecution. . .
The imagery of the parable—a king giving a wedding banquet for his son—is suggestive of the messianic banquet. Matthew may in fact, on one level, intend that the story be seen as a picture of the end of history and the celebration of God’s triumph. However, elements within the story also tell of the life and mission of Jesus’ followers now. . .
The appearance of a guest without a wedding robe at the parable’s ending is unique to Matthew. The lack of a proper garment has been taken as a metaphor for many different things, among them a lack of love, righteousness, or good works. . . The presence of the man without a wedding robe reminds believers that “God’s judgment comes upon all, including those within the ecclesia” (p. 208). –– Aaron J. Couch
Isaiah 24–27, known as the “Isaiah Apocalypse,” probably does not come from the hand of Isaiah of Jerusalem. Chapter 25 celebrates God’s goodness, first in a song of thanksgiving for God’s judgment against the proud and then in a vision of all people feasting for God’s triumph over death. The destruction of “the city” may be a reference to Babylon, or stand as a symbol for all human power and pride opposed to God. The feast for God’s victory evokes and overturns imagery from ancient Canaanite religion.
Texts from Ugarit depict Mot, the god of death (from the same root as Hebrew mawet, death), as swallowing all. Isaiah declares that death himself shall be swallowed up, finally and forever, by the LORD. At the unfolding of such glad news there will be no more tears. –– Aaron J. Couch
Because Christ gives peace, Paul calls for God’s people to demonstrate that peace. Paul urges reconciliation between two believers who are at odds with each other. He instructs all of them to stop worrying, and instead to know the peace of God that guards their hearts and minds.
With a list of virtues recognized by the wider Hellenistic culture as characteristic of “the good life,” Paul encourages believers to dwell on those good things, aware that the God of peace is with them. Paul also describes how he has discovered the secret of the kind of peace known as contentment. He is able to live with gratitude, regardless of the circumstances, because he experiences the sustaining presence of Christ. –– Aaron J. Couch
Aaron Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.
Homily Service 38, no. 11 (2005): 15-25.