Weddings and letters

Signpost for Sunday 12th October 2014, 18th Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106;1-6, 19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14

I must have read William Barclay’s book on the parables many times in the distant past – it is yellow and crumbly, decidedly tatty, yet this week’s serendipity does not stir the slightest memory – it comes completely fresh. Not a huge breakthrough – I have never lost too much sleep worrying about God’s apparent unreasonableness in condemning a man who, unexpectedly called to a banquet from the highways and byways at the very last minute, turned up without wearing a wedding robe. I suppose I have just accepted that we are dealing with a metaphorical garment and I’d better jolly well watch my own clothing of compassion, justice and love – a “put on the whole armour of God” sort of thing.

But I am delighted that Barclay tells me matter of factly (is that a proper word?) that verses 11-14 are not part of the Parable of the Wedding Feast at all, but a distinctly separate parable which no doubt became attached to the other one because it too deals with something which happened at a wedding. Certainly Luke’s more straightforward version of the Wedding Feast doesn’t mention it (nor does it contain verses 6 and 7 of Matthew’s account which appear to interrupt the flow of Matthew’s story). In my Bible verses 11-14 are enclosed in quotation marks – can anyone suggest why?

So we have two parables each with a different emphasis. The first reveals the inclusiveness of the Gospel and the second a warning that we must prepare ourselves to enter the presence of God. And a great deal more too, of course.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians, written in prison, is a treasure indeed. Forget for a moment the lyrical prose, the sublime words of encouragement and exhortation, and just look at the “real”ness of it. Paul thinks, “I’m sending Epaphroditus back to Philippi: he’s been ill and is missing the folks, and it’s a good opportunity to send them a letter.” Today’s excerpt from that letter confirms the acceptance of women as workers for the Gospel – we women like those bits. Is it over the top to read into it that Euodia and Syntyche are two holy, dedicated women who don’t see eye to eye? Sounds delightfully familiar. There is also the promise to send Timothy when Paul’s situation becomes clearer and the expressed hope that Paul may even be able to come himself. And “by the way, thanks for the present.” The kind of letter we might write ourselves? Yeah, right! Who can compare with Paul in his glorious, radiant joy in Christ?

Sheila

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