The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Call to worship
Rejoice in the Lord always.
The Lord is near; the Lord is here.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice!
STF 24 (Come, now is the time to worship)
Prayers of Praise, Thanksgiving and Confession
Generous God, we kneel in awe at your willingness to draw us into your
fellowship; in wonder at your gracious invitation to join the feast of life;
in gratitude at your care for each one of us; in humility for your
faithfulness towards each one of us. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we
kneel and worship and adore you.
We give you thanks, wonderful God, for the gift of life, for the
opportunities of life and for the invitations to flourish in life. May we be
as whole-hearted as you in all we do, as generous as you in all we give,
as daring as you in all we dream, and as faithful as you in all our
relationships. Thank you for everything. Amen.
A Prayer of Confession
Gracious God, you invite us to join you in caring for the vulnerable. We
are sorry and ask for your forgiveness when we hurt you by not
accepting your invitation.
You invite us to share the good news of your love. We are sorry and ask
for your forgiveness when we hurt you when by not accepting your
You invite us to clothe ourselves with compassion and humility.
We are sorry and ask for your forgiveness when we hurt you when by
not accepting your invitation.
You invite us to take our place at your table. We are sorry and ask your
forgiveness when we hurt you by not accepting your invitation.
We are sorry and ask your forgiveness when we hurt you in any way.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Assurance of Forgiveness
Eternal God, you clothe us with forgiveness, you cover us with your
grace, you feed us with your word, you robe us with your generosity,
you root us in your faithfulness, you gather us in your love, you invite
us to be your disciples, and you go all out to draw us all in and call us
each by name. We thank you that we are assured of your forgiveness in
Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
STF 531 (What a friend we have in Jesus)
Isaiah 25:1-9 New International Version Praise to the Lord
25 Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done wonderful things,
things planned long ago.
2 You have made the city a heap of rubble,
the fortified town a ruin,
the foreigners’ stronghold a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.
3 Therefore strong peoples will honor you;
cities of ruthless nations will revere you.
4 You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the storm
and a shade from the heat.
For the breath of the ruthless
is like a storm driving against a wall
5 and like the heat of the desert.
You silence the uproar of foreigners;
as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud,
so the song of the ruthless is stilled.
6 On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine--
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
9 In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
Psalm 23 (from Stf, 805)
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
STF 481 (The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want)
Matthew 22:1-14 New International Version The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
22 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a
wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them
to come, but they refused to come.
4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner:
My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his
servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed
those murderers and burned their city.
8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.
9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the
streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.
12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where
there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Sermon (Ready to party)
There is a simple link that runs through our readings this week. Our readings from both Isaiah and Matthew
tell us that knowing God can never leave us unchanged. To encounter God will always affect and change the
way we are, and the things we do. This morning I would like us firstly to consider our reading from Isaiah and
the confidence with which Isaiah faces the future despite his present pain, secondly to unravel the parable or
some people say parables told to us in Matthew and finally to consider whether or not we’re ready to party.
In our Old Testament reading, Isaiah draws on past experiences.
Despite the pain of the present described in verse 2, You have turned cities into ruins
and destroyed their fortifications.
The palaces which our enemies built are gone for ever.”
Isaiah has every confidence for the future triumph of God as described in verses 8 and 9.
“The sovereign Lord will destroy death for ever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes and take away
the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The Lord himself has spoken. When it
happens, everyone will say,
“He is our God! We have put our trust in him and he has rescued us. He is the Lord! We have put our trust in him,
and now we are happy and joyful because he has saved us.””
The emerging message is that God is the Lord of all creation, not just of Judah and Israel. Isaiah speaks of
the universal reign of God. This is not simply the belief that, whatever happens, God will win through.
It is built upon the confidence that, as Roots puts it, God is eternally trustworthy, and despite everything, all
people will come to recognise him. The way in which God deals with his people provides the basis for
true thanksgiving, and the only realistic hope for the future. Isaiah speaks of the future in terms of a
heavenly banquet, something to look forward to. The prophet knows that, at the time he is speaking, this is a
distant dream: Israel has been exiled, and Jerusalem – including the Temple, the very sign of God’s presence –
has been destroyed. However, although things look desperate, God will turn things around. This is not idealism
but real confidence – this is how God has acted throughout Israel’s history, so why should it be different now?
To summarise, Isaiah looks forward to the future as a heavenly banquet when God will triumph despite the pain
of the present.
Turning to our reading from Matthew, Jesus gives his audience yet another parable. This one is explicitly set at
the wedding of a king’s son (though the only reference to the son is at the very beginning).
To celebrate the marriage, a banquet is given by the king. In a world when time was less precise than it is
today, invitations are sent out.
Then, when everything is ready, the guests are summoned. But, despite the importance of the occasion, the
guests make excuses, and, worse still, the violence of the situation escalates – overtones, perhaps, of the vineyard
in the preceding parable from Matthew Chapter 21 verses 33-46 from last week. The consequence is that the
guest list is ‘universalised’ – everyone who can be found is invited.
The wedding may be a metaphor for the relationship between God and Israel, and the banquet a sign of
the covenant between them. ‘Worthiness’ therefore involves being able to recognise God’s invitation and
respond to it as a top priority. The universal guest list could represent the replacement of the old covenant
between God and Israel with the new covenant God offers to all who accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
But there is a problem with one of the ‘replacement’ guests, called in from the street at the last minute. He is
not properly dressed. Is it reasonable to expect that a casually invited guest will be correctly attired? Jesus’
hearers, then and now, will not be surprised that the guest was speechless to be challenged in this way! But this is
a parable, a story, not a factual account. Some commentators argue that we are reading two stories and
an unexpected twist like this is also not beyond the imagination of a good storyteller.
So, what is to be made of this improperly dressed guest? ‘Wedding robe’ may suggest a specific – and newly
bought – outfit, but in Jesus’ day this would not have been an option. Wedding guests would wear their best
clean clothes. This man, rather than nipping home to change, has just wandered in, unchanged. The man is
rejected because he has made no effort to change while all the other guests have done so; he assumes that he
has no obligation other than to show up. This suggests that the parable is about our willingness to be changed
by our encounter with God. Meeting God can change us and the way we live, or, like the unworthy guest, we
can reject God’s grace and remain unchanged.
It is worth remembering that in the Early Church, baptism involved removing clothes, being immersed in water
and then re-clothed, to symbolise putting on a new life in Christ – symbolism that Paul writes about on a number
of occasions. The problem in Matthew is that the first group of guests (and the guest later excluded)
remain unmoved – and therefore unchanged – by the anticipation of the banquet.
Finally, then, are we ready to party? In the 1990 Bette Midler movie Stella, no one comes to Stella’s daughter
Jenny’s 16th birthday party because her friends’ families all ‘look down’ on her mother.
Can you imagine how Jenny must have felt? Turning down the invitation implicit in today’s parable
(i.e. God’s invitation) is more than turning down an invitation to a birthday party, a family wedding or even to a
royal garden party. It is a profound political slight to the king and, in the case of the last invitee, an act of
rebellion against his kingship.
I read a true story about a mother-in-law who was paying for the wedding reception of her daughter and
invited many more people than the venue could accommodate. So her future son-in-law was most thankful
when some people wrote back to say they couldn’t come. But that is rarely the case, and in the ‘heavenly
banquet’ that this parable alludes to, there is no limit on the capacity. In other words, turn the invitation down at
Social conventions change from generation to generation. In Jesus’ day, the custom was to send out a notice of
an upcoming event, followed by the announcement that it was happening – rather like the ‘save the date’
notices people send out today. However, today the advent of social media has made many people lax
about replying to invitations, or indeed turning up when they have said they will.
This means that events can easily be oversubscribed, or have a disappointingly lower than expected attendance.
Is this contemporary casual approach to events matched by a casual approach to the commitments of faith?
While the king says that those originally invited had demonstrated that they ‘were not worthy’, the
servants subsequently invite in ‘both good and bad’. As servants, we are called on not to make judgements
about anyone, but to invite everyone. Signs outside churches often say ‘Everyone Welcome’. But is that really true?
Research has shown that almost all churches think they are more welcoming than they are.
Many commentators see the last part of this parable (the expulsion of the guest without a wedding robe)
as a separate parable tacked on to the end of the other one. This is partly because they are comparing it to
the similar parable in Luke 14 verses 16-24, and because Matthew’s version is very disturbing. But it is quite possible
that Jesus told similar stories at different times with slightly different emphases (and endings), and his parables
are intended to be disturbing. This one reminds us that we are all welcome, but responding to God’s invitation
will demand changes of us.
Are we ready to party then? We are if we see ourselves as God sees us but not if we are fooled by who we think
we are or by our own desires. I think of myself as needing to be clothed in the light of Jesus in order to be
truly ready to party but at the same time pray that God will help me to be willing to change into the sort of
person he would like me to be. Amen.
Let us pray.
We ask that you will help us to be willing to change into the sorts of
people you would like us to be. Help us to encourage others to do
the same without judging them. We ask this through Jesus Christ,
your son, our Lord.
STF 673 (Will you come and follow me)
Prayers of Intercession
Living God, your Son lived among the people of the Holy Land and
mixed with both Jews and Gentiles. Your banquet is a feast for all to
share in harmony and peace. We pray for those whose lives are
shattered by warfare and conflict. We hold before you Israelis and
Palestinians, Russians, and Ukrainians and all who live in fear of the
bullet and the bomb.
Lord in Your mercy
Hear our prayer.
You invite leaders and outcasts; those with plenty and those with
nothing; lawmakers and lawbreakers. We hold before you the leaders
of all the nations of the world. They desire the best for their people;
help them to see the needs of their neighbours as well. May all rejoice
in the diversity of humanity and co-exist without violence and
Lord in Your mercy
Hear our prayer.
In your banquet there is food for the needy. You welcome the hungry,
the homeless and those who have fled their lands in fear to seek refuge
in a strange country. In you there are no barriers of language or
background, of gender or age, of employment or unemployment. Your
welcome is fulsome; your invitation is to all. We hold before you those
who feel excluded for whatever reason. May we see your image in all
our neighbours and show the love we have received.
Lord in Your mercy
Hear our prayer.
God of comfort and healing, you invite the sick and sorrowful as well as
the healthy and happy to your great feast. For many, this is not a time
for celebration. Many grieve for loved ones – those who have died
recently or for whom this is a time of anniversary. Many are worried as
they wait for medical appointments, test results or treatment. Many
are in pain and their loved ones sit beside them feeling helpless. We
hold before you our health service and pray for all involved in it -
doctors, nurses, administrators, managers, porters, health care
assistants. We commend to you all who are sick and sorrowful naming
those we know in our hearts.
Lord in Your mercy
Hear our prayer.
God of the Great Banquet, we stand in amazement, holding an
invitation with our name on it! We will be welcomed and accepted. We
will receive healing and peace. We will be fed and treated as your
special guests. We stand before you in wonder at the height, depth,
breadth and length of your love. We celebrate your presence.
Lord in Your mercy
Hear our prayer.
As we say yes to you,
we hear you say a resounding "yes!" to us
and in that we rejoice. In Jesus' name.
STF 487 (You shall go out with joy)
A Sending Out Prayer
Go into the week ahead, and wherever you find yourself, celebrating or
sharing a sadness, or anything in between, let’s rejoice in God’s grace.
Let’s try to see each moment as an invitation to meet with God and
each meeting as an opportunity to invite others. Amen.
Atributes to ''ROOTS'' for prayers
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Each Service has the videos of the songs and a transcript of the Sermon or reflection.
The Song references (StF) are from the Singing the Faith song book.
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