The message conveyed in the Matthew 22:1-14 parable is that “When God invites, if you are wise you will put on the appropriate garment and come!” All of the other texts selected for use on this occasion can be related to Matthew 22:1-14 through that theme statement. The theme statement provides ample resources for the proclamation of the good news and of judgment and for parenesis (how we should live).
“God Will Prevail!” is the basic message of the parable about the renters in the vineyard of Matthew 21:33-43 and in one way or another it can be seen to be the basic message of each of the other texts selected for this week as well. Therefore, we can build an excellent worship service around this theme. That “God Will Prevail!” is good news for those who are poor and oppressed, for those who are ill or worried. It is bad news for those who are wicked, who are oppressors of the poor, who think that their own evil will can prevail. We are called through the Word of God in these texts to proclaim this week that God will prevail, a message of judgment and a message of hope.
Every adequate message based on the texts selected for this coming weekend will address in some way the question of individual accountability to God for our sins and for all our actions and attitudes, as well as the issue of the damage caused by our sins that may harm and hinder our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Such a message will give ample evidence of our struggles with these issues. Such a message will recognize that changes in human perspectives of God and of human conditions occurred among the People of God during and within the biblical period and changes in human perspectives of God and of human conditions occur today within the living, dynamic Word of God, both written and oral.
The goodness of God is the dominant theme in these texts. Because of the goodness of God, the Apostle Paul was able to write that it would actually be better for him personally to die and to be with Christ, although he was willing to continue to endure the trials and tribulations of his present existence for the sake of his fellow believers in Philippi. We can effectively utilize the Philippians text, therefore, as an expression of our confident response to the amazing goodness of God. Because God is so good (particularly from the Christian perspective of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the Christ), we can be free and confident either to live or to die, free and confident both to live and to die. Therefore, all of these texts are gospel for us — God’s grace to be accepted by faith.
With their celebration of rejoicing over the mighty acts of the Lord in drowning the men in the armies of the Egyptian Pharaoh in the waters of the sea while parting the waters in Egypt and of the River Jordan to make it possible for the Israelites to pass over easily and safely on dry land, the Exodus 14:19-31, Psalm 114, and the Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 texts stand widely apart from the other texts selected for our use this coming weekend. All of the other texts selected are dominated by thoughts about God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others. In Romans 14:1-12, the emphasis is on ways in which we try to honor God whether we continue to live here for a long period of time or whether we die soon. We shall consider the Romans 14 text last, therefore, since it can be seen as a response to the other texts about forgiveness.