Sunday Worship, Eighteenth Sunday in Trinity

Today we gather to worship at our church with a Sunday Eucharist led by Revd. Robert Frede. If you are unable to join us, read on for prayers, readings, the sermon and links to our anthem and hymn.

Opening Prayer:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gift of faith that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to that which is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Isaiah 25, 1-9
Philippians 4, 1-9
Matthew 22, 1-14

Sermon: In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen.

In many ways Jesus talks to us about the Kingdom of Heaven, a life according to the wish of the Lord, a country where love is ruling and every creature can live like it was meant by God.

Jesus is very devoted to his message and this inspiration gives a lot of different parables in the gospel. Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, like the labourers in the vineyard, a treasure hidden in the field, like yeast in the flour, or a merchant who finds a very precious pearl… Jesus always speaks in symbols and parables to us.

Today we hear about a banquet hall where the king organised the wedding party for his only son. A very special occasion.
And to be invited to such a splendid feast means a great honour to those who are invited – I would say. One should skip all other activities to be present. But the opposite happens: One guest after the other cancels the invitation of the king. Most of the invited guests have other things to do but some others are more dangerous: they maltreat the messengers of the king and finally kill them. Something starting as the beginning of a great royal occasion ends up as a nightmare where violence is answered by violence. The king condemns the guilty people and destroys the whole city.

And after that he sends a new invitation to the people to celebrate the wedding of his only son. But now not to selected people but to everybody around. Everybody met by his servants in the street are invited to the royal court to celebrate the special occasion. Rich and poor, good and guilty, young and old – everybody. The banquet hall is crowded by the people and a large number of them might be even surprised about their own presence at a royal occasion.
But the story makes a strange move – again. When the king enters the royal banquet hall he sees one guest who is not at the right place: a man without a wedding dress.

And this man is thrown out of the banquet hall. Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

What is it all about now?

Everybody was invited we heard first! And were the others well dressed for a visit to the royal place? Or did they change clothes quickly? Why this one? And was it by free choice that the man had no wedding dress or was he just too poor or really reluctant against the king?
As listeners to the story we feel uncomfortable or at least uncertain about the plot. Most people identify themselves easily with the man thrown out of the party. And that is what Matthew wants when writing this parable.

What is the meaning here?

If we look into the exegetic literature we will see that there is a strong meaning that this parable was written by Matthew to use in his own community – or if we wat to say it like this – in his parish. We never must forget that the gospel never was intended as a “book”, it was written down in a time that the direct witnesses of Jesus’ life and work died and the first heads of the early church started to be very old. Matthew was one of those elders from the close circle of the first church. Their sermons and stories were written for real situations of real people – it was not meant as fictional literature. Even Jesus used his parables in real situations with his disciples, with the Pharisees or with “the people” in general. His parables were told from one to the other and finally written down in our gospels of today. My first teacher in New Testament at the university in Utrecht, Joop Smit, said that Matthew this parable which he knew from Jesus’ disciples (we can read the basic story in Saint Luke as well) had expanded with a sort of “history of the Jewish people in some pictures”.

And if you follow this idea you can see the following story:

God the king, invited the people of Israel several times to sit at his heavenly wedding table to share in the divine salvation. But Israel did not want to react, Israel neglected the prophets of the Lord and some of them Israel killed. The devastation of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 after Christ was interpreted by the first Christians and a lot of Jews too as God’s punishment for the behaviour of Israel. It is a king (the Roman emperor) who destroys the city.

After that the king renews his invitation – but now to everybody. Jews and non-Jews. And now we are in the time of Matthew who wrote our gospel today. And he wrote for his own parish. While writing he saw his own people in his mind. And he wants to teach them that to be a follower of Christ has an impact on daily life. It must be visible in your way of living that you are a true disciple of Christ. It is not important if you are poor or rich, if you are Jewish or not, if you a from certain level of society: the only important thing is if you are doing works of justice. That is the wedding dress this king asks his guests to wear. And the description of the Last Judgment by Matthew (for those interested: Matthew 25, 31 and onwards) shows the same teaching of Saint Matthew: simple actions of practised justice and mercy are the most important reasons to get salvation.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Those merciful are invited to live in the kingdom of heaven while those who were selfish and hard will be thrown out in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Mathew uses this very harsh image of the Last Judgement to call his parishioners – and us as the modern listeners – for a conversion of their heart in the direction of Christ.

It is now almost 2000 years ago when Matthew wrote the parable for his own parishioners. But we hear it this afternoon here in Haarlem. We listen to the enthusiasm of Jesus telling about a king who is inviting everybody to join his wedding table. Again and again we listen to the invitation, every generation for the first time it seems. The whole Bible seems to be such an invitation.

The Creator of our life, the source of our being on earth, is not a sort of a neutral something. It is a personal God who wishes our personal happiness, our salvation, who invites to life our life in the fullness of being. God asks for our commitment, asks goodness, asks community with us here. The question to us is:

Do we dare to accept this invitation?

Do we dare to say yes and to be a guest?

The host wants to welcome us at his party. Do we dare to come with the knowledge that we are very welcome to be there? And even more important:

Are we able to be a guest?

Can we accept what is given to us? Can we share our place next to another guest even if the place not chosen by ourselves? Or are we deep in our heart always more a host/hostess than a true guest?

To be a gust on earth means to receive life – from one minute to the next. Not one of those minutes are created by ourselves – how difficult it may be to accept this fact, all times is given to us, everything is given to us. For that reason it is right that we learn to share what we got. It is not right to try to get more wealth and power on earth than it is reasonable to receive. It seems not right to me that one guest eats more than the other and brings a big part of the meal in pockets to his home while the other guest hardly can eat enough and will die in the end of famine?

We wear the dress the king asks us to wear. The dress of service to one another., of sharing and forgiving, the dress of effort for justice and peace.

The wedding dress of love.

And I hope that we learn from day to day more to be guest at the wedding banquet of our Lord, a banquet that promises life eternal, for now and ever.



Have no anxiety about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your prayer requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Let us pray:
Everlasting God, you promised that your presence would always go with us, so we pray that we may always find you accompanying us on our life journey and that ultimately we would find your deep peace in our lives.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Merciful God, we pray for the people who have contracted the coronavirus in many parts of the world. Bring comfort to those grieving loved ones and peace to those worried, fearful and uncertain as the virus spreads. We also pray for governments and authorities who are developing strategies to contain and deal with the virus and those in the health services who may be risking their own lives to care for sick patients.

Here in the Netherlands we especially pray for the coronavirus situation and the procedures that have been put into force to try to halt its spread. Help us all to be responsible in the things that we do in our lives to prevent the spread of the virus by taking heed of the recommended precautions and avoiding situations which may make things worse.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Creator God, we pray for the peoples of the world that they may enjoy justice whether they be poor or rich, great or small. We pray for the humanitarian ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan that there will be peace.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Father God, we thank you for our families and friends. We thank you for modern technology which enables us to hear and see them so easily and to keep in touch even though separated by great distances.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Loving God, friend of those in need, we bring before you the lonely and the bereaved and those suffering in body, mind or spirit.
In our own community we remember …
And those who are unable to come to church at this time.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

In the quietness of our own hearts we bring you our own prayers.

Merciful Father: Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen



Anthem: And I saw a new Heaven – Edgar Bainton

Hymn: NEH 457 – The King of Love my shepherd is


The Blessing:

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.