Ordinary Time (Proper 23), Children’s Sabbath
The Banquet Is Ready
Isaiah 25:1–9, Psalm 23, Philippians 4:1–9, 2 Nephi 14:4
As a way to celebrate the children in your midst, place a large, plain table as a central visual focus for the congregation. As the prelude is offered, have the children bring up all the necessary materials to set a colorful table (for example, a tablecloth, plates, silverware, glasses, flowers, etc.). This may take several trips and some coordination. Be sure to provide a centerpiece for the table that includes a large picture of Jesus (perhaps pictured as an ethnicity not usually present in your congregation).
Call to Worship
On this Children’s Sabbath, the table has been set. The banquet is ready! God prepared a feast for us, a feast of abundant love. Our cups overflow with bountiful grace. This celebration with God will restore our souls and comfort us. Today, let us feast upon the words of Christ; for they will guide and direct our way.
—Psalm 23, 2 Nephi 14:4, adapted
“Strong, Gentle Children” CCS 233
OR “God of the Sparrow” CCS 138
Prayer of Invitation
Focus Moment (see below)
Hymn of Assurance
“Jesus Loves Me” CCS 251
OR “A Mother Lined a Basket” CCS 239
Based on Matthew 22:1–14
Disciples’ Generous Response
Song of Generosity
“My Gratitude Now Accept, O God”/“Gracias, Señor” CCS 614/615
OR “For the Life That You Have Given” CCS 619
Prayer of Confession and Gratitude
O Giver of Life, too often we complain of not having enough. We fail to trust your care for us. When you call us to your banquet, we turn aside and make excuses, rejecting your invitation. Or we come to the banquet unprepared to feast with you.
Shape us to respond to your invitation. Prepare our hearts, minds, and spirits to be present and focus our attention on the joyful banquet you have prepared. We are grateful for your generosity and, through this offering, we demonstrate one way we answer your call. Thank you for inviting us to the banquet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Receiving of Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Prayer for Peace
If possible, form a circle with the peace candle at the center. Ask the children to gather at the center of the circle, in a group around the peace candle. OR have the congregation gather around the table that was set at the beginning of the service. The children could be seated at the table. Have the peace candle on the table. In either scenario, ask a child to light the peace candle.
Song of Peace
“Circle Round for Freedom” CCS 383
If possible, project the text and sing this song with guitar accompaniment in the circle or at the table.
The light of this candle symbolizes today our hopes and dreams for our children. We ask you, God, to help us be peacemakers, so they may be able to live in a world where the lion and lamb can be led by them without violence or conflict. May you be the light for their steps. We ask now for these words to become something more—a dream of peace for our children. Help us move from words to being, from being to doing, so that your vision of shalom can become a reality in their lifetimes. This is our prayer for peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Hymn of Response
“All Are Called” CCS 606
OR “O My Soul, Bless Your Creator” CCS 220
Based on Matthew 22:1–14
Panel: Three to four “guest” panelists of varying ages (children may need a little extra prompting and preparation, but be sure to include them.) Panel can be seated at the table the children set at the beginning of the service.
Scripture Reader: Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.”
Jesus again used parables in talking to the people. “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son. He sent his servants to tell the invited guests to come to the feast, but they did not want to come.
Interviewer: (directed to panel) Have you ever been invited to a special celebration? What kind of celebration was it? What was it like to be invited?
Scripture Reader: He sent other servants with this message for the guests, “My feast is ready now; my steers and prize calves have been butchered and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast!”
Interviewer: When you went to the celebration what did you eat? Was there special food? What made it special?
Scripture Reader: But the invited guests paid no attention and went about their business; one went to his farm, another to his store. The king said to his servants, “My wedding feast is ready, but the people I invited did not come. Now go to the main streets and invite to the feast as many people as you find.”
Interviewer: When you were invited did you really want to go or did you feel like other things might be more important than going to the celebration? How did you decide?
Scripture Reader: So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, good and bad alike; and the wedding hall was filled with people. The king went in to look at the guests and saw a man who was not wearing wedding clothes. “Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?” the king asked him. But the man said nothing.
Interviewer: How did you prepare for the celebration? Did you wear something special?
Scripture Reader: So the king told the servants to tie him up and throw him out into the dark. And Jesus concluded saying, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Interviewer: In this story the king invites people to the banquet he has prepared. This is a parable about opening up and sharing the abundance of God’s grace and love. It also tells us how to respond to Christ’s invitation. Have you seen anything like this happening right here in our congregation? Do we come “dressed” in garments of love, mercy, kindness, compassion, and joy or do we sometimes come in a state that is something less than our best?
Interviewer: (directed to the congregation) Are we willing to invite people to come with us to be part of this amazing celebration? Some people are hungering for food, but others hunger to be surrounded by a loving community, with acceptance and forgiveness. If we were the servants sent to invite people to God’s banquet, who would we invite?
Ordinary Time (Proper 23)
Exploring the Scripture
Matthew’s parable of the wedding banquet is the third in a series of parables about God’s call to the people of Israel and their rebellious response. The parable has two parts.
In part one, a king plans a wedding feast for his son. He invites all the rich and powerful people of the community to come and celebrate. The king is dismayed when his invitations are met with contempt and people begin to make excuses why they cannot attend. In anger, the king orders these people to be killed and their homes destroyed. Then the king sends his slaves out to grab whomever they can find and bring them to the feast.
God is the king in this parable and the wedding feast symbolizes the covenant God has made with the people of Israel. The leaders of Israel are the guests who ignore God’s invitation (in the form of the prophets) to uphold their covenant with God. Because the leaders had not listened to the prophets, Israel suffered and judgment rained down in the form of Roman occupation and oppression.
The king (God) will fill the hall with new guests. These guests will be from unexpected communities—those who are overlooked, outsiders, impoverished, or oppressed. The guests will be people from all occupations and lifestyles—good and bad, grateful and inappropriate. It is not up to the slaves to decide whether a potential guest is worthy or meets certain criteria to be invited. This determination is left to the king, as we see in part two.
The second part of the parable serves as a caution to all invitees so they won’t come to the party inappropriately. The king enters the hall where the party is taking place. He spies a man who is not wearing a wedding robe and has him tossed out into the darkness. Here it is important to remember the man was not removed from the feast because his clothing was not good enough for the celebration. The expected attire for guests was a wedding robe. The robe symbolizes the mantle of discipleship. This unprepared or inappropriately dressed guest was self-satisfied to be included in festivities but was not wearing the clothing of a true disciple. Genuine discipleship is when a person puts on “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12).
As disciples, we are called to respond to God’s call without excuses. We are cautioned to set aside prideful and self-serving behaviors and respond with humility and gratitude. We respond to God’s invitation with lives of gratitude for God’s grace, radical generosity, and unfettered compassion.
These are woven into the fabric of the robes worn in genuine discipleship. As Christians we engage in true service to Christ Jesus.
As emissaries of Christ we are sent into the world to invite all people to come celebrate in covenant relationship with God. Many are called to celebrate God’s purposes but not all fully engage. We are encouraged to put on the clothes of genuine discipleship.
God invites us out of the stresses and schedules of our daily lives to the table for a feast. Here we celebrate our covenant of discipleship and find renewal and a hope-filled relationship.
- God has invited all to the wedding banquet that is the kingdom of God.
- As disciples, we are invited and are expected to wear the robe of genuine discipleship.
- We are called to invite others to God’s feast, and to help them also be engaged in genuine discipleship.
Questions to Consider
- What spiritual practices might help you be more aware of God’s invitation in your life?
- How is genuine discipleship expressed by disciples in your congregation and your community?
- How might humility and just practices strengthen you to share God’s invitation with others?