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Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost - Year A - 1 October 2023



Exodus 17:1-7: The Israelites complain that they have no water, and Moses takes their complaint to God. God instructs Moses to strike the rock at Horeb with his staff and water flows out for the people to drink.

Psalm 78:1-4, 11-16: A teaching psalm reminding God’s people of all that God has done, bringing God’s people out of Egypt, leading with a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day, and splitting open the rock to give them water to drink.

Philippians 2:1-13: The apostle encourages the Philippian Christians to be united and to be like Christ in their humility, service and self-sacrifice, quoting the ancient hymn of the Church. He reminds them that they are to live out their salvation, trusting God who gives them the will and the power to do it.

Matthew 21:23-32: The religious leaders question Jesus’ authority, but Jesus refuses to answer them because they can’t answer his question about John’s authority. Then he tells them a parable about two sons whose father asks them to work in the vineyard. One says no, but then does, and the other says yes, but doesn’t. Jesus explains that like this, religious people are missing out on the kingdom, while outcasts are finding their way in.


Rev Tania writes:

By who’s authority? God’s authority! Matthew describes a moment of confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders, in which two questions are raised – where Jesus’ authority originates, and who is finding their way into God’s Kingdom. The water image becomes a captivating one for this week’s worship – because like water that flows into any crack it can find, and that is not easily controlled or contained, God’s reign appears in surprising places, and flows into the lives of those that we might prefer to keep out of God’s kingdom.

Though the religious leaders would like to be the gatekeepers for God’s reign,
Jesus indicates that in the very act of doing this, they exclude themselves, while those who would seem to be excluded find their way in.

This openness, inclusivity and welcome is characteristic of Jesus and his ministry,
as described by Paul in his letter to the Philippians. This ancient hymn which describes Jesus’ servanthood and self-sacrifice is Paul’s call to treat one another with love and welcome.

Like water that finds the smallest of cracks to flow through, and that bursts out in even the most surprising places (a rock in the wilderness), so God’s life – God’s living water – flows into any life that has even the smallest crack open to it, and brings life and refreshing and welcome and inclusion.

Rev Tania