The 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A – 22 October(2023)
Lectionary Readings: Isa. 45.1. 4-6; Ps 95: (96) 1. 3-5. 7-10; 1 Thess. 1.1-5: Matt. 22.15-21
Theme: Cooperating in our Chosenness
Do you remember the oft-dreaded times of playground picks for dodgeball or tag at recess? Two captains would stand on one side of the field, eyeing their choices for potential teammates. The strongest, tallest, fastest ones quickly got chosen. The weakest, shortest and slowest ones waited nervously, hoping not to be the dreaded “last pick.” I wonder if those, or similar, challenging memories color our reading of Scripture when the LORD declares, “I called you by name…and we know that he has chosen you.” (Isa. 45:4a, 1 Thess. 1:4b).
God’s calling and choosing of his people, a consistent theme throughout Scripture and specifically in this Sunday’s liturgical readings, is not akin to playground picks. There are no dreaded last-picks; all are celebrated first-picks. The question isn’t, as we might incorrectly assume, if we are called and chosen. The question is what we will doin response to being called and chosen.
Regardless of our response, God’s calling and choosing of his people declares to the watching world that He is the LORD, there is no other. There is nothing apart from the LORD. He, and He alone, is the “great king over all other gods” (Ps. 95 (96):3). Everything in all of creation was made by, and is held in, His hands. This comforting witness seems particularly significant in the challenging times we face today. We may not understand, and certainly don’t know how to respond to every tragedy and trauma we face. But our great God, the one who holds the earth’s depths and owns the mountain heights, can be trusted (Ps. 95 (96): 3-4).
But God’s calling and choosing of his people is intended to be more than just a public testimony. The same God who made the sea and formed the dry ground, strengthens us, becoming the rock of our salvation, when we’re adrift and drowning (Isa. 45:5; Ps. 95:1). He shepherds us, when we’re lost and afraid (Ps 95 (96):7). He loves us, when we’re broken and hopeless (1 Thess. 1:4). He names and honors us, when we’re searching and shame-filled (Isa.45:4). And what does God ask in response? To look to the One who is the only one, to listen to His voice, to keep our hearts open to Him (Isa. 45:7-8), and to “Give to…God what belongs to God” (Matt. 22:21).
Stand tall, then, in your calling and chosenness. There are no dreaded last picks. You are a celebrated first pick. And with that pick, comes many promises from the LORD. But so too it also comes with a demand for humility, as “the closer you are to G-d, the more you sense your insignificance…demand[ing] introspection…not smugness” (Moss).
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Which of God’s promises in this week’s readings do you most need now? Which have you experienced most recently? 2. Do you find it more challenging to “stand tall in your chosenness” or maintain humility and pursue introspection?
Bibliography: Moss, A. “Are the Jews the Chosen People?” at Chabad.org.
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Rev Dr Kristen Bennett Marble, USA, Bat Kol Alumna: 2013