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Many Are Called, but Few Are Chosen

A service of worship from Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. Led by the Very Rev Dermot Dunne. The preacher is the Most Rev Dr Michael Jackson, the Archbishop of Dublin.

Live from Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

"Many are called, but few are chosen"

Led by the Very Rev Dermot Dunne, Dean of Christ Church,
Preacher: The Most Rev Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin.
Isaiah 6.1-8
Matthew 22.1-14

Dear Lord and Father of mankind
I heard the voice of Jesus say
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Set me as a seal (Walton)

Director of Music: Ian Keatley
Organist: David Bremner.

38 minutes

Last on

Sun 12 Oct 2014 08:10

Script of Service

This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.

It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.

"Many are called but few are chosen"

Sunday Worship

10 October 2014

From Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

Led by the Very Rev Dermot Dunne, Dean of Christ Church

Preacher: The Most Reverend Dr Michael Jackson , Archbishop of Dublin

Director of Music: Ian Keatley

Organist: David Bremner

Producer: Bert Tosh



CON ANNO: BBC Radio 4. The Archbishop of Dublin Dr Michael Jackson, is the preacher for Sunday Worship now live from Christ Church Cathedral Dublin.  The service is led by the Dean the Very Rev Dermot Dunne and begins with the hymn ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’ Choir: I heard the voice of Jesus Say The Dean: Good morning.

Welcome to Christ Church Cathedral, the oldest building in Dublin in what was the heart of the mediaeval city.

This cathedral represents many of the strand and influences that made this city. It was founded almost a thousand years ago by a Norse King, it contains the tomb of one of the first Norman invaders, the Earl of Pembroke, Strongbow and Dublin’s patron saint Archbishop Laurence O’Toole is commemorated here. And we seek to day to be a community at spiritual heart of this city. Our ministry follows the ancient Benedictine rule of Welcome, Witness and Worship.

This morning, we’re thinking about a phrase in today’s Gospel today’s Gospel: Many are called but few are chosen and how we should be grateful for God’s call and prepared to respond to it.

And so we confess our sins:

You call us to be your people but we often ignore that call

Lord have mercy

Your call is to all. Good and bad alike, but we can try to restrict it

Christ have mercy

You offer us rest but we often prefer to live chaotically

Lord have mercy

The Lord is merciful and gracious,

   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 

 He does not deal with us according to our sins,

   nor repay us according to our iniquities. 

 For as the heavens are high above the earth,

   so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; 

as far as the east is from the west,

   so far he removes our transgressions from us.

The Collect for the Day

Almighty God,  you have made us for yourself,   and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you: 
 Teach us to offer ourselves to your service,   that here we may have your peace, 
 and in the world to come may see you face to face; 
 through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen    The Dean:

The choir sing an anthem with music by Charles Wood setting a poem by John Keble - itself a translation of an early Christian vision of heaven – ‘Hail gladdening light’

Choir  Hail Gladdening Light  (Wood)    The Dean: The idea of God calling people runs throughout the Bible. It’s there, in a very straightforward sense in the 2nd chapter of the Book of Genesis, with its delightful picture of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day and calling Adam: Where are you? Then God calls Abraham to leave his home to become the ancestor of a people God will bless and he calls Moses to go to Egypt to bring that people out of bondage. Our first lesson describes the call of one of the great Old Testament prophets Isaiah                                  Reader   

The Old Testament reading is from Isaiah Chapter 6, verses 1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’ 

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ 

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’ 

The Word of the Lord

Thanks be to God!              The Dean: We too have acknowledged that we are people of unclean lips. We sing Dear Lord and father of mankind.  Choir Dear Lord and Father of mankind.   Reader

Hear the holy gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 22, verses 1-14.

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. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, "Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet." But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned

their city. Then he said to his slaves, "The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet." Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 

 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, "Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?" And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." For many are called, but few are chosen.’                                                                     

This is the Gospel of Christ

Thanks be to God The Dean: The choir now sing a wedding anthem setting words from the Song of Songs composed by William Walton after which the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, will explore the themes of that puzzling and complex parable of the wedding feast. Choir  Set me as a seal (Walton)            The Archbishop 

Many are called but few are chosen … It’s a phrase that has passed almost effortlessly into everyday use. When we apply it to an everyday situation, it gives off signals like the conclusion of a cautionary tale that we vaguely remember from childhood. Someone who didn’t expect to come to a very sticky end managed to do so and somehow seems to have been the author of his or her own ill fortune. This is what cautionary tales do, after all.

I’m sorry it didn’t work out; not everyone can ‘get lucky;’ so, as we say: Many are called but few are chosen … And it carries the somewhat ironical implication: Better luck next time! But I very much doubt if this really is the best and the biggest understanding of what this phrase means and of the message that it shares. I think we should always probe - to unearth how our understanding of any part of Scripture does genuine justice to the God it describes and to the graciousness that flows naturally from God to what another parable calls the lost sheep. Every one of us is a lost sheep, as Pope Francis reminded us in his first public utterances.


Today’s Gospel Reading is, of course, the origin of the saying: Many are called but few are chosen. That should make us wary of taking the phrase too much at face value because we are told from the outset that the story is a parable...

A parable is a picture which grows arms and legs as it pushes, in the imagination of its author, to the extreme of possibility the meaning which can be imposed on a story. And if we stand back from the parable, the story on which it’s based is probably rather innocent at its core. A parable is a story that lifts something from everyday life and uses it to illustrate something that we had not seen or even needed to see before – to a purpose of which we may even be unaware. In this way, it always sharpens our antennae and ought to make us uncomfortable. We can also find that more and more meaning is piled on to it until it almost topples – and then we remember that it is: a parable.

And this particular parable is quite complex – almost two stories in one. Of course wedding feasts should be joyous occasions – as they normally are in almost every culture. Old friends meet, new friends are made and in some parts of the world they can also help to forge new dynastic links when families come together and new alliances are formed. For whatever reason, never satisfactorily revealed to us, these invited guests were just not going to attend the wedding feast, even though they had been invited and had accepted. The story grows its arms and legs from this point. The father of the bridegroom- the king -sends his servants to plead with the reluctant and ungrateful guests; they, in turn, kill those same servants - a terrible response to such hospitality in any culture but especially that of the Middle East - and so then the king sends his troops to finish them off altogether! In another version he even sends his son to them. His next move is to send more servants to invite everyone they can find in the streets to come to the feast. The parable significantly and beautifully says: good and bad alike. (St Matthew 22.10) – now we have reached the heart of the parable and what it wants to tell us about God.

At this very point there’s a real jolt – a rude awakening as the story moves on.. The king instructs the wedding attendants to throw out into the dark an unfortunate individual, who seemingly had come in from the streets and had been invited by both the master and the servants, thinking this to be his lucky day. Why? Well he doesn’t have on the right clothes for a wedding. This is where confusion really settles in like a thick fog on a shoreline, when we had hoped for blazing sun. But it is not so much that the parable has failed. The parable about the wedding feast relates to those who are invited to and refuse to accept the feast of freedom - "The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy"; they clearly would rather be preoccupied with recognizable earthly preoccupations. Some of them reject the invitation in the most brazen way possible by killing the representatives of the household. And if the parable warns us about being un-grateful [ungrateful to God for his open and free invitation to us as human beings], the second parable concerning the wedding garment warns us about being un-prepared [for that same God].

Many are called but few are chosen ... As with the Parables of the Kingdom, these two parables-in-one throw back personal responsibility to those who hear each of them and both of them. This clearly was the intention of the writer of Matthew’s Gospel. Gratitude and preparation are not exclusively or specifically religious qualities. They, rather alarmingly, point us to a common sense that is all too uncommon. And this seems to me to be the purpose of the total parable. It points us, by extreme and almost ridiculous examples, back to basics. It points us [also] to the golden truth about God that God invites good and bad alike to the very best of everything that God has to share. This is the sparkling jewel that lies at the heart of this amazing parable - a parable that has the audacity to combine violence and compassion in picturing God to us.

If we still feel uncomfortable with the direction of the phrase:

Many are called but few are chosen … perhaps we might set it beside another sound-bite from the Gospels:

Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice; all of these things will be added to you …

The calling and the work of God’s is to herald and to hasten the Kingdom and to make this the focus of our gratitude and our preparation to greet God where and when God finds us.

Choir Jesu, the very thought of thee (Bairstow)  Reader: Let us pray

Many are called but few are chosen. Lord God, may we never forget that the Church exists in the world not for its own sake but for your glory and the service of all people. Save us from getting wrapped up in our own affairs and the mundane things that absorb so much of our time and money and energy. Help us to get our priorities right: to seek first your kingdom and the hallowing of your name; to obey our Lord’s command to preach the gospel everywhere and to everyone; to minister for his sake to the poor, the afflicted, and the oppressed; and to practice the royal law by loving our neighbour as ourselves. Give us a new vision of what the Church should be, and of your purpose for it, here and in every place, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

2Lord God of our fathers, whose faithfulness knows no end, we pray for the needs of the world. We ask you for an end to all strife and warfare especially in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and south Sudan. Be with those affected by the ebola crisis and with the families whose loved ones have died from the virus. We pray for this country of Ireland, for the United Kingdom and for all who guide and govern the affairs of our nations. Fill them with the fear of your holy name. Help them in every situation to know and to do what is right, and direct all their deliberations for the good of our people and for your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Father of all comfort, our greatest help in time of need, we humbly ask you to remember all those who are sick, whether known to us or unknown. Grant them patience under their afflictions; look upon them with the eyes of your mercy; and comfort them with the knowledge of your goodness, as we remember them in our hearts. May all who are sick feel the balm of your presence and the strength of your healing through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

As our saviour Christ has taught us we are bold to say:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen.

The Dean:: Our closing hymn reminds us of God’s provision for us and for all humankind. ‘Praise to the Lord, the Almighty the King of Creation’ Choir Praise to the Lord the Almighty, the King of creation! The Dean

Wherever you are thank you for joining us for our service here at Christ Church cathedral Dublin. May I leave you with the old Irish blessing: Go Dé tu Slán agus go ndeirigh an bothar leat - may God bless you and may the road rise with you wherever you go. 


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 with you and remain with you always. Amen.

Organ Voluntary   Fugue in C Major BWV 545


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