33"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.Interesting, given the American fetish for swearing on the Bible. (A practice which I have no idea how it has gone unchallenged for so long. Though I do recall reading that you're allowed to make some similar statement without religious language or a Bible.)
14Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"Interesting. Especially during Lent.
15Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
16"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."
18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." ' But wisdom is proved right by her actions."I like this a lot, the whole "one can't win with you people and you know it" thing.
25At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.I feel like there was less of the "I am hiding information from people" in Matthew than there was in Mark, but obviously it's still there, and I remain troubled.
27"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
39He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one[Or something; also in verse 42] greater than Jonah is here. 42The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.Interesting. (And Jonah always makes me think of the First Churches sermon -- which I can't find at the moment -- and now it also makes me think of Scott Cairns' poem "Jonah's Imprisonment." I seem to be developing something of a thing with the Jonah story.)
4A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away.
44"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.This story has never made a whole lot of sense to me. I mean, what use is a big ole pearl to you? Either you can sell it to procure other stuff -- something which is defeated by selling all you own to procure the pearl -- or it just sits around looking pretty, and what's the use of that? Plus I can't help but think of Steinbeck's The Pearl.
45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
"For many are invited, but few are chosen."Ouch. Makes a lot of sense, though. (Though obviously universalist me has issues.) We tend to think of this story as about the extending the invitation beyond the elite, so it's a particular whammy at the end.
-Matthew 22:14 (fuller context)
37"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'[Psalm 118:26]"Mark may be the most apocalyptic, but this feels very much like an apocalyptic Jesus, saying that the end times are now. (And honestly, makes me feel Jesus was a madman. This feeling influenced, of course, by the fact that it would be easier for me if I could just reject the authority of the New Testament -- thus not having to deal with the troubling passages.)
26"His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.This feels like Jesus is saying "God is harsh. We know this, right? So work with it." I find that troubling, of course.
I had meant to mention the 3-day thing with Mark -- about the contrast between what Jesus says and what he is accused of saying -- and Matthew has a lot more uses of that analogy, for both the temple and Jesus, from the mouth of Jesus and others. I feel like there's a comparative texts essay in there, but I don't have the time/energy/inclination to attempt that.
Here is not the hurting, restless Jesus of Mark's gospel but a thinker and teacher as organized as the Matthew that is describing him.
-Rev. Robin Griffith-Jones, The Four Witnesses
Processional Hymn: "Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days"
Lord, Who throughout these forty daysI was a bit thrown by that, because while I'll grant suffering and death for us, the desert time seemed a prelude to that but not done for us any more than everything Christ did was for us in some way (modeling, teaching, etc.).
For us didst fast and pray,
Teach us with Thee to mourn our sins
And close by Thee to stay.
During the Prayer of Invocation, Pastor Hamilton said something about... for the next hour... being with each other in prayer, in song, in silence. And it was one of those rare moments when the idea of the importance of being together (that community in spiritual not just social aspect of Sunday service) really made sense to me on like a guy level.
Unison Prayer of Confession:
Forgive me that I have not appreciated the incredible gift of life, and said thank you.
(Yes of course I thought of Joy Sadhana.)
They had a children's message, which they hadn't had last week. (We're still not doing the Passing of the Peace, though; even though it's still in the bulletin. I may need to e-mail.)
The Scripture reading was Matthew 5:1-17 -- the Beatitudes, and then some.
[They actually have a "Beatitudes of Promise" wall hanging up in the front of the church. And the bulletin covers have been different stained glass images of Christ with "Beatitudes of Promise" and a promise -- last Sunday "Promise of Comfort," this Sunday "Promise of an Inheritance" -- underneath. Last Sunday Pastor Hamilton mentioned that the Beatitudes aren't in fact in Mark but quipped that liturgy always has an element of compromise. A wee bit of me enjoys the synchronicity with Emmanuel Lutheran, but mostly I'm bugged that it's basically there for no reason as it doesn't map onto the "Who Do You Say That I Am?" series or anything.]
Matthew's Jesus is the most Jewish of all the Gospels, and yet Matthew also contains the most anti-Semitic passage of the whole Bible -- All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27:25; fuller context).
He talked about Mark as a sketch (art analogy), black and white lines with Matthew being much richer and more textured.
He said that faith is constantly seeking understanding, which made me think of our conversation about exploring the text and suchlike, and also of something sk8eeyore had posted recently from Bishop Kallistos Ware's The Inner Kingdom -- "True faith is a constant dialogue with doubt, for God is incomparably greater than all our preconceptions about Him; our mental concepts are idols that need to be shattered. So as to be fully alive, our faith needs continually to die." (p. 29)
Pastor Hamilton talked about Matthew 5:17 -- "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." -- and I thought of Donfried's talk about telos (one of the few things I retained from that class, and something I think I mentioned in conversation with Pastor Hamilton). He said that Matthew is not trying to make a new religion. He also said that God is not in the religion business and talked about our need to control God with laws. I need to e-mail him for clarification about this because it seems to me that the Old Testament God very purposefully hands down the Law. (Complicating note: Jesus talking about divorce contra the Mosaic law.)
He talked about how Jesus often corrects (the pastor's word) the law -- You have heard it said, "an eye for an eye" but I say turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-39), you have heard it said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy," but I say "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:43-44). This latter one made me think of sk8eeyore talking about intercessory prayer as a way of being present with people, of sharing in their joys and struggles [idea courtesy of Roberta Bondi] but the "love your enemies" really struck me, as I tend to hold grudges rather a lot and I started thinking about praying for those people I dislike, wishing them well. And of course Jesus "correcting" the law made me think of Mark Burrows' Julian talk.
[Oh, and I just remembered, that there's also the fact that just after "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17) Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)]
Pastor Hamilton said that the last Beatitude ("Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.") is found only in Matthew. He said that Matthew is writing 15-20 years later than Mark, so the destruction of the Second Temple is more of an established fact, but it is still like 9/11 or Ground Zero. And okay I forget exactly where he went with that. Basically, Matthew is writing in a period of much persecution.
Oh, and in his daily Lenten thought yesterday, Pastor Hamilton mentioned the Christian Worker Kidnapped in Iraq Last Year Is Found Slain story and the synchronicity with Matthew 5.9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." (so of course he mentioned it today as well) and he wrote
Today, I will try to be "nice" to people, I’m sure. I won’t, at least intentionally, hurt anyone. I will recycle. I will return my library books on time. I will let pedestrians cross even if they’re not in the crosswalk.When he talked about it today he mentioned that the last words of the dead man on his weblog were a request that in the case of his death there be no retaliation. Interestingly, today my father sent me this link -- "The Rev Julie Nicholson, a Bristol cleric whose daughter Jennifer was killed in the 7 July bombings, has resigned her vicariate, saying she is unable to forgive her daughter's killers."
But the words "Blessed are the peacemakers" will follow me like a shadow, reminding me of how far I fall from the words of the gospel.
The following themes and lessons will be the focus of our Sunday worship services. We hope that you might read them at home as well, joining us in the discipline of Lenten devotions and prayer.
March 12 - Genesis 17:1-16, Romans 4:13-25, Mark 8:31-38
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty [Hebrew El-Shaddai] ; walk before me and be blameless. 2 I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers."
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram [Abram means exalted father .] ; your name will be Abraham, [Abraham means father of many .] for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God."
9 Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."
15 God also said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her."
13It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations."[Gen. 17:5] He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
18Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be."[Gen. 15:5] 19Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." 23The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
31He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life[The Greek word means either life or soul; also in verse 36.] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."