"In three simple verses Christ defines the role of church for all time."
"Radical Hospitality: Christ Defines Church," Jerry Goebel, One Family Outreach.
Pour forth into our hearts, strong and faithful God, the wisdom and daring of your Spirit, that we may take up the cross and follow Christ, willing to lose ourlies for hsi sake and tomanifest to the world the hope of your kingdom. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
It is important when reading this text that we read the word which come just before as they are intimately tied together; the one giving way to the other.
34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.There was in the Jewish tradition of the day an understanding that in the last days of "tribulation" households would be divided. This is the reality of the time. Allison & Davies write, "The absence of peace and the presence of the sword is a sign of the great tribulation. And it is in this great tribulation that the Matthean church must carry on its mission." (Allison & Davies, Matthew, 219ff)
Our text for Sunday expands upon this theme bridging and fully quoting Micah 7.6.
4The day of their sentinels, of their punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand. 5Put no trust in a friend, have no confidence in a loved one; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your embrace; 6for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; your enemies are members of your own household.Here too it is important to read what comes next in Micah's prophecy to understand the fullness of the words that Jesus is speaking to his followers. Micah proclaims
7But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. 8Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.Just as Micah looks to the Lord for guidance in the time of trial; so too the disciples must look upon the Lord and upon his example and come after him. In a time of division one can not look for allies in the field but rather to be allied with Christ. "For Matthew, the cross is, as 10.39 makes plain, the outstanding symbol of self-denial." (Allison & Davies, 221) Central throughout the Gospel the cross is this profound monicer of discipleship. This text is universally attributed to Jesus. Irenaeus in Adv. Haer. 4.5.4 wrote: Righteously also do we, possessing the same faith as Abraham and taking up the cross as Isaac did the wood, follow Him (The Word)."
The purpose of the this challenge and call is linked not to violence but rather to service. The disciples are to engage selflessly to Christian service. This may include death as it certainly did for many martyrs. But it is also about justice, food, clothing, and all of human life. When one orients one's life to Jesus one chooses something more profound than a utilitarian manner of life which serves ego and bodily desires and hungers as the primary source for direction. It is a profoundly different way of thinking about life. Rather than making a life based upon one's doubts, fears, or suspicions, one is choosing to affirm the life of Jesus and to choose intentional to try and live out a life which reflects the glory of God and immulates Jesus and his compassion and blessings for others.
To choose to live life as a follower of Jesus means to give meaning to one's existence. It is to live the life we were created to live: loving, caring, and creating community one with another.
Our mission is the mission of Jesus as so clearly stated in the Gospel of Matthew and exemplified by Jesus in Chapter 9. We are to go about all the cities and villages. We are to gather people and teach. We are to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God out in the world. We are to be about the work of healing people's lives, their hearts, and thier bodies. We are to have compasson on all we find out there, or who walk through our doors. Jesus says to all those who would do this work and come after him, taking up their cross, and denying themselves: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask teh Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." (9.35-38 and 10.5-15)
We are given authority by God to do this work. (10.1)
We are sent out in the midst of crisis and a time of fear and injustice. (10.16ff)
We are to be like the teacher and have no fear and to live our Christian lives out in the open (10.26f)
This is our work.
Now that the missionary message is clear Jesus turns his attention to teaching about welcoming missionaries. Returning again to Allison & Davies:
Those who welcome the eschatological messengers of jesus in effect welcome Jesus himself and gain for themselves reward. With this thought, which makes the decision for or against the missionaries equivalent to the deision for or against Jesus..." (225)With these words Matthew closes Jesus' discourse on the life of discipleship and what it means to place one's mind on heavenly things even in the midst of living in this world. The kingdom and reign of God is possible in this place. We are able to fulfill our purpose if we are courageous and deny that which "draws us from the love of God." In some way we are challenged to make a decision about what the purpose of the earth and our place upon it holds within the schema of God's action.
Not unlike Joshua who chooses to follow the Lord, Christians make a decision that the purpose of creation is to fulfill God's will, and that we are to join in that work proactively and intentionally.Our work is not a utility that serves me, or to make life smooth and easy, but is to serve the utility of God. Jesus reminds us, "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Mtt 6.24)
Take up your cross and follow me.
The Lambeth Bible Study Method