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Friday, October 28, 2011

26.A, Ordinary Time 31, the 20th Sunday after Pentecost

"To what extent their positions were shaped by the social and economic status of their members, and to what extent those positions stem from particular readings of Torah, we can never know for certain. Suffice it to say that we heirs of Matthew's community soon adopted the culturally more comfortable view that this text is opposing."

Commentary, Matthew 23:1-12, Sharon H. Ringe, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2011.

Prayer

Reveal to us the beauty of your image in each of our brothers and sisters, so that, respecting every person as our equal in your sight, we may show not only in words but in deeds that we are disciples of one Master, Jesus Christ, your Son.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
 
Some Thoughts: Matthew 22:34-46
We continue our "dialogue" with the religious authorities of Jesus' day in this passage.  I pause here again to warn the preacher to be careful to remember our Abrahamic family and our healthy relationship with our Jewish brothers and sisters.  Words can easily be used to create a division between us and can even more easily lead to continued hatred.  Furthermore, historically we need to recognize that while Jesus is speaking to these groups; these groups really are the leaders and religious authorities of Matthew's time - some 40 years later.  

Leaning into the text we tease out Jesus' important teaching.  Honoring the role of the religious teacher he tells the people to clearly hear the words and teachings about God.  One can imagine these teaching are about the importance of life lived in God and how the body itself, animated by the soul, is for encountering God as is all of domestic life.  Teachings that would have been normative in the tradition of the day.  That being said though Jesus then offers a very clear distinction between listening and acting.  

A rule for Christian community is being laid out before us; so don't get hung up on the foil of leadership being used.  The message is clearly for us.  The message is for those who hear Jesus' teaching. The message is for those who wish to follow Jesus and live in a community of disciples. 

Disciples of Jesus are to listen and follow the Gospel imperatives.  We are not to be a people who are more interested in getting others to follow while we remain hypocrites of our own teaching.  It is this very real piece that seems to me to be of the utmost to Matthew as it is certainly repeated in different ways throughout the Gospel.  Transformation begins with the individual in relationship to God in Christ and it is the transformed life lived (not hypocritically avoided) that is the most powerful witness to the Gospel -the Good News of Jesus.

4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. 8But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
We cannot read this passage without understanding that we are to be transformed by our relationship with God. Our bodily, physical, spiritual, soulful encounter with God. That we are to have as intimate a relationship with God as Jesus did; who called him Father.  That we are to have only one teacher and that is the Messiah - Jesus Christ. And, we are to act out his teaching. We are in the words of C.S. Lewis to become little Christ's in the world - so intimately tied are we to the Godhead. Our wills and our lives are to be shaped and informed by our relationship with God in Christ.

In Lauren F. Winner's book Mudhouse Sabbath she talks about the ancient sabbath rule that a blind man is not to light a candle on the sabbath.  One wonders, she muses, why a blind man would need to light a candle.  She then goes on to relate a story about a rabbi who walking down the street in the evening comes upon a blind man making his way with a torch through the night. He stops and asks him why he is doing this (with the assumption perhaps we all make which is he needs no light).  The blind man says, it is so that others will see me.

It is funny how what you are reading engages a conversation in your heart and mind with the scripture for the week. As I read that I thought of this Sunday's passage and the reality that the light of Christ so burns inside of us that when we are attentive to our own transformation; when we polish the lens of our own spiritually disciplined life the light of God shines more brightly about us. 

Chris Webb of Renovare reminded us recently at clergy conference that outreach and service always flows out of our relationship with God and it's health and vitality.  So too does Jesus caution. It will not be the phylacteries and fringes we wear, it will not be where we sit, or our titles of ministry that will reveal the Son of Man to the world. Rather it will be our deep relationship to him which in turn creates in us a servants heart enacting Christ's work in the world around us.

What a brightly burning torch would burn should our episcopal church family take up the challenge for renewed relationship with Jesus. 


A Little Bit for Everyone


The Scripture:

Matthew 23:1-12

23Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. 8But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.


The Lambeth Bible Study Method

This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.


The Kaleidescope Institute has reworked the questions somewhat and can be found here.


Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question


Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.


2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.


3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.


4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.


5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.


6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.


7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"


8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.


9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father..."




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