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Posts Tagged ‘Matthew’

Unfortunately the time in which we live is plagued by fear and war. This is nothing new to the human race, and as Ecclesiastes states, there is nothing new under the sun. Every age of man is full of war, plague, and strife. How can it not be? Man has sunken to the depths of its own animus, barely reminding itself that it is greater than beast. For man looks at those who are made in his own likeness and greets them as brothers, yet he despises those who bear even the slightest of differences from his own appearance or behavior. This too, is nothing new. Our ancestors enslaved others who were not their own. Perhaps for speaking a different tongue, or having a different colored skin, or even perhaps a different religion. Man will find any excuse necessary to cause pain, war, and death. It is the way of the world.

But need it be this way? By all accounts the way of the world is full of strife and is generally unpleasant. When evil is done, it requires not only equal payback, but great wrath upon all who stand opposed. It is for this that the law was written, “an eye for an eye”. Not that justice would be certain to be meted out, but to ensure no greater than equal justice was served. For the wrath of mankind is prone to vengeance above and beyond fair and equal measure.

The Christian voice goes above and beyond this fair and equal measure of violence, and dispenses with it altogether. As the apostle Paul says, we battle not against flesh and blood, but against dark forces. Our battle is against the forces of darkness which control the nations of the world, and which daily battle in the heavenly places. For the message of Christ is that we do not retaliate against those who do us harm, but that we conquer evil with love and forgiveness. As our Lord has commanded us to turn the other cheek, we must obey. For he disarmed Peter in the garden, so has he disarmed us.

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One of my favorite things to do, is to go out dancing. Whether you believe it or not, I’m a fantastic two-stepper (and waltzer). It is one of the things we do down here in Texas. And I’m sure you are all quite jealous of all the fun we get to have because of that.

To go dancing generally requires going to a bar. Because there aren’t many places to go and dance where alcohol isn’t served. Mainly because most men are too chicken to get out and dance without any liquid courage. That’s their loss. (To all the men reading this, take it from me: women love a man who can dance proper).

I love dancing. It allows me to get in my exercise (because dancing is a cardio beast), and when I was single, it allowed me to meet (hopefully) eligible women. (I find churches are usually too pious for something so worldly as dating.)

Now, meeting women at dancehalls is a mixed bag. You have women who are not looking for anything with anyone, you have married women just out with friends, you have married women looking to not be married, you have single women, etc. There may be a room full of a hundred women, and perhaps only ten of them might be single. And that is assuming they even want to dance with you, or find you attractive.

Well, lesser men than I perhaps have had that issue. I can’t really comment on what I haven’t experienced.

I’m just kidding, folks. I’ve been turned down more times than I care to publicly admit. Thanks again for allowing me to relive my humiliation for your benefit.

But…the Gospel is kind of the same way. Jesus talks about a farmer sowing his seed among the field. Some seed landed on the road, where the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil, where there was rock beneath, so it couldn’t grow. Still other seed fell among some thorns, where the weeds choked out the fresh new life. But some seed fell on fertile soil, and it produced greatly, and was worth many times more than what had been originally planted. (Matthew 13)

Spreading the Gospel requires us to take chances. Many times people are not receptive to the Gospel of Christ. It requires a lot, and it doesn’t promise much in return. But spreading the Gospel is a lot like asking a girl to dance. At first you’re trepidatious, worried about what she will say, but totally acting nonchalant about the whole thing. Then, as you get closer, you really decide whether you’re going to go through with it or not. And you either turn away at the very last minute, as if you were on you’re way somewhere else. Or, you come face to face with her. And at first, you may stumble with the words, but eventually you become a bit more sure of yourself. Every time though, you’re worried about whether she will accept your invitation, or decline it.

Being a Christian requires us to be uncomfortable. Rejection is never fun. It always hurts. But we must share the Gospel always. Unto the ends of the earth, and even into the dancehalls. Because you never know where the Gospel will flourish.

Ask the girl to dance. Who knows, maybe she’ll say “yes”.

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The Gospel of John opens with a declaration that in the beginning was the Word, and that all things were created through the Word, and nothing was made without the Word. In verse fourteen, John specifies that the Word took on flesh in the form of Jesus. This hearkens us back to the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures, where God speaks – and from his Word flows forth all of creation. John not only shows us from where Jesus gets his authority, but he also shows us that the Truth of God has always been made evident through Jesus.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus sets about trying to teach his disciples a new way of looking at the Hebrew Scriptures. As a Jewish rabbi, it was his duty to teach his students his “midrash” or teaching, which the New Testament refers to as his “yoke” (Matthew 11:30). If Jesus were just a rabbi, then his interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures was up for debate – which happened quite often. Anytime Jesus is recorded as speaking with the elders and Pharisees, what is happening is a debate upon the midrash of Jesus. They are questioning his rabbinical credentials. However it becomes clear early on, that the Pharisees cannot match wits with the son of Joseph.

The reason that the midrash of Jesus was so questionable, was because from the very onset, it seemed as if he was contradicting everything that Moses had said. When Jesus spoke about the Law, he challenged the core beliefs of his Jewish brethren. According to the midrash of Jesus, revenge was no longer an option. His interpretation of the Law, was not based upon the text itself, but upon the spirit. And from our perspective today, who would know the spirit of the Law better than the Word that it was spoken through?

Jesus had funny ways about how he observed the Law. He didn’t find it sinful to gather food on the Sabbath, in spite of overwhelming disdain from other teachers who thought it should be a day of total rest. Neither did he allow for the stoning of sinners; for who was perfect according to the letter of the Law? Jesus even ate with tax collectors and sinners, the enemies of all religious Jews. The tax collectors because they had sided with the Roman Empire over their fellow Jews, and sinners because they did not live in accordance with the letter of the Law.

While in many ways the midrash of Jesus was more strict, in all, it was more free. The midrash of Jesus required discipline, but it was tempered with mercy. If someone offended you, you forgave them. According to Jesus, it didn’t matter how grievous the sin, nor how many times you had been sinned against. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

It was a completely radical way of re-interpreting the Law of Moses. But ultimately, it was about re-orienting the people of God back to Shalom. It was about bringing man back into full communion with God. This is the meaning of the Scriptures when Christ tells us that he is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that “no man comes unto the Father except through me”. (John 14:6). Paul reiterates this same point later in his Epistle to the Galatians when he says that we are no longer bound under the Law, for we have been set free from the letter of the Law through Christ Jesus. However, if one insists on following the letter of the Law, they must follow it perfectly, for by following the Law they have been severed from Christ. (Galatians 5)

The road we travel isn’t easy. In Matthew chapter seven, Jesus calls the road to reconciliation with God, narrow. It takes a lot of work, and daily prayer. We must re-orientate ourselves back on a consistent basis to the midrash of Jesus. Brushing away cultural normalities, and hearkening back to a voice which cried out long ago, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”(Matthew 3:2)

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