Monday, June 30, 2008

Did they listen... Matthew 11:16-19,25-30

In our Gospel today we see 2 things all at once...
1) the deep relationship between John's ministry and Jesus' ministry.
2) the rejection, by many, of both John's ministry and Jesus' ministry.
The story started back in Matthew 11: 2 when Jesus was visited by some of John's followers. They came for John, who was imprisoned, to see who Jesus was and what he was about. Jesus sent them back to John with these words,

4 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepersc are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”Matthew 11:4-7 (NRSV)
John came to earth in preparing the way for the coming Messiah. Now he wanted to know if Jesus was the one. Jesus responded asking John and his friends to look at what he was doing. John and Jesus were visible figures in Palestine. Their followers and other shared stories about these two. As the stories spread people looked at John and Jesus and their ministries with suspicion.

We believers look at John and Jesus with hope and find renewal for our souls. We hear John's call to repent and see our own need to let go and prepare to meet the savior. We believers listen to the Good News about Jesus and rejoice. And yet people rejected both their ministries, 
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Matthew 11:18-19 NRSV
Jesus words in Matthew 11 speak of cities who heard and didn't listen. He speaks council to his friends who faced rejection when the proclaimed the Good News. He speaks council to us when the road is marked with suffering; he offers us a promise in the middle of our labors. The early church knew this kind of experience. Matthew choice to include these teachings of Jesus would have surely brought comfort to a church that faced persecution. I believe these words are good for a church that's facing irrelevance today.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”Matthew11:28-30 NRSV
Following Jesus isn't simple; not everyone will believe. Not everyone will find hope. Still we find the promise of eternal life in leaving our yolks behind and picking his up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Living Hospitality Matthew 10:40-42

In Matthew, following the sermon on the mount, Jesus repeatedly pushed the boundaries of fellowship and service.
He cured a lepor. Matthew 8:2-3
He ate with tax collectors. Matthew 9:9-14
As Jesus sent out his friends (Matthew 10:1-42) he ended his instructions advising his friends to both give and receive hospitality Matthew 10:40-42. These words challenge the church to open the door to those we don't know in Jesus name. Jesus friends sent to reach the lost not just the comfortable. They weren't sent into unknown places and to unknown people; they were sent to the lost who lived close at hand.

I saw this at work on Monday as our congregation welcomed the family and friends of a man I'd never met for a funeral on June 23. He was listed on our roles as a member; but he didn't attend. His brother was once a member here; but he has moved on to another town and another congregation. Other churches may refuse such a funeral; but our team didn't. The servers, ushers, and many more pitched in on two days notice. In the few days following I've had several conversations about faith that I didn't expect with people who'd just come to say good-bye.

Hospitality means opening the door and trusting that the Spirit will work through us in service. Just try it and you'll find out what God can do.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Jesus first.. Matthew 10:24-39

What does Jesus ask of us? To be first in our lives. Reading Jesus words in Matthew this week makes it clear that Jesus asks to be first in every part of our lives.

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The Holy Bible : New International Version. , Mattt 10:37-39. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984
God calls us to love himself first. The first commandment is clear; God is to be first. But as we look around its very hard not to see all that God has offered us: family, friends, identity, purpose, have all been offered for us on this earth. And Jesus says that we will only enter the kingdom of God after we've let go of all that we are and have on this earth.

Jesus leaves us no way around the challenge of letting go. When we let go of everything and everyone else we are ready to meet God. I've seen people do it in nursing homes and hospice bed. It's beautiful and sad to watch all at once as they say farewell to those they love and turn their face towards heaven.

Jesus challenges all our allegiances to spouse, parent, child, neighbor, friend, nation and all others we care about. The kingdom of God is waiting for us. Let go of everything and you're there. Don't worry about when the time will come, just know that there will be such a day.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Go to the lost ... Mathew 9:35-10:23

You have been sent.

In our Gospel Jesus sent his friends out to preach, heal the sick, and cast out demons. He sent them to the lost of Israel. Today he sends us out to into the world. He sends us first to our own before we go into the world. In the Gospel he told his friends to travel light, “You received without payment; give without payment. 9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.” The Holy Bible NRSV, Matthew 10:8-10. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989.

Jesus sends us out much the same. We have doubts and fears. We have limitations and struggles and he tells us to travel light. We might not believe we're ready; but the hurting of this world are ready to meet him. He sends us out to tell the world the Good News: the kingdom of God has come near.

Just as Jesus sent his friends out he welcomed new friends to his company. His circle included sinners who just wanted to be near him (see Matthew 9 and Mark 2). There were many hurting souls who sought out Jesus; and Jesus responded by sending his closest 12 followers out into the nation of Israel to find others who were lost and who he could still reach.

Jesus is with us today when we venture out in his name. This is our time, live in his boundless love not only in the safe places; but in the uncertain places. I take note that Jesus sent his friends first to their own nation before sending them to all nations. Our first calling is to minister in our own homes and families. Our ministry doesn't stop there; but it starts among our own and then we are to go to the hurting at the ends of the earth.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Who needs healing? Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

Jesus had a mission. Matthew makes that abundantly clear; Jesus taught, healed, died, and rose because he was on a mission. Matthew's Gospel concludes as Jesus sent his followers out to all nations with a mission based in his own.

Jesus mission of healing meant calling all people back to God including "those people" who the religious would call "sinners." Jesus' mission lead him beyond preaching to the spiritually healthy. He came to heal broken spirits and broken bodies. Jesus ate with the tax collectors, traitors who would shake down their own people to help out the Romans. Jesus ate with publicly known sinners who couldn't hide their shameful actions any longer. When they asked why he replied,

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9:12-13.
Jesus mission was to heal. He healed a broken girls body and he healed sick mens' souls. He healed in unexpected places focusing on the health of each person as a whole being. He even healed when a woman suffering from a hemorrhage reached out to touch him. Jesus mission led him to meet the contagious, the long suffering, and outraged those who believed they we healthy enough to judge others.

Mission is a commonly used phrase in churches today. We have missionaries, we are called to mission work, we have home missions and international missions. A friend said that, "Everything is about mission in the church these days." The challenge is to keep our mission, our work, in line with Christ's mission. We cannot force Christ to do what we would like rather we must shape our lives around his ministry and mission.

The Pharisees didn't like Jesus expanding fellowship. But he had a mission independent of their opinions and authorization. We can't stop Jesus mission; but if we jump on board with him we can and will see healing happen.