Monday, September 29, 2008

Sending the Son Matthew 21:33-46

Jesus' parables in Matthew 21-25 will be the Gospel texts for the next few months, right up until Christ the King Sunday (unless you use alternate texts for Reformation Sunday and All Saints). Jesus taught boldly in the temple in Matthew 21-23 and then outside the temple in Matthew 24-25.

Matthew portrays Jesus in Matthew 21-23 as a teacher with a following. His following included both supporters and detractors. The crowd wanted to hear him; but many factions (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Chief Priests) plotted against him.

The plotters had many reasons to be angry with Jesus. He questioned them not through direct challenges but through stories and metaphors. They saw him as a radical and a threat. He saw them as unfaithful and corrupt.

Sending in the Son
The one metaphor that keeps on repeating in my mind is that of father and son. In Matthew 21:28-32 Jesus spoke of a Father with two sons. Now in Matthew 28:33-46 he speaks of a land owner who sent his son to seeks payment from unruly tenants. The true nature of the Trinity is on display in this story. God the Father sent many servants to his people. They beat some, stoned some, and killed some. Now in hope that he could ἐντραπήσονται bring shame or cause them to turn face Matthew 21:37 Jesus said the land owner sent his son to seeks payment from unruly tenants.

The son was killed instead of being the one to bring a change in the actions of the tenants. Jesus asked the people in the temple what would happen to the tenants. They replied

He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Matthew 21:41 NRSV.
Jesus didn't answer yes or no to their response. Instead he starting talking about the stone which would be rejected that would become the corner stone. The stone would fall on some and cause others to stumble. Looking at this story I see that the Son is still seeking a change in all of us; many still reject the Son and his messengers; but others will not overlook or ignore them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Jesus who are you talking about? Matthew 21:23-32

Jesus in Matthew 21 is bold.
He arrived in Jerusalem as the crowd cheered, "Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord." They waved palms and received him as a prophet.
His first stop in Jerusalem: the temple. Jesus walked in not in silence but burning with passion. He drove out the money changers and those who sold doves for sacrifice.
Anger bubbled up among the priests and others responsible for the temple: "Who is Jesus to teach like this?" Jesus boldly challenged the temple culture in Matthew 21. He was pushing, literally driving away the money changers and dove sellers, challenging the whole lot of them to see the temple as God's house and not a market. He left the temple and headed out cursing a fig tree.
Our story picks up when Jesus returned to the temple and started teaching.

...the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Matthew 21:23 NRSV
Jesus wouldn't answer their question unless they would answer one of his: who gave John the Baptist's authority. The chief priests and elders couldn't or wouldn't answer. Jesus responded to the silence of the priests and elders with a story about a father and two sons. The father asked his boys to go work in the vineyard. One son said he wouldn't work and later changed his mind and did go out to help. The other agreed but did not go out and work. Jesus asked them,
Which of the two did the will of his father?”They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. Matthew 21:31-32 NRSV
There's no doubting, reading Matthew through to the end, that Jesus faced death for such words. As a person of faith this story speaks volumes. Forget what looks good or sounds good. What matters is what you do not just what you say. Jesus directly challenged everyone in the temple, as Matthew challenges every reader of his Gospel, to not just act faithful but to be faithful.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How generous is our God? Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus' story, about the generous vineyard owner and the equally paid workers, gives us a glimpse into God's values and principles.
Listening to the story it becomes clear that there are two different views not just about our actions in our world but what we think we'll earn at the end of the day. On one side is the vineyard owner who pays a full days wage to those who worked a full day and to those who had only worked for the last hour of the day. On the other side are the workers who grumbled that they had only received a fair wage and that those who hadn't worked as hard received the same.
We debate if this is fair or not. The workers who'd finished a whole day in the sun expected something more for their hard efforts after watching those who worked for a fraction of the day get the full wage. When they only received what was promised they grumbled wanting more.
There's no doubt that we humans value fairness. It's a modern virtue that pulls at us and motivates us in our interactions especially in issues of money and employment. But God has a different view. Heaven is God's alone to offer. We look for an angle a way to get aplace of prestigue, but God's offering us something beyond price a place in the kingdom of heaven.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Forgive them? how many times Matthew 18:21-35

Jesus is pushing us in the Gospel reading this week to forgive as we ask God to forgive.

He's pushing us to look at the people who have hurt us with forgiveness in our hearts. Part of me calls this preposterous thinking. There's this part in all of us; the part that bear grudges, keeps track of wrongs and offenses intentional or accidental. This part is the old Adam creeping around in all of us. We know who owes us. The man who had been forgiven so much by the king surely knew who still owed him.

Jesus is pushing us to be resurrection people. He's pushing us and the old Adam resists. The old self is confronted here by a forgiving God who asks us to go and do likewise. Jesus says that we are to go to the ones who are lost. We are to seek to win back those who hurt us (See Matthew 18:15-20) and to offer them forgiveness not one time or 70 times but 7 times 70 times.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Gathered in Jesus Name Matthew 18:15-20

Our Gospel reading this week is a great reading for Rally Sunday. In my congregation kids will start a new year of Sunday School and learning together. Whole families will reappear after months of camping and sleeping in. Rally Sunday is a great day to remember that the church, at its core, starts small, with 2 or 3 gathered in Jesus name.

Church life starts with relationships. (Matthew 22:34-40)
In the first commandment God invites us into relationship with himself. Jesus taught that the second most important thing in this life are relationships with other people.

Jesus words in Matthew 18:15-17 are instructions for human beings trying to relate to one another in the church that we see on this earth. Some times we do well listening to one another. We live side by side as brothers and sisters. Other times we do terribly. We all have had times when we had a failure to communicate with one another.

Jesus invites us to meet each other face to face. He calls us to name the times we've been wronged. We are not to seek revenge; rather we should seek the ear of the neighbor who has wronged us. It's a painful time in ministry and fellowship when you turn to a brother or sister and tell them they've hurt you or let you down.

Jesus invites his followers not to seek a way to kick another out of fellowship but to restore them to fellowship first. Some will seek forgiveness. Some will grow enraged that they would be confronted. Some will just walk away facing the painful truth of what they have done. Its deeply painful, if you're the one who has been asked to sit down and listen as another shares their grievance with you. It's hard to listen but it your chance to be restored.

Bound together.
Jesus' words about casting someone out of fellowship are haunting. We are to treat the former member as a tax collector and sinner. We are to bind and lose them as members not only of a local church; but as part of the unseen mystical body of Christ. These words are not only about binding and releasing sin, they are about binding and releasing brothers and sisters.

We underestimate the organic and relational nature of the church. The church is Christ's body made up of living breathing believers called together by the Holy Spirit. We gather around the Word of God, water, bread, and wine. The Holy Spirit, people, and these 4 basic elements make up the true church. The church is not buildings or budgets. Pastors serving in established congregations might have buildings or budgets; but they are not and will never be the truly constitutive elements of the church.

The church will never be constrained by physical or monetary limits. Jesus is present when a few, maybe 2 or 3 people, gather in His name. We need no building or money. We need faith, hope, love: Gifts of the Spirit binding us together around the Word and Sacraments.