Towards Light, Into Trust

I feel sorry for the Levites, the scribes and the Pharisees that were sent from Jerusalem to investigate all the commotion and buzz surrounding John, the one baptizing out in the wilderness at the Jordan River.  Israel has a history of people coming along and claiming to be the Messiah – the people get caught up in the fervor and are just sure that this is the One to Come who will lead the army that throws off the yoke of the occupying army and re-establish the throne of David.  The cycle is this:  a self-professed Messiah appears, all the world runs to him, the revolution starts, foreign armies come and crush the rebellion, and in the end, it was a false Messiah.  So, you can see why the Jerusalem authorities send investigators down to the Jordan river to ask John: who are you, what are your intentions.  The religious authorities in Jerusalem have a responsibility to acclaim the Messiah when he comes, but there is this legacy of false messiah, misplaced hope, and people needlessly dying – all for naught. So…. They seek out John – once again wondering if the promise of the Messiah is true. Continue reading

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Fear and Trust: choosing

30 Even all the hairs of your head are counted.31So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Somethings are impossible to count: the stars in the heavens, the grains of sand on the shore, and the hairs on your head (baldness aside!) The impossibility of counting the hairs of the head is proverbial (Ps 40:12; 69:4), but even the impossible is not impossible to God who made them. The Creator’s intimate knowledge of those he has made is expressed movingly in other imagery in Ps 139:1–18. Equally proverbial is the saying “not a hair of his head will fall to the ground” to express a person’s total security (1 Sam 14:45; 2 Sam 14:11; 1 Kgs 1:52; cf Dan 3:27, Luke 21:18; Acts 27:34.22) The Father who knows the number of each disciple’s hairs will make sure none of them are lost. Continue reading

Fear and Trust: the cost

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.

This section does not try to sketch a misleading picture of a God. Sparrows fall to earth and disciples of Jesus are slain, and Jesus never says that it hardly matters. “What these sayings assert is that God is indeed God, that he is above success and failure, help and isolation, weal and woe, holding them in hands that Jesus says are the hands of the Father.” (Schweizter, as found in France, 404) Continue reading

Fear and Trust: the rooftops

26 “Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. 27 What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops

These verses have their parallel in Luke 12:2 and, some would say, in Mark 4:22. I would disagree with the Markan parallel. While the words are similar, the topic in Mark is not missionary endeavors, but rather why Jesus teaches in parable and leave some listeners “in the dark,” so to speak. Perhaps one might offer that the Markan context is that what must remain secret for a time will ultimately be revealed. But in Matthew’s use (and Luke’s) there is no nuance. The disciples are to proclaim the good news so that all can hear. In the setting of a Palestinian village, the housetop (rooftop) is a very visible platform from which to proclaim the Good News to the people in the streets nearby. Continue reading

Fear and Trust: context

26 “Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. 27 What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.28 And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.29 Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.30 Even all the hairs of your head are counted.31 So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.32 Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.33 But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”  (Mt 10:26-33) Continue reading

Choosing to trust

Death is always untimely. It comes crashing headlong into our lives and into our families. Even if death’s inevitability has been forecasted and known, its arrival remains untimely. There is always more we wanted to do or say. There is never enough time, only the time given us.

The time death reaches your life can be filled with grief, anger, denial, and a whole cauldron of emotions. The time you are beginning to more fully realize the loss of someone you dearly loved. While a part of the shared life resides in memories, stories, and pictures, a part has been taken away – their presence, their touch, the experience of their laugh, and so much more. We mourn for the one we loved so deeply and we are awash in the cauldron of memory, love, regret, doubt, hope and hope lost, and emotions that will only rise to the surface in the time that follows. It is the universal experience. Continue reading

Being Transformed

romans-12Will you be transformed? At one level that is the most basic question that is being asked of you each time you encounter the Word of God – proclaimed here in Church or in that still small whisper at the edge of your life or in the well of your soul. Will you be transformed?

Transformation is the very work of the Word of God. “In the beginning was the Word…. All things came to be through him… What came to be through him was life.” Transformation from nothingness to a world created, a world filled and teeming with life. Such is the power one encounters in the Word of God: creative, transforming, bestowing life to the fullest. Continue reading

Anxious or Trust: what do you seek?

Mt-6-24-wordwordle-cGod provides the basics  This theme is important to the passage (vv. 25-26, 28-30). Jesus twice uses a standard type of Jewish argument traditionally called qal wahomer – “how much more?” (vv. 26, 30). If God cares for birds and for perishable flowers, how much more for his own beloved children?

The objects of our anxiety, food and drink, are to be seen as less important than the life and the body which they supply, and subsequent verses will draw out the moral that, since God provides the latter, he can be trusted for the former. If God sustains life and protects the bodies of those who serve him, they should not complain if he provides for those things without giving a nod to the symbols of status that the culture ordains. If God provides for the birds and flowers, how much more will he provide for his children? Continue reading

Anxious or Trusting: whom do you serve?

Mt-6-24-wordwordle-cCommentary  Matthew 6:24–34 can be understood as an interweaving of commands against anxiety and materialism with commands to believe that God will meet one’s material needs. Given the recurring theme of daily sustenance throughout all of this chapter of Matthew (6:8b, 11, 25, 31) one easily recalls the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us today our daily bread” (v.11) – but is there a particular context for Matthew’s community which heightens even the daily dependence upon God? The majority of scholars places Matthew’s community in the period after the destruction of Jerusalem/the Temple when rabbinic Judaism was seeking to assert it leadership upon the standard of orthodoxy. What is less clear is the degree to which this emerging Judaic orthodoxy considered the nascent Christianity as separatist and heretics (cf. Birkath ha-Minim). Assuming the local synagogue was hostile to the Matthew’s community, that would imply a separation from the community within which the Jewish-Christians has lived – socially and economically. To suddenly be separated (if that was what happened) then the anxiety levels about “daily bread” would have been heightened. Perhaps that lays in the background of the five-fold use of merimnaō (worry, be anxious) in our passage. Continue reading