July 05, 2020
We have been on quite a challenging ride in our Matthew readings these last few weeks. Matthew’s gospel is interesting to ponder.
It is speculated to have been written around A.D. 60 in Antioch to a Jewish audience. When we understand the location and timing of the writing along with the purpose of a Gospel it helps us as we read: Antioch was a trade center near water. It was culturally diverse and politically tense – the Romans officially began occupation of it in A.D. 64. Into this diversity of culture and tension politically Matthew writes to Jews about the good news of Jesus Christ – seeking to show who Jesus is as each gospel does to its particular audience at the time of its writing.
What is the good news we hear today?
First, it is showing us that our God reveals God self to us. This is something we often hear. But today, there is a bit of a twist. Jesus says, “I thank you…because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and have revealed them to infants.” Infants. Our God is so big and so unlimited – God reveals God’s self to all – no limits by our developmental or mental, emotional, or physical abilities. What good news.
This passage also shows us good news about who God reveals God’s self to. Here, Jesus invites the weary and carriers of heavy burdens. Jesus does not invite those who just want to learn, those who are self-sufficient, but those that need and are dependent; kind of like the infants Jesus referred to earlier.
The words here for weary and heavy laden have much imagery. Weary is struggle, toil physically – exertion leading to exhaustion. Burdened is like an overloaded beast of burden. This is to load up, to carry more than is intended.
The Jewish audience written to would be a people who are burdened with keeping the law, towing the line, living up to black and white expectations. Weary and heavy laden indeed. In real time they would be trying to understand what it means to follow Jesus in contrast to the bearing the weight of the law.
Eugene Peterson in The Message, a bible translated into contemporary language provides this semantic for these familiar verses that help us understand the quandary of the Jewish person seeking to understand following Jesus:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
June 07, 2020
It is Trinity Sunday. It comes to us amid a wave of racial division and civil unrest sparked by the murder of George Floyd, an African American man by those in authority – the police. It also happens a during pandemic…not humanity’s first – but our first.
A part of what contributes to our experience of both of these happenings is our amazing technology oddly. It wasn’t always like this. Today, news is all the time every day be it next door or around the world. How overwhelming. It is a dark and chaotic time.
Trinity Sunday speaks into this. The Trinity. God the three in one and one and three. We think we may grasp this, but it also completely eludes us. It is mystery. But where we dial in this morning is that God is big. God is so much, and we are so small. God is in charge and we are not.
We see in our Genesis reading that God lives in union and invites us into union with God and others. God has all authority and is in charge and invites us to rule and reign with God.
This shows us a lot about who God is. In the midst of power, authority, and love God is a God of risk. God has designed us to fundamentally participate in God’s plans – not only relationship with God, but it is on us to develop ourselves to participate in ruling and reigning with God. And that starts now…not some far off float around in heaven passive thing; but now we help build up the kingdom of God, we help promote those things that will forever be with us in eternity. Think in terms of what can be in God’s presence: hate – no, brutality – no, rejection – no, love – yes, kindness – yes, inclusion – yes. We can be about, and we can promote eternal reality now. God’s kingdom.
Our readings today help us glimpse this – Paul’s exhortation in 2nd Corinthians: put things in order, agree with one another, live in peace…and in Jesus’ command in Matthew: Go make disciples.
Union with God.
Ruling and reigning with God.
In our Genesis reading we see God moving in Trinitarian union. We literally go back to the beginning today. In the beginning…it was dark and chaotic: “the earth was formless, and void and darkness covered the face of the deep,” in Hebrew this formless and void is the phrase: Tohu wa-bohu Something we face today. We personally, corporately, and globally are in a dark time of Tohu wa-bohu.
We see that God then and now creates order out of chaos, out of formless void and darkness. And though it begins simply in a verse, do not miss the power it must have taken. Episcopal priest Carole Crumley writing on this passage offers: “Those brief verses depict the immense power of the spirit of God that hovers and broods over all darkness.” The more direct the translation of this verse is “the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” Moving there is “Rachaph” that is that hovering and brooding that Crumley mentioned. To stay, to move, to shake, to grow soft and spread over – to cover.
Tohu wa-bohu. All darkness and formless and void. Hovering. Brooding. Power. Change.
God is into creating order out of chaos from the beginning and for us today.