Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Meeting Matthew Again...Anew for the first time
What impressions, if any, do you have of the gospel of Matthew? I know some folks who like Mark's gospel because it is brief...the shortest of all four...just the facts ma'am kind of gospel. I know folks who love Luke's earth, Village Voice gospel being the only one with the parables of the Prodigal Son and Good Samaritan. I know folks who love John's poetry which starts off, "And the Word took on flesh and moved into our neighborhood," which will totally cause you to look at your neighbors differently.
Well, he has that Sermon on the Mount, right?
Wait...Matthew, isn't he the one with all the people thrown in outer darkness and gnashing of teeth?
Talk about your anger issues.
Matthew may or may not be at the top of your "Best. Gospel. Of. All. Time!" list. But, I think it is worth meeting Matthew again...anew...as if for the first time. To enter Matthew with a new perspective. To listen to Matthew...not in the back of your mind thinking, "He is totally going to have someone gnash teeth soon." But to hear him speak, sing to our souls in such a time as this.
Matthew lived in a tumultuous time. People were oppressed by the Roman Empire. People felt their souls weighted down and backs ache because of the spiritual and physical hardships. It was time of division and anger hovering, hanging in the air. And if all that wasn't enough...which it was...Matthew also lived around the time Rome came in and destroyed the temple.
First, as we learned in Isaiah, this wasn't the first time the sacred site had been left in rumble and ruin. In fact, the western wailing wall where our Jewish brothers and sister pray today is the only part of the temple left...it was never rebuilt after 70 C.E. So, people knew from their great, great, great, great grandparents and ancestors that such defeat, devastation, and destruction had happened before. However, they perhaps didn't think it was going to happen again. Lightening never strikes twice, right? Until it does. So, the sacred temple had been defaced and defiled. Spiritual crisis number one.
Second, Matthew, as someone who proclaims Jesus as Messiah/Christ (same meaning), he is at odds with his Jewish brothers and sisters. Our Jewish friends say that when the Messiah comes, all oppression shall cease. Clearly with the temple in flames and fumes of smoke rising, that didn't happen. Our Jewish friends say that when the Messiah comes, they will be given back the Promised Land. Yeah, um, Matthew, Rome is still in power right now. But Matthew, as well as the other gospels, want to say that Jesus as Messiah has another meaning besides the powerful, political one. There is a spiritual realm within the world we live...within each of us...that the Christ awakens so that we can live differently. But that doesn't always help when Rome is taxing you at 90 percent...and their boot is on your neck...and there are crosses everywhere causing fear to sit in your throat. So there was tension between people...divisions...debates that descended to shouting...people blaming each other.
Stop me when this sounds relevant to today.
The above is spiritual crisis number two.
So, Matthew enters the scene in a time of tension, hurt, confusion, chaos ~ echoing Isaiah in some ways in the Exile - perhaps now you realize the previous weeks of blog posts. What does Isaiah have to do with Matthew? Perhaps both are trying to lean into and live in times that there less than ideal.
Again...stop me when this sounds relevant to today.
To meet Matthew again...anew...afresh for this first time, I believe can offer us a trace of grace. Not only historically for what he faced, but for what we are facing today. This is going to be an amazing journey.