Monday, January 21, 2019
Meeting Matthew Again...Anew
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came.... Matthew 4
So just to review the roller-coaster that is Matthew's gospel so far...
Joseph has to risk the hostile stare and glares and gossip, finding the courage/conviction to marry Mary. Joseph, not only does this, but adopts Jesus.
Then Wise Ones come knocking on the door of the palace, because that is where you would find a new king only to encounter Herod...Mr. Anger-Management Issues. Herod's fear of a baby (the irony reminds us that so often that the fears we carry can be fanned to flames in some of the most peculiar ways) sends the Wise Ones off to worship the child.
The so-called Wise Ones have to be warned in a dream not to go back to Herod.
Joseph takes his family and flees the wrath of Herod all the way down to Egypt (echo, echo if Exodus).
Eventually, the family comes back, settles in a town of Nazareth, which was so small.
How small was it? You ask.
The white pages were only one page. (Insert rim shot here).
So small the city limit signs are nailed to the same post (Insert laugh track here)
So small Second Street is one town over. (I can hear your groans all the way here).
Last few posts we dove and dwelt in the image of Jesus' baptism...being called beloved.
No sooner had the word, "Beloved" floated from the sky, then Jesus is lead into the wilderness.
Do you feel that tension?
The beauty and brokenness side-by-side.
The certainty of God's claim and the questions of, "Why me?" nestled tightly together.
The glory and then the gut-wrenching tumult dancing next to each other.
Or...in other words...life.
Moments when we are flying high with joy that can come crashing down. Moments that we are so excited we want others to share....only to have some one's response/reaction take the wind right out of our sails. Moments we realize that "sticks, stones...and words" can all do tremendous damage.
Pause for a moment...prayerfully ponder a moment this week...when the words of Scripture were embodied in you. Maybe a moment, your boss paid you a compliment only to hand you more work. Maybe a moment, someone where you volunteer said, "Thank you," only to have the next person be Oscar the Grouch's twin. Maybe a moment, a prayer became reality, only to have someone burst your bubble.
Life is lived between chapter three and four in Matthew's gospel. The shore line of life is on the one hand living our belovedness and on the other struggling when others want to point out our stumbling, bumbling, less-than-brilliant ways.
To live in that tension is the wilderness of life.
To live in that tension is also where creativity can take shape.
What if rather than hanging our head in defeat, we gained some curiosity? What if we continually asked, how does this wilderness moment help us deepen our belovedness? Because if the two are not in a dance, than baptism is only a means to an end ~ a chance for our ego to get a pat on the back. Belovedness is great...wilderness is where we have the chance to let our blessedness become a blessing to others. Not to tons of adoring crowds...who cheer at us. Not to people who thank us profusely....not even perhaps to family members who even see what we are doing.
But wilderness is where baptismal belovedness calls home...and it is what we call, "Life".
May you find more than a trace of God's grace in living in-between the twin truths of baptism and wilderness this week.