Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Prayer Collect (5th Sunday of Lent)

Took a blog break yesterday - and taking a Matthew break today.  Here's the prayer collect from the Book of Common Prayer - for this past Sunday (the 5th of Lent):

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Hauerwas on Matthew 2 (2)

What is fascinating to me regarding chapter two is that there are four prophecies given, in which Matthew remarks in his standard way:  “This fulfilled what the prophets had said.”

2:6 = Micah 5:2; 2 Samuel 5:2
2:15 = Hosea 11:1
2:18 = Jeremiah 31:15
2:23 = ?????

There are question marks because no OT text seems to overtly predict that Jesus would be called a Nazarene.  Makes me wonder if there was some set of prophecies that we just don’t have access to anymore.  I trust that we have what we need - but it’s interesting to me nonetheless.

Chapter two is heart-breaking:  Herod is insecure and doesn’t want to lose his position to this new king - so he kills all the boys who are two-years-old or younger in and around Bethlehem.  SH mentions that this story should rock the sentimental nature of Christmas.  A great tragedy occurred around Jesus’ birth. Liturgical church traditions commemorate this tragedy through a feast day in late December (most of them).  We should not forget that Jesus’ birth lead to great anguish - but it also should not surprise us that this would be so.  There is a battle going on - and as Matthew will illustrate through the teachings of Jesus - the kingdom of Jesus stands in direct opposition and contrast to the way a sinful world chooses to operate.

One other thing that SH mentions is that Jesus’ flight to Egypt and back should sound really familiar - because it mirrors the Israelites Exodus from Egypt.  “(Jesus) is also the new Moses called to lead his people to the land of faithfulness” (p.40).  So now Jesus has been connected to Moses, Abraham and David:  Jesus truly came to fulfill the OT - and in doing so - he completes the various functions of the key players.  I’m sure this will come up more as we explore Matthew. 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Hauerwas on Matthew 2 (1)

So the story turns from the birth of Jesus to the political intrigue that was happening in response to it.  King Herod is introduced into the story… along with a group of foreigners - wise men - who have been studying the star and somehow ascertained that this was related to the birth of a king.

Hauerwas makes a brief point about ‘natural knowledge’ here - which is fascinating.  How do a group of non-Israelites figure out that a Jewish king would be born - just by looking at the stars?  This is an overlooked bit of miracle in the stories that we tell around Christmas.  At the same time, it illustrates a point about rational thinking, nature and faith.  “The wise men confirm the church’s conviction articulated at Vatican I that we should believe that God’s existence is in principle open to rational demonstration" (p.39).  In other words:  there are things that people can deduce from what's around them about both God’s existence and God’s intention for creation.  It’s a fascinating discussion.

What is also fascinating - and happens to be a carry-over theme from the genealogies in Matthew 1:  God allows non-Israelites to feature prominently in the story of Jesus’ early life.  Much like the four women denoted in the the messianic bloodline - this foreshadows an important reality:  What Jesus is about to do will not just be for the Jews - but it will also spill over and bless the Gentiles as well.

To set up all of Matthew 2 - SH begins to unpack some of the political implications and comparisons between what we see in Herod and Rome - and what we’ll begin to see in Jesus and His kingdom.  This is a theme that will have multiple echoes in this particular gospel… particularly in the sermon on the mount.  But for this chapter - SH makes sure to point out how Herod ruled through fear and terror - whereas Jesus postured himself as a shepherd who wielded a different type of power - and leveraged that power in a completely different way.