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Posts Tagged ‘Gospel of Matthew’

The Book of Common Worship is an excellent and even critical resource for pastors, but I find writing my own prayers an even more essential discipline in the homiletic process.  Writing my own prayers is a weekly discipline.  Here are prayers inspired by Exodus 16:2-15 and Matthew 20:1-16.  BTW prayer of praise can be easily written to the negative to function as a prayer of confession.

CALL TO WORSHIP

Leader: The Kingdom of God has been imagined as a future promise or a present invitation.

People:   The Kingdom of God is mysterious.

Leader: Jesus’ teaching tugged at the mysterious veil in order to explicate God’s Kingdom.

People: His parables, age-old, remain unsettling and surprising.

Leader:  Perhaps we will recognize The Kingdom as a tireless seek and find.

All: Let us worship the God who allows us a robust reward through exertion and purpose.  Amen.

PRAYER OF PRAISE

God of a divine economy, in our dollar and cents society, we struggle to express what we value.  It is a great mystery that some valueless things are priceless.  It is another mystery that some valuable things are a burden.  From some place deeper than our pockets or wallets we have come to know value.  At times, we have been undervalued and almost talked into our worthlessness.  In other moments we have walked into a profound purpose and felt great humility and privilege.  Let the evidence of our praise be in our ability to call one another to purpose within this place.  For this church does not belong to those of us who have been here the longest.  Your house and ministry belongs equally to the next one who walks into your ready space.  Hear each prayer in whatever hour it finds itself, through Christ.    Amen.

 

 

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They say that when one loses weight their energy grows.  I have certainly found this to be true but it is a bit counterintuitive for me.  I have always thought that food equaled energy.  However, in recent years I have learned that energy is a balance of digesting and resting from digesting.  I am currently hearing the call of a beautiful and fresh bag of potato chips.  One chip has fallen on the floor next to my resting cat.  This cat is always interested in fallen food.  But the cat is not interested in the potato chip… a sure sign that there is no energy or life in that chip.   Still it is a temptation for me that threatens my ideal weight according to my Weight Watchers website.

Considering the temptation of Jesus this week, I was struck by the opening sentence that Jesus was led by the Spirit.  Our faith instructs us that the Spirit reveals meaning and understanding and to have the Spirit as the lead energy in the temptation story must give one pause that temptation is all the devil’s doing. What if temptation is important for the development and maturation of the faith?

Some say that human being’s early faith development rests heavily upon ideals.  Without a lot of “faith experience” ideals are the shining light that call us forward to discover more about God and ourselves.   As we strive in the faith, we realize the ideals aren’t the true destinations.  Rather they are what keep us moving along a path upon which we find purposeful opportunities allowing us to grow in the faith.

Temptation is also along the path and seems to ask us if we understand our commitments and our goals in the faith.  Temptation sometimes sounds like, “That ideal is pretty tough…do you think you can realize it? Wouldn’t it be easier to just give in and rest?”  Though the gospel of Matthew has the temptation story preceding the ministry of Jesus, I wonder if that is really how temptation works in our day to day world.  I believe perhaps that temptation comes to us some time after we have identified an ideal or made a conviction …even a New Years resolution.   Temptation seems to challenge what we are resolved to do in our life but then I remember that when my muscles are reasonably challenged, they grow stronger.

Jesus was at least resolved to provide attention to:   the poor;  empiral power and to individualism.   Perhaps, temptation provided an opportunity for him to deepen his connection to his resolutions.

  •  When Jesus is invited to turn stones into bread in the midst of his own hunger, temptation arises.   “Temptation says…feed your own hunger and then start a food pantry for the world.”  The immediate gratification and assuaging of hunger is a primal urge within the human being.  But Jesus is not known as the bread of life for nothing.  Jesus seems to replay that humans have long hungered to know that they precious and important in God’s sight.  This is the hunger that Jesus will feed. 
  • When Jesus is invited to throw himself off the tip-top of the temple, temptation rises.  Temptation says, “Won’t you throw yourself into your mission and work in such a way that you will be safe in the end?”  This sounds familiar to me.  How many times have I withheld myself wondering who will step in and collaborate for part of the rigor?  Jesus knows this temptation but Jesus will not test God’s creativity.  Instead he will be a part of it and allow the effort to consume him.  Jesus will be sacrificing himself all along the way of his human pilgrimage into a divine status. 
  • When Jesus is invited to a powerful perspective of all the kingdoms of the world, temptation rises. Temptation says…’Your program is perfect!  You can save the world…all you need to do is take it over!”  We can bet that Jesus had a program he believed in.  But how that program was implemented makes all the difference.  Would his program be implemented through tryanny and kingdom control?  Jesus is resolved to peaceful persuasion generations since have worshiped his commitment.

I would content that temptation played a clarifying role in the life and ministry of Jesus.  Moments of temptation seem to last forever.  The temptation is over the minute we give in and allow it to rise over us.  What a relief! That is until we want more of ourselves…until we again set our sights on an ideal so that we can continue to put one foot in front of another. 

Our succombing is not temptation’s fault.  Temptation is a gift of the Spirit and through temptation the Spirit asks the most intimate of questions…”What do you care most about?”  the Spirit lingers and hovers wondering…will we be able to respond with congruent intimacy? 

  Let’s see… looking at the potato chip let me try!

 When I answer “I care most about my weight”, I know, from experience,  that I am only moments away from  a potato chip.  However, when I answer “I care most about having more energy to share with the world”….the potato chip no longer looks promising…particularly next to  a sleeping cat.

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Ministry of the Apostles, a complex multi-figu...

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For the Christian, the title the Son of Man finds its earliest reference in Daniel 7 where it is used to describe a cloud-born humanlike figure.   When it is used in the New Testament, it is almost exclusively used in the Gospels and then alwasy on the lips of Jesus.  ( The other occurences are found in Acts 7, Hebrews 2, and Revelation 1 and 14.)   Its usage is cryptic to the extent that Jesus uses the phrase in the third person as if referring to some other person but the context of the passage implies that the reference is to him. (Burkett, 2000 page 32)   

More generally and before our scriptural references, the title was used in the ancient world to reference a specific human being and we often understand when we read scripture that the  being referenced is the risen Jesus.  Thus we might understand that Son of Man holds a tense between our human condition and our desire to transcend it.   

Scholars have wrestled with this phrase in order to “pin it down” and understand it more fully.  However, I wonder if the phrase is not meant to have some play in it.   

If it is confusing to determine whether the reference is to Jesus or another specific human being, then perhaps we are to wonder who Jesus is referring to.  I would like to propose that when Jesus is remembered as using the phrase “Son of Man” this was a reference to Jesus as well as to what he has in common with the human condition.  For example, one of the  days of the Son of Man might be a phrase indicating a hoped for day when one rises above one’s pain suffering and is triumphant over their circumstances.   

If this is possible, the Son of Man becomes a meaningful but generic title for the specific human experience striving toward faithfulness when we are betwixt and between our worst fears and our highest hopes.   For my part, since I am still trying to understand this phrase, I will be playing a little game.  The game will be to insert my name into the places of scripture where The Son of Man title is used and then I will take an alternative view and slip Jesus’ name in.  I will see which one if either make consistent sense.

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