Category Archives: Matthew

Second Chance: Matthew 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

It did occur to me I could read through all the second chapters of the New Testament but it wasn’t until the first few inspirational thoughts this morning that “what’s next” became “why not?  If those “Firsts” during Lent and Easter were God’s theme to direct my thoughts toward the goal of Easter – renewal – then maybe these second chapters are God’s Second Chance to explore the mystery of how renewal happens.  You already know this story so here’s the cliff notes from Matthew 2.

Matthew 2:1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem…Magi from the east came…2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”…3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed…8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him”…11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him…12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route…16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

We’ve come from the victory of Easter Sunday only to be reminded  of the reality of a worn out, run-down and broken world…then.  The magi were powerful men who dedicated themselves to search for the King of the Jews: God’s provision that would renew the heart of a whole nation and ensure it’s survival.  Their desire was to become part of that renewal and worship “that” King.  Herod was a powerful king who’s only desire for renewal was to make certain of his own survival as king of the status quo. Fast forward from that star and the dreams that guided them to the worn out, run-down and broken world…now. 

There is a definite relationship between desire and survival that can misdirect our continuing need for  renewal.  Renewal is the lifelong challenge of being dedicated to developing the ability to judge desires and circumstances of our world in accordance with God’s will [discernment].  Discernment is our guide today and it’s God’s provision that will renew the heart of a whole nation and ensure it’s survival. 

He is Risen Indeed!

Christ is Risen!  Lent has reached it’s apex.  Thanks to Pastor Carl Franzon for sharing this meaningiful writing from Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE. It’s the ultimate revelation of the truth of Easter.  We have a Savior who will not remain buried even by the whims of our humanity and the reality of a broken world. 

“Wherever we bury Jesus, he comes back to life. We can bury him in the Bible or in stained glass windows. We can bury him in creeds and formulas and the heritage of our own tradition. We can bury him in movies and plays and music. We can bury him in our past. We can even bury him in bread and wine. And each time from each place he rises from the dead. He sheds the words and images and walks right on out into the world.”

Matthew 28:6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. [NIV]  

The Firsts – Matthew

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah…Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

Most of us just skim-read Matthew’s  genealogy list.  Abraham’s there √ and Jesus who is called the Messiah is there √.  There are other recognizable names in between but  I was surprised to discover why that genealogy is important.  Maybe you will be too.  We live in an age when we can know about anything and everything, even ancestry through Google and DNA results that connect us with the past and long-lost family connections.

Matthew’s genealogy list was the early cliff notes version of that.   Those lives and names validated their pedigree and became a memory device to help them remember the details of their history. They  were time-stamped code words for them.  God had chosen those ancestors to be part of the creation of a new nation,  Somehow their descendants preserved the nation  through disaster and they’d endured the shame of their exile into slavery.   Finally that remnant of people saw the restoration of their freedom through the birth of Messiah  and that would turn tragedy into triumph.  

It’s mind boggling to imagine the volumes of information represented by the simple connecting thread of those names.   I wonder if the purpose of that geneology is to remind us of a timeless truth: the sovereign God works His Story THROUGH people…not because of them.

That truth of God is still part of our DNA.  Maybe that helps explain the current explosion of curiosity about ancestry and finding the surprises it may hold.  I know that’s happened to me and my list of “begats” has grown in ways I never expected.  My pedigree is not a list of purity of line but proof that by God’s design the barrier between saint and sinner is down.  My list of ancestors persevered in their lives and became my opportunity to recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God who could turn an ordinary life of daily events, good and bad, into triumph.  

That’s the pedigree I want to be part of the ancestry of my own descendants.

This Then…Yours is the Kingdom

6. Matthew 6:9 This, then, is how you should pray:..[“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”]

I was surprised to discover the familiar last line I know of the Lord’s Prayer is only footnoted in many versions of the Bible.  There’s a complicated issue of texts, dates and translations but the bottom line is many Christians have used it in worship since about 90AD when the Bible was completed. [click here for more details]

The words “familiar” and “complicated” in the same paragraph seem important to me. Familiar is comfortable and that’s what makes it complicated.  I’m often quite comfortable in this complicated world.  It’s easy to remember this is definitely not heaven…but forget it’s still part of God’s kingdom.  He’s given familiar things to remind me His glory can be found even in such a complicated place.  There’s comfort in the power of his Word and prayers to strengthen my desire to pray for the assurance he will unite our today with His forever.

This Then…Lead Us

Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Here’s my question for today. Do you believe God uses temptation to see what you’re made of?  My immediate answer was “no.”  I think that’s the right answer but temptation and evil are real and Jesus prayer recognizes that.  I want my answer to be real too, not just a gut reaction.

My observations:
Sometimes our focus is more on praying the devil out of our life than praying the Triune God into it to change us.  That seems like giving that evil one more power than we should.  Sometimes the devil is a convenient excuse for the bad behavior of broken people in a broken world doing awful things. 

The Santa Claus Theology: Job 1:9 “Satan replied, Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it?”  Temptation is Satan’s power to destroy faith by convincing us God’s blessing is only a bribe for good behavior.

The Need Theology: James 1:13 “When tempted, no one should say, God is tempting me.  For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”  God doesn’t waste his power tempting us.  He’s focused on building faith first, then behavior. That faith has the power over temptation to reveal our broken desires to US so when we pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” we’ll finally understand  “desire” for the Triune God IS the blessing and gift.

This Then…Forgive Us

4. Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

• debt: something that is owed or due, a feeling of gratitude for a service or favor, obligation
• obligation: an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound;

A dictionary definition can bring up a less commonly used word like “obligation” as part of “debt.”  It’s a tool that helps me think about what I’m reading in a broader way.  That one word “obligation” reminded me of Romans 8:12: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.” That’s truth, right?

The terms of a debt are usually not ours to set but once agreed upon they are a contract.  We owe…we pay…”we have an obligation.”  What I’m pondering is why that truth is obviously grace when we pray Jesus’s words “forgive US our debts” but becomes an obligation to repay it when we add “as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  

We recognize our indebtedness. We want his forgiveness.  Our debt is too big to pay without it, but it’s easy to forget we’ve agreed to all the clauses of that contact.  That obligation is where Jesus’s prayer model meshes together with Romans to become the confession he meant it to be for us.  Lord help us to recognize your forgiveness of our debt has such an important relationship to our struggle to recognize our obligation to forgive.

This Then…Give Us This Day – That Mental Leap

3. Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…
11 Give us today our daily bread

• Numbers 11: 5 We [the Israelites] remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
• Exodus 16:4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” … 19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”…21 Each morning everyone gathered as much [manna] as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.

It’s not much of a leap from this line of the Lord’s Prayer to the “manna” bread God provided daily for the Israelites. They ate it but they grumbled about it even though it was what sustained them during their wandering years until they reached the promised land.  Their grumbling was focused on the familiarity of what they had to eat but in reality their problem was what they “wanted” to eat. 

I’m not that different from the Israelites after all.  I’m not immune from grumbling about the “daily” aspect of the spiritual nourishment God has provided for me.  It’s hard to get up every day and want to look for fresh food in the familiar Book and the familiar Word when I could just flip on the TV.  I remember fondly the tasty spiritual meals I’ve already had and can easily forget they were just “enough for that day.” I confess I need to hear Jesus remind me “this then is how you should pray…give us today our daily bread” and then tell me “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 

I read and ponder daily because because Jesus is that mental leap for me that turns familiar bread into the bread of “wanting” what will sustain me until the banquet at end of my wanderings.