Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Gospel Reading and Reflection for Sunday, June 25

Matthew 10:24-39

10:24  "A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;

10:25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

10:26 "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.

10:27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.

10:28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.

10:30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted.

10:31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

10:32 "Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;

10:33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

10:34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

10:35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

10:36 and one's foes will be members of one's own household.

10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;

10:38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

10:39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Reflection: More Words of Warning to Church Leaders
This week's reading adds more cautions for those proclaiming God's kingdom. Remember that Matthew regarded the teaching of Jesus as revelatory, comparable to the Torah, revealed by God through Moses.

The Gospel does not need special cover of darkness or whispering tones. Its validity is not due to its popularity. The temptation is to find what sells and do it. This may be peculiar to my context of American consumerism, but still, this approach does not always encourage the freedom for people to choose the alternative vision of Jesus Christ, his new way of loving and living. 

I can't expect that people will be handing out silver stars or accolades for my ministry. The message will be received as Jesus was received. Given the message (see Matthew 5-7),  there will be harsh resistance. People I thought I trusted will become adversaries.* Instead I need to trust that God, the Lord of all the powers in the universe and the Giver of life- knows and cares for me.

Not everyone resisted the message, but many did. Not everyone who was faithful died as a martyr. After all, how was the message to survive if everyone was martyred? Thus, the church understood taking up the cross in other ways, such as faith, patience and endurance amidst evil. Churches also realized the importance of "white martyrdom," that is, the purity of total commitment to the way of Christ and renunciation of empires that actively and violently stood against God's kingdom and rule.  

About worthiness: here's the definition from Cambridge Dictionary: "deserving respect, admiration, or support." Worthy is translated as "fit" in the CEV and the GNT. Fitness has an entirely different connotation. Is Jesus shaming people for their unworthiness? In context, these verses are warnings to the teachers and preachers (and Matthew's church leaders?). They are not intended to shame or diminish people, but to lay out, truthfully, who and who is not well equipped or able to do the job. I believe Jesus' instructions came as warnings, akin to "If you're not able to last in this ministry, get out while you can."

The brutal truth is that I have both denied Christ and refused the cross in word and action.** There are also times when I have confessed Christ and avoided becoming a total hypocrite. I am a mixed bag, just like everyone I have taught or will teach. The object isn't to measure unfaithfulness. The point is to gladly proclaim God's kingdom and to invite others to make faith choices, all because God reigns, now and forever. 

*Consider this blessing: May God grant you the gift of knowing who your true friends are.
**Denial could have been an official proceeding of the state, one that included a three-fold denial, including a pledge to worship the gods of the Empire. The three-fold denial was required in case the accused decided to "repent" of being a Christian and thus save themselves from execution. See E. Boring, Revelation, 1989, pp.14-15. Even though Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus apparently does not excommunicate Peter from the disciples. See especially Luke 22:31-34 and John 21:15-19. 

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