Thursday, June 1, 2023

Sunday Gospel Reading and Reflection

The Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20

28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

28:20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Church as Teacher
Matthew is a missionary Gospel, with all of its instructions for missioners (Matthew 9-10). In what we call the Great Commission above, Jesus "apostles" his disciples by sending: "Go therefore." But the content of that teaching is "all I have commanded you." That's a large part of Matthew, starting with Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount.

Glossing over Jesus' teaching is convenient to do. But preaching Jesus' teaching is the standard content of Gospel preaching.* It seems many on the outside of  Christianity have judged churches and Christians for our failures to follow Jesus' teachings and I own that. However, is that the excuse to discount the way of Jesus Christ when commissioned to do so?

Is this another session on works-righteousness? Let's get the tired law vs. grace dichotomy out of our minds for a minute. The existence of Jesus' teaching saves me. Full stop. The covenant Christ offers comes by God's initiative and grace, as surely as our being created in God's own image and likeness. As surely as the Torah is given by God's grace. 

Whatever eternal  life is, I am going to find it very difficult to claim Jesus when, at the same time, I refuse to meet him in my vulnerable neighbors.** In Jesus' parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:21-33), I really do meet the risen Christ in the imprisoned, unsheltered, hungry, thirsty, alien, and sick. What about those huddled families, children, parents, grandparents at our Texas borders? And those who will cross my path today and tomorrow? 

*John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in England, in the 33 Standard Sermons he preached and required of his itinerants, 14 are on the Sermon of the Mount.
**Although some read Matthew 25:21-35 as referring to brothers and sisters in Christ, that is, the Church, I err on the side of generosity. Tipping the scales for me are the questions of Scripture, such as (1) Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10) and, (2)  Am I my brother's keeper? (Genesis 4). 

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