Dwelling on the Book of Matthew

 

Lately, I have spent some time dwelling in the gospel account of Matthew.  I was reading it in order to seek ways that this gospel may speak to our modern church today. What I found was incredible. In the time spent pouring over these words, the message started to take on a very personal tone. In these words written so long ago, I began to hear a message that seemed to be written directly to me which was in turn applicable to the ministry context I find myself in, amongst the beautiful family here at West Main.

The book is written to a church in transition.  Its’ primary recipients were Jewish Christians. These folks are struggling with a massive cultural shift that is rushing through their fellowship.  Everything they know is being shaken up as the Gentiles are more and more not only becoming part of their churches, but asking for their own ideas and needs to be included in the worship and liturgy.  We have one group of people clinging with white knuckles to the traditions that are meaningful to them in how they fit into the story God is telling. We have another group who are charging forward asking for ways to relate to this story that makes sense to them and their work, seeking meaningful change that will help them attach to the story too.

Does this sound familiar at all? Can you find any parallels to where we find ourselves today in our churches?  Of course you can!  In fact, if you had skipped the opening, you would think I was talking about us specifically!  We are a church in transition. As intellect based in modern philosophy gives way to models based on postmodernism enters the lives we lead, it has also found its way into our churches and theology.  So we find ourselves as a body that has one group of people clinging with white knuckles to the traditions that are meaningful to them and another group who are asking for ways to relate to this story that makes sense to them and their work, seeking meaningful change that will help them attach to the story too.  So, maybe we can learn something from what Matthew said to them?

I encourage each of us to dwell on Matthew’s word. The things we will learn will surely not fit onto this page. The insight God will breathe into us would best be shared in face to face sharing of what God is doing. But I will give you a brief description of who Matthew said was right and who was wrong.  Who was right? BOTH! Who was wrong? BOTH! Matthew basically told the Jewish folks that clinging to their ways of comfort and denying the new movement any voice and any opportunity to change was not only damaging to their own faith and the faith of the church, but it could be ignoring the movement of the Holy Spirit.  To the Gentile folks, he told then to be people of respect! He reminded then that though the “old ways” may not mean anything to them , and may not relate to their lives, it was very important to their brothers and sisters, so therefore they should honor that. He reminded them that they would not even have a church to try to change if it were not for these practices!

So where did that leave them? How did they move forward from there?  The rest of Matthew is written in this tension.  I would suggest that rather than running from this tension, maybe you and I can learn to live in it as well. It is ok. It is good. It is stretching us to grow.  As Matthew shares the rest this gospel, the story of Jesus is framed in this tension. There is MUCH we can learn from these ancient words. I invite each of you to join me in this study as we learn who to lovingly exist together as a church who wants to honor God’s story!