Gospel of Matthew
The focus of [Jas Singh]'s farm is not production, but invitation — to allow all manner of flesh-and-blood to participate in the mysterious and divine but simple work of God’s kingdom — one where everyone who is fed, and those who typically don’t have the means to provide actually find they have an abundant harvest to share with their neighbor. It is a way to radically engage in leveling the field for all to give, receive, and partake in a way that doesn’t match our unjust economic structures.
MOST RADICAL JESUS theologies begin with the gospel of Luke. In a tour-de-force work, Liz Theoharis’ Always with Us? What Jesus Really Said about the Poor illustrates that the gospel of Matthew also offers a relevant statement of “God’s coming reign of abundance, dignity, and prosperity for all.” Centering this effort is Theoharis’ striving to “rethink the role of the church in the world and to challenge some of the most widely held misinterpretations of the Bible and poor people.”
Appropriate, accurate interpretation of Matthew 26:11, where Jesus says to the disciples that they have the poor always with them, is the burden of the book. In performing this task, Rev. Dr. Theoharis, founder and co-director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice and coordinator of the Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary, demonstrates the rarefied exegete’s blend: granular analysis and big picture vision. She effectively critiques the various theological justifications for structural poverty that stem, in part or whole, from a mishandling of this passage.
In essence, we have struggled to understand the work and responsibility of Christian compassion in issues of healthcare and policy. Should this responsibility be shared by all and secured by the government, or should it primarily be the domain of people of faith and those moved by a higher calling to mercy and healing? With the new GOP Health Care Bill, and the ongoing debates about healthcare in America, Christians across the aisle struggle to evaluate how well we are doing at caring for the disenfranchised and the sick.
Power can be transformative, but only if power is suffused with love. As Andy Crouch has written, “Power at its worst is the unmaker of humanity—breeding inhumanity in the hearts of those who wield power, denying and denouncing the humanity of the ones who suffer under power.… Power, the truest servant of love, can also be its most implacable enemy.”
Since it was unveiled last week, President Trump’s proposed budget has been widely denounced as “immoral” and downright “evil” for boosting defense spending by billions while demanding drastic cuts to vital aid programs.
Yet if liberals and some conservatives are upset about cuts to programs that help ensure clean drinking water, give financial aid to low-income college students, and even help support Meals on Wheels — which delivers nearly a million meals a day to the sick and elderly — would Jesus have a problem with slashing assistance to the needy?
In her sermon on the last Sunday of Black History Month, the Rev. Maria Swearingen preached about her belief that black lives, “queer lives,” and immigrant lives matter.
And since it also was Transfiguration Sunday, she pointed to the story in the Gospel of Matthew where God declared Jesus “beloved.” That is a term, she said, that can be used for everyone.
The world seems to be witnessing increasing levels of violence, fear, and hatred that challenge us each day. There are ongoing debates about how or whether to welcome immigrants and refugees to the United States; news headlines remind us about the plight of Syria and about the horrors of the Islamic State.
In such times, talk about mercy may seem more like wishful thinking. But mercy matters – now more than ever.
Dare to go there with me, if you will. What if we imagine God’s vineyard as described in Matthew 21 to be this beautiful world we inhabit? What will happen if we reject it—if we continue to treat it with disrespect, fail to listen to its natural woes, dismiss the warning signs it gives us? What if God is keeping score? Oh. Dear. Might I remind us all, that if we do not tend to this earth, we are only inevitably hurting ourselves and the lives of future generations?
This is why, like never before, over one thousand groups and individuals, including various faith groups, businesses, peace activists, social justice groups, schools, and environmentalists from all over the country united for the largest climate march in history on Sunday, September 21, gaining international attention. The People’s Climate March, held in New York City, was the perfect moment to take a stand, create a buzz, and create the much-needed public influence and pressure as NYC prepared to welcome decision-makers from across the globe to discuss this very topic.
This past week I had an opportunity to teach an intensive course on the book of Matthew. I enjoy these opportunities, not only to teach, but to look at and present a book from start to finish. Although it is not possible to delve into every detail found within the book, following the plot line from start to finish helps to pick up on themes and recurring events and/or elements that accentuate and highlight certain points throughout the broader story. It is easy to miss such connections when snippets and bits and pieces are read rather than reading the whole story from beginning to end.
One such theme is how unsettling — literally — the person of Jesus was. Throughout Matthew’s gospel we hear how Jesus shook the foundations of society.
How do you step out and take a risk — as a pastor, as an artist, as a parent, as a person — when the job description of a pioneer or a vanguard comes with the assurance of persecution?
“Surrender the outcomes,” Rob Bell told the audience at his intimate gathering, Two Days with Rob Bell, in Southern California on Tuesday.
“Surrender the outcomes of your presence, your influence, your work, your leadership,” Bell said. “They may drink the coffee. They may not. That’s just how it is. When you come to terms with this, then you’re actually free.
In other words, it’s not about you.
If, as a pastor, parent, or person, if you do what you do because you’re called to do it — without expectations, without needing a particular response, without hitching your wagon of joy to someone else’s reaction (or lack thereof) — you free not only yourself, you liberate others as well.
The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 28 tells us:
The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.
"Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.' That's the message."
It is no secret that young evangelicals are opting out of the 'religious right' in ever-larger numbers, and are becoming more (what for lack of a better term we'll call) progressive. With the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other, many young evangelicals are asking tough questions and beginning to make connections.
Our politics are coming out differently, but it is not that we reject everything our parents believe. Rather, we take seriously something beneath the rhetoric. We [...]