Unconditional forgiveness? (Matthew 6:14-15)

Why did Jesus say God wouldn’t forgive us if we didn’t forgive each other?

Open Matthew 6:14-15.

If you forgive, you will be forgiven? Jesus words do not sit well with the way we’ve understood the gospel in the last five centuries. We understand God’s forgiveness as unconditional. It is all of grace. It has nothing to do with our works. There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation. So how can Jesus add an “If …” to the message? How can he make God’s forgiveness dependent on what we do? Continue reading “Unconditional forgiveness? (Matthew 6:14-15)”

Good Friday meditation

The tectonic plates of the moral universe ground together in the Middle East, producing this massive clash …

Open Mark 15.

This meditation on Mark 15 is from Tom Wright, Lent for Everyone: Mark, Year B (London: SPCK, 2012), 166–168:

How can this be the climax to the royal story, to Israel’s story, to the story of God’s kingdom coming on earth as in heaven?

Perhaps we’ve made a mistake? Perhaps the ‘royal’ theme was only a feature of the earlier story, and perhaps Mark is now moving on to something else? No. Look through it again. ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘Do you want me to release for you “the king of the Jews”?’ ‘What shall I do with the one you call “the king of the Jews”?’ ‘Greetings, King of the Jews!’ ‘The inscription read: “The King of the Jews”.’ ‘Messiah, is he? King of Israel, did he say?’ And then—echoing all the way back to the royal announcement at the baptism—‘This fellow really was God’s son.’ No mistake. This is what Mark is telling us. This is where the king comes into his own, enthroned (as he warned James and John) with one on his right and the other on his left.

So what sense does it make? Continue reading “Good Friday meditation”

The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15)

Jesus’ entire kingdom vision is encapsulated in this prayer.

Open Matthew 6:9-15.

“Our Father…” We’ve recited it, heard it taught, and used it as a pattern for prayer. But for Jesus it was more. In 57 words, he pulled together everything he was working for. It’s a kingdom manifesto. We pray to God as king, for the community he governs (his kingdom). Continue reading “The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15)”

What is prayer? (Matthew 6:5-8)

Jesus authorized you to approach the throne of the great king

Open Matthew 6:5-8.

Why was Daniel thrown into the lion’s den? Did that strike you as an excessive penalty for … praying?

Sure, it was a political ploy to bring Daniel down, but how could Darius’ advisors have convinced him to enact such a law? We need to understand how they thought about prayer in the ancient world. Continue reading “What is prayer? (Matthew 6:5-8)”

Voice of an under-shepherd (Psalm 23)

You have people in your care? See yourself as an under-shepherd.

Open Psalm 23.

If you like mysteries, how about the clue above verse 1 in Psalm 23? The compilers who arranged the Psalms after the exile added some clues about how the Psalm was used or understood. Some of these headings are musical instructions. Some provide a historical setting. Almost half the Psalms are labelled “Of David.” What does that mean?

Continue reading “Voice of an under-shepherd (Psalm 23)”

A generous kingdom (Matthew 6:1-4)

How did Jesus imagine the world would be set right? You may be surprised.

Open Matthew 6:1-4.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the Galileans not to follow their communal rulers. He believed the people who ran the synagogues and towns were incapable of bringing the people back under God’s kingship as his nation — of restoring the kingdom of God. Continue reading “A generous kingdom (Matthew 6:1-4)”

Authentic or acting? (Matthew 6)

In speaking against hypocrisy, Jesus undermined those masquerading as rulers.

Open Matthew 6.

Up to 5 years jail for wearing a mask? Hypocrites, look out!

Ironically, actors are among the most highly regarded people in our culture. Martin Sheen was paid far more to act the president in The West Wing than the president who faced the real issues of American society every day. Why do we honour actors above the real thing?

At the other end of the scale, calling someone a hypocrite is about as low as it gets. A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not. Someone who isn’t real: they just act. In Greek culture, hypokritēs was the word for actor or orator. So if you thought someone was a really good actor, you could say they were a really good hypocrite. Continue reading “Authentic or acting? (Matthew 6)”

Whose honour? (Matthew 5–6)

There’s an amazing logic to the Sermon on the Mount when you hear how Jesus addressed his honour/shame culture.

Open Matthew 5–6.

In leading people towards the kingdom of God, Jesus turned our entire social structure on its head. You need to appreciate the depth of that subversion to see how Matthew 6 flows out of Matthew 5. Continue reading “Whose honour? (Matthew 5–6)”