Pastor’s Reflection

Living Out the Vision of Jesus

This is probably my 12th time through Year A of the lectionary which features the Gospel
according to Matthew. I’m noticing how over the years the commentators who are finding out
more about the history of the first century when Matthew was written are finding again and
again how difficult it was for the early Christians.
It is presumed that Matthew was with a community of Christians who were devoted to the
Lord, but who needed encouragement to not give up and to stay with Jesus and the Christian
religion. More and more commentators are seeing the really tough time they had as they dealt
with persecution from Romans and Jews for bearing the name of Christ. Matthew reads a little
differently when you see the book and the words of Matthew and Jesus against a background of
enmity, not just as a personal challenge against the devil and one’s own tendency to wander
away and do sinful things.
Even in the first century the relations between the Christian church at the governmental
authorities went back and forth. Sometimes they were friendlier. Different Roman emperors saw
some good in Christians; others didn’t. Over the years since then, Christians have had a variety
of relations with the culture at large and government. Sometimes they have been quite cozy,
and sometimes there has been persecution and groups needing to flee such as early Christians
to Syria, Pilgrims from England to America, and some Lutherans from Germany to Perry
County, MO.
In the United States the relationship between religion and Christianity has been a kind
dance with some times being like close-together slow dances, and other times being like fast
dances with no touching and lots of foot work dancing around each other. Over the past 75
years the dance has continued. Sometimes, especially earlier on, there was much closeness,
and patriotism and Christianity went closely together. In time when issues have arisen and
Christians have expressed concerns about issues such as racism, quality of health, poverty,
participation in war, gender rights, immigration, and sanctuary, the dance has been more lively,
with not so much close touching and with some creative tension between the partners.
We are reminded by Matthew that this is nothing new for Christians. Living out the vision
of Jesus is never easy in the world, and often it is counter to the values around it. We see in the
Matthew the encouragement to the faith that while it receives its signals from a source beyond
the earth, and its success isn’t always seen in terms of earthly values, there is a promise that
comes from the resurrection of Jesus, that new and good life emerges and can be lived out in
the midst of times of change and even times of repression.
It is a hope that we are called to, and it requires encouragement from every direction—
gospels and scripture, worship, prayer, hymns, the saints before, and each other to maintain it,
to keep it, and to grow in it. May we be encouraged by our church life together to keep hope and
to live as Christ calls us to be his presence in the world.
Peace in Christ,
Pr. Keith