Tag Archives: Matthew

Heart and Seek–praying in the light

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Matthew 5:14-16, 43-45a (Common English Bible (CEB))
You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.
  “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.

*What grabbed your attention in this reading?

*What questions did it bring up for you?

*How does the Scripture connect with your highs and lows of this week (what is God saying to you, in your daily life, through the Gospel)?

*Have you been trying out the fasting practice this week–abstaining from text messaging and video games? (or some other fasting practice?) How is it going? What is easy and hard about it? Has it helped you nurture your relationship with God or with others? How?

 

Imagine (or get out!) three candles in a row, all lit. Over one of them, place an upside-down flower pot that has a hole in the bottom (where water would drain). What happens to the light? Over the second candle, place an upside-down votive holder–clear, but with no holes in it. What happens to the light? Let the third shine just as it is. What happens to that light?

Which candle are you? How can you fill your lamp/candle so you can keep shining indefinitely? Are you covering your light so it can’t be seen, or so it goes out?

How might this be related to how we pray for our enemies?

Spend some time praying for your opponents/enemies…see what happens to your light.

 

With the Word online Bible Study: how not to do it

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Matthew 23.1-12

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

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What word, phrase, or image stands out to you in this passage? Sit with that for a moment. What does it bring up for you? What questions do you have? What connections do you hear (to other stories, images, art, movies, music…)?

Jesus tells the people not to strive to be like their leaders–to do as they say, but not as they do. How do you feel about that teaching? What leaders do you seek to imitate, and which do you follow their words but not actions? What does it do to how you perceive someone’s words if their actions do not match up to what they say?

The leaders Jesus mentions are those whose intentions are not pure–they give in order to get, whether what they get is honor, prestige, good seats, forgiveness, etc. Have you ever behaved in this way? Why?

If this is NOT the reason to give or to follow the commandments or to follow Jesus, why do we do those things?

What does this 2000 year old story have to do with how you live your life as a Christian?

How might this story inform last week’s–that we are to love God with everything are and everything we have, and to love our neighbors as ourselves?

With the Word online bible study: with all you are

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Matthew 22.34-46

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ Jesus said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

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What word, phrase, or image catches your attention? Spend a few moments thinking about that word/phrase/image. What does it tell you about God, about yourself, about the world?

What questions do you have after reading this passage?

Jesus quotes the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6.4, saying that the first and most important commandment is to love God with every part of you–with your intellect, your spirit, your body, your emotions. Is this how you love God?

The flip side of the coin is to love your neighbor as yourself. The implication in tying these together (the second commandment Jesus quotes is from Leviticus) is that they have something to do with one another. What do you think they have to do with each other?

What do you think are the aspects of a life lived in accordance with these commandments? What does that life look like in practice? What does it mean for how a person following these two commandments would spend their time? Their money? their energy? What would they do and not do? Say and not say? shop or not shop? etc?

What do you think of how Jesus turns the tables to question the Pharisees? What do you think he means by the question he puts to them?

With the Word online Bible Study: jealous generosity

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Exodus 16:2-15

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but” against the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’“ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’“
In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.

Matthew 20:1-16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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What jumps out at you in these stories? Is there anything you notice, anything startling or interesting or boring?

Why do you think the lectionary pairs these two stories together on the same day? What do we learn by reading both of them instead of just one?

Remember the Israelites had just been freed from slavery, and now they’re whining about wanting to go back. Have you ever felt like that–like it would be better to go back to a terrible situation where you knew what to expect rather than face the unknown?

What do you think of this story Jesus tells? How do you think it illustrates the Kingdom of God?

What do you think of that question the landowner in the story asks–” are you envious because I am generous?” Do you ever feel jealousy when considering someone else’s generosity? When considering God’s generosity?

Often we think that we have to earn God’s favor (or that we have earned it!). this story suggests that our understanding of what it means to “earn” is not the way it is in the kingdom of God. How does it make you feel when you think about whether God might extend God’s favor to those we think have not earned it?

What is the good news in these stories? What is the challenge? What word does our community need to hear from God in these texts?

With The Word online Bible Study–not just sparkly happiness

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Matthew 2:13-23

Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

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What stands out to you in this story? What reactions do you have? Do any other stories (scripture, movies, books, art, music) come to mind?

Is there good news in this story? What is it?

Why is this story placed in the middle of the Christmas story? Why do we need to read it? What does it have to do with the birth of Christ? It feels so jarring, so horrifying–why is it here?

What might this story tell us about what it means to follow Christ in the world?