Text: Matthew 22:34-46
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
It seems to me that within the span of just a few lines, the discussion between the Pharisees and Jesus goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. In the first exchange, all the law and the prophets hang on two key commandments. In the second, Jesus seems to be tricking the Pharisees in a debate over interpretations. He scores a point, perhaps, but doesn’t seem to make much of one. When was the last time that you worried about whether the Messiah was David’s son? Besides, isn’t Jesus called both “Messiah” and “Son of David”? I learned in math class that if x=y and x=z, then y=z.
Consider your own debates with others and within. How often do you focus on things that are central and how often on things which are trivial? On what do all the law and the prophets hang in your own decisions? In your use of time? In how you devote your talents and energies?
– Andy Kille
Text: Matthew 22: 15-22
“…Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s…”
Jesus assumes in this parable that the symbols and images we put on our money have significance; money itself is a symbolic currency, representing what we value.
Take a dollar bill out of your pocket or your purse. Look at it carefully for clues – what do you see? What might it mean for you? Look at the Great Seal, with its four-sided pyramid, topped by the “eye of God.” Thirteen ranges in the pyramid/ 1776 at the bottom of it in Roman numerals/ “Novus Ordo Seclorum” (A New Order of the World)/ “Annuit Coeptis” (She/He/It has smiled on our activities).
One the other side of the bill is the Bald Eagle, the bird of Zeus, American style, holding in his talons both war and peace, thirteen arrows in the one hand, a laurel branch with thirteen leaves in the other. Which way is he looking? Over the eagle’s head are thirteen stars arranged in a Star of David. Keep looking.
What do these images and symbols tell us about the emperor? What things that are the emperor’s do we give?
– Beth Harrison
Text: Matthew 16:13-20
“. . . on this rock I will build my church”
The encounter at Caesarea Philippi appears in all three synoptic gospels, but only Matthew includes this response to Peter. It is only in Matthew that the word ekklesia, translated as church, is found in the gospel tradition. Before it became associated specifically with the Christians, ekklesia referred to any assembly or gathering of people. What does his use of this word suggest about Matthew’s understanding of the story? His purposes in writing it this way? How he understood the emerging Christian community and how it should be organized and governed? Continue reading
Text: Genesis 45:1-15
“. . . do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.”
Joseph affirms that what had been a treacherous plan on the part of the brothers unfolded in time as a necessary step to put Joseph in Egypt where he could preserve the people and his family in a time of famine. What do you know of events in your life which seemed tragic or impossible at the time, but which opened new possibilities? When have you done something harsh to another person that later proved to be a significant turning point for them? Do you think it was “all in the plan”? Or did God, or life, or circumstance make something new out of something broken?
– Andy Kille
Text: Matthew 14:22-33
What do recall of a time in your life when you stepped from a boat or firm land – from safety and security – into the waters of uncertainty and risk? Whose voice called you? How might the call have come from a deep place within you? Once on the water what was the strong wind you noticed and the fear that preceded the sinking? How were you sinking? To whom did you call? Who or what kept you from drowning? Continue reading
Text: Matthew 14:13-21
The text tells us that when Jesus saw the crowd, he had compassion for them. Write down your definition of the word “compassion” and the first synonyms that come to mind when you think of Jesus having compassion. Now take a look at the word “compassion” in online dictionaries that list multiple sources. Dictionary.com or thefreedictionary.com are two of those sites. Also click on the thesaurus links. What definitions and synonyms for compassion feel familiar? Which surprise you? Which seem to apply to the use of the word in Matthew’s gospel?
On November 12, 2009, The Charter for Compassion was unveiled to the world. It is the result of religious scholar Karen Armstrong’s 2008 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Prize wish. Visit the Charter’s website, www.charterforcompassion.org. Read the charter and listen to her short, compelling acceptance speech of the award. Wonder what it might add to your understanding of the compassion that Jesus had for them.
– Caren Goldman
Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
In the same way that I’ve had to learn not to pluck the wiry grey hairs that sprout unbidden on my scalp lest I go bald, I’ve had to learn not to reject the less appealing parts of my personality lest I lose the wholeness of self. As with a weedy garden, non-toxic attempts at eradication are temporary at best anyway, and my energies might be better spent learning how to work with the stubborn aspects of my nature while focusing on nurturing the growth of more positive qualities. Which is not to say that I ignore my faults or let them run the show, but rather that I am more tolerant of them, occasionally amused by their antics, and, once in a great while, amazed to see that one of them has blossomed into a beautiful flower.
– Kathie Collins