Tag Archives: Matthew

If you are …

King James I of England

Powerful men stand boldly on the pages of history. Cities, universities, even Bibles are named for them: Pharaoh Ramses. Cesar Augustus. Emperor Constantine. King James. Chief Pontiac. John D. Rockefeller. James Buchanan Duke. Joseph Stalin.

Thus when the Son of God steps onto the pages of history people might have expected greatness in the way of the world: Miracles performed that would end hunger and poverty. Angelic armies protecting the Prince of Peace. Kings and princes the world over would immediately bow to his name and tremble in his presence.

Thus the slanderer (the devil) taunts him: “If you are the Son of God …”

Instead of gathering his supporters and army, the King of Kings spends forty days and forty nights fasting in the wilderness, struggling with his humanity, responding to temptations with humility. Not in the fashion of great figures of history, but as one who might be a footnote or a comment in the margins of history.

How might we prepare ourselves during this season of Lent to understand the Prince of Peace who would not lift a finger even to end is own hunger for bread?

I will have more to say about Matthew 4:1-11 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, March 5th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Focus!

We taught our dog, Buddy, several of the usual commands: sit, stay, down, off, leave it, take it, roll over. But the most important command is focus. If when out for a walk I see something that might cause him to get unduly excited, I tell him to focus. Each time his eyes meet mine I say: “Yes!” Then when we are well beyond the stimulus he gets a biscuit.

Now by telling him to focus we usually can walk past a potential stimulus with him keeping his eyes on me.

Jesus has similar commands for us:

  • Look at the birds of the air.
  • Consider the lilies of the field.
  • Do not worry.
  • Do not be afraid.
  • Love one another
  • Forgive as you have been forgiven.
  • Remember me.
  • Follow me.

The world around us provides many distracting stimuli: bright shinny things to buy, debts to repay, malnutrition, health concerns, homelessness physical assault, untimely deaths, environmental disasters. When we keep our eyes on Jesus we can minister through distracting stimuli seeking the fulfillment of the Kingdom of Heaven.

I will have more to say about Matthew 6:24-33 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, February 19th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Hermenutics

“I can work with the people here,” a city official had told me. He then compared the city where he currently worked with a previous city where people would take advantage of him and turn his offers of assistance into endless delays to avoid correcting violations.

In the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is not at interested in working with us nor giving us any wiggle room in complying with God’s moral code. If anything Jesus wants to give us less wiggle room, less opportunity to justify ourselves.

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.” — Matthew 5:21-22

“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, … Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” — Matthew 5:33-34a, 37

Imagine a world where everyone spoke truthfully, so there would be no need to swear an oath when speaking in court. We would no longer have a need for contracts. Negotiations would be times when people openly explained all of their concerns and desires, their skills and limits, for all parties would seek to maximize everyone’s interests.

Imagine a world where anger and insults never happened, for people cared deeply about establishing and maintaining solid relationships with one another.

Such a place would truly be Heaven on earth!

What if people started acting as if God’s Kingdom already existed on earth? Yes a few hardhearted people would take advantage of the truth tellers and those who shun even verbal hostilities. Perhaps a small group of such high minded people might actually begin to slowly change the world? I would call such a group of people the body of Christ Jesus in the world or simply the Church.

I will have more to say about Matthew 5:31-37 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, February 12th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Yours in Christ,
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Salt and Light

Being called least in the kingdom, might not be so bad. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus clarifies that he means the whole law, every letter of it. We do not get to pick and choose which to follow and which to ignore.

“Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments,
and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven;
but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:19

For example I sit here wearing a cotton-polyester shirt knowing full well that breaking or ignoring one phrase, makes me as guilty as if I had broken every commandment.

Do not wear clothes made of two kinds of material. — Leviticus 19:19 (TEV)

Considering that no one has ever asked me to inspect their home for mildew (see Leviticus 14:33-53) nor offered a pair of pigeons as an offering following the birth of a child, I suspect no one may be found to have perfectly kept the entire law.

Yet we are called nonetheless to be salt and light. Like salt we are to enhance the flavor of the world and create a thirst for the Water of Life. Like light we are to shine with the light of Christ, so others will see the good that we do and praise, not us, but the Father in heaven. Perhaps God has a different interpretation of the law for us to show to the world.

This week’s question: What have you done and what will you do as light this week?

I will have more to say about Matthew 5:13-20 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, February 5th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Yours in Christ,
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Blessed?

When I think of peacemakers I have either met or read about, blessed or happy do not immediately come to mind. I am more likely to ascribe an adjective of long-suffering to peacemakers, to those hungering for righteousness, to those showing mercy, even to those who seek purity of mind.

Happy: those hungering and thirsting for justice, for they will be fed.
Happy: the compassionate, for they will have compassion.
Happy: the clean of [heart | mind], for they will see God.
Happy: the peacemakers, for they will be called child of God.
— Matthew 5:6-9 (author’s translation)

When I have and the pleasure of acting the peacemaker I quickly found myself in the midst of tense individuals who had divided into factions pro and con with no easy middle ground. Individuals who clearly demonstrated that something that they valued was threatened by those opposing them. Frequently there have been side issues that resulted in factions that crossed and complicated the presenting issue. Unlike sporting events, these individuals wore no easily identified uniforms or logos. Further some would mute their opinions showing only their unease, knowing that no matter what they said someone would be offended. In these groups would be bullies and victims. And victims might as any throw the first insult. Perhaps once all is resolve a peacemaker might be called a child of God, but until that fleeting moment they are more likely to be called a son of something else. Further the reward for doing this well once is to be called into even more complicated and tense situations. “Blessed?”

Some people view the Beatitudes as future blessings. Blessings received when we have arrived in heaven. But scholarly translators, those most familiar with Greek syntax and grammar insert a present tense verb; “Blessed ARE the peacemakers …” This blessing has present day implications for there is no greater pleasure for me than to be in service to my community and to the Kingdom of Heaven.

I will have more to say about the 5th chapter of Matthew’s Gosple on Sunday, January 29th, 2017 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Where Is Your Heart?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
— Matthew 6:21 (NRSV)

Many churches call the Sunday before Advent “Christ the King Sunday.” On this day the Church celebrates the authority of Christ in our lives and over all the earth and heaven.

At Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church we will also call this Consecration Sunday, a day when we consecrate the first fruits of our lives, that portion of our giving that we set aside for doing God’s work in the world. Doing so demonstrates that Christ is truly King over all the earth, including our income.

We have invited the Reverend Dave Baker, the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Tampa Bay, to provide an inspiring message for this morning encouraging our stewardship of all the resources that God has placed into our care.

I believe that gratitude follows giving. When I am happiest, when I most appreciate the opportunities that I have received, I want others to share in my joy.

OfferingPlateThis Sunday we will set aside part of our worship service to give thanks, to show our gratitude, for all of the gifts that God has entrusted to our care. We do this by writing out an estimate of our giving to the church for the next year during worship and praying over our pledges. This estimate of giving helps the Session be good stewards of what we receive, putting each dollar to its best use. This process of writing out my estimate of giving encourages me to think about all that I am grateful for and how much I want to share my joy with others.

Rev. Robert Shaw, Pastor
Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church

Love Radically

I wonder if people who describe the United States as a Christian nation have read the Sermon on the Mount and thought about the implications for our legal system if we were to take this passage to heart.

justice_640Currently, if you are harmed and you can show that the person who harmed you either did it intentionally or at least reasonably knew you could be harmed, you could sue not only to recoup your actual damages, but also for punitive damages, three times your actual costs, so that they and others would not dare try to cause such harm in the future. Punitive damages exceed that which the Old Testament allowed:

Anyone who maims another shall suffer the same injury in return:
fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth;
the injury inflicted is the injury to be suffered. — Leviticus 24:19-20

Jesus trashed the idea of getting even. A legal system built on the ideal Jesus expressed in the Sermon on the Mount would put lawyers out of work!

“You have heard that it was said,
‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
But I say to you, ‘Do not resist an evildoer.
But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also …
— Mark 5:38-39

I believe Christ is trying to teach us to live, not relying on secular institutions for our security, but to rely fully on the Kingdom of God.

Jesus’ next tough statement could be very difficult to hear, especially on September 11th:

“You have heard that it was said,
‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you,
‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you …
— Mark 5:43-44

How will you love your political enemies after the polls close on November 8th?

I will have more to say about Matthew 5:38-48 on Sunday, September 11th, 2016 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Committed to Service – Saturday

“‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’” (Matthew 25:40b)

For followers of Jesus, feeding the hungry, providing drink to the thirsty, comforting the sick, visiting the prisoner, and welcoming the stranger are not optional. They are the natural outflow of a life of discipleship to Christ.

Get your hands dirty. Make service in a soup kitchen, a clothing closet, or a justice ministry your way of life. Find a small group of people or a church that you can serve alongside. As a preacher once said, “Get out of your seats and into the streets!” Make the love of God manifest for others through service.

Do these things as an act of discipleship to Jesus. Invite him along to teach you, and expect him to be there before you ever arrive, preparing the way. God will use your acts of obedience to change your heart, to transform you through abounding grace.

Jesus, call me forth to feed the hungry, heal the sick,
and raise the dead in the church and in the world. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.

Committed to Giving – Thursday

“Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven,
where moth and rust don’t eat them
and where thieves don’t break in and steal them.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
(Matthew 6:20‑21)

Jesus tells us that we should “collect treasures…in heaven.” We should put our resources toward the eternal. While we should be wise in how we steward our finances today, our ultimate hope is in God.

The hope of Christians is that this life is not all there is, and that though our mortal bodies will one day expire, there will come a day when we will be raised with Christ, clothed in immortality.

Invest in the eternal. Be a good steward of your life, and take the material resources that God gives you and use them in service of the Kingdom. As it is written in Colossians 3, “Set your heart on things above.” When you do so, financial generosity will be a natural outcome, for we worship a God who is generous. If you struggle with the discipline of giving, think deeply concerning how much God in Christ has given for you. God’s action in Christ will melt your heart.

Gracious God, may my financial gifts be given with joy as a blessing to you and to my neighbor that is in need. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.

Committed to Witness – Saturday

“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.”

(Matthew 5:16)

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his listeners they are like a “city on a hill” that cannot be hidden. Jesus said these words near the Sea of Galilee, which rests at the base of a valley. When the sun went behind the hills, the towns and villages dotting the hillside around the Sea of Galilee were plainly visible.

Followers of Jesus are to let their light shine. They are to act in Jesus’ name. When people notice, Christians are to explain humbly the reasons for their service, and invite others to give thanks to the God who sends his people forth to love, serve, and sacrifice for their community.

The things we do are of critical importance. The Christian life does not consist only in what we believe, but in what we do. It is in generosity, in serving, in caring for the poor and the outcast that we reveal to others who God is. Through these actions, a space is opened where we can extend an invitation for others to encounter God and to praise him.

Lord Jesus, help me to act in this world in a way that lets my light shine.
Let my good deeds point people to you,
so that they might give you thanks. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.