Tag Archives: Matthew

Risky Business

For it is as if a man, going on a journey,
summoned his slaves
and entrusted his property to them;
to one he gave five talents,
to another two, to another one,
to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
— Matthew 25:14-15 (NRSV)

The Greek word from which the English word ‘talent’ derives was a large silver coin worth the equivalent of 15 years wages, or about $300,000! Thus the first slave received about one and a half million dollars to invest and manage while the master was away!

What would you do if given such a valuable coin to manage? Would you put it in a safety deposit box so you could return it to your master intact? Would you invest in an insured savings account earning a mere 1.5%? Would you invest in the stock market, where over the long term you might earn 5% more than inflation? Or would you invest it in venture capital, new and upcoming businesses where you might double our money in a few years and risk losing everything?

Two of the slaves must have sought out the first century equivalent of venture capital for when the master returned they had each doubled their investment. If they had merely invested in mutual funds they would have needed over 14 years to double their investment! If they had merely purchased certificates of deposit, at the end of 46 years the amount on paper would have doubled, but its buying power would likely be less than half, due to inflation eating up more than what the interest rate would have covered. And venture capital is risky. Many, perhaps most, if not nine out of ten, lose everything they invest in venture capital. For great returns only come with great risk.

The church is called to “Make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that [Jesus has] commanded [us].” With the US population growing at a mere 0.7% a year and Temple Terrace growing at half that rate, to achieve significant growth will require thinking like a venture capitalist, taking risks and expecting failure alongside successes.

I will have more to say about Matthew 25:14-30 and using our talents at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church at 10:00 AM on Sunday, November 19th.

Robert Shaw
Pastor

Preparations

How much is enough?

I have gone spelunking, exploring a cave where few people have gone before, where there are no paths, no handrails, and no lights. On such explorations our guide expected each participant to carry not merely their own flashlight, but also a backup. One flashlight should be sufficient, especially if it has reasonably fresh batteries. The flashlight I typically carried would last several camping trips without incident. But being in a cave is very different than a night out under the stars. On a camping trip, a dead or lost flashlight is merely an inconvenience, for even on a cloudy night enough light filters through to allow one to walk cautiously back to camp. But in a cave, once the lights are out, there is nothing but darkness. Darkness so deep and so complete your hand is hidden even when touching your own nose.

Clay oil lampJesus told a parable about ten bridesmaids who had gone out to await the arrival of a bridegroom. In the first century an oil lamp would provide light for several hours, typically more than enough for a grand parade to the bridal feast, even allowing for a modest delay that typically occurs. Yet in this parable, five bridesmaids carry extra oil, just in case. When delays deter this bridegroom’s arrival more than anticipated causing everyone’s lamp to run low and sputter out, the other five scurry to find more oil and miss the party.

But what does this oil signify? And how do you get it? And how is it useful each and every day?

I will have more to say about Matthew 25:1-13 at 8:15 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 12<sup>th</sup> at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Loving God

How do you love God?

Words are nice, but actions speak much louder.

When our children were little we would hang what ever art work they brought home from school in a place of honor. The front of the refrigerator always held the most recent treasure they brought home and select others would find other places of honor and many were carefully preserved and stored. A painting our daughter made in college now adorns our bedroom wall. The way that we treasure our children’s art demonstrates with actions that we love them.

But how do you love God?

A lawyer, asked Jesus 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 neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
— Matthew 22:34-40

If we can demonstrate our love to our children by protecting and promoting their works of art, might we also demonstrate our love of God by protecting and promoting God’s creations? In short by loving our neighbors. For if we can learn to love our neighbors whom we can see and hear and touch, then might also learn to love the one True God.

I will have more to say about Matthew 22:34-46 on Sunday, October 29th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

 

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