I wonder if you’ve seen the clip on YouTube of Jimmy Kimmel on his late night television show noting that we’re hearing a lot about Jesus in the race for the Presidency, we might listen to Jesus saying some of what we’re hearing in the campaign. He shows Jesus standing behind a podium with the American and other flags behind him, repeating comments about walls, and refugees, and use of guns that we have heard. As we listen, the contrast is profound between the figure and the sentences he repeats.
Today, Jesus takes us into one of his brief and loaded proclamations. Within these seven verses, there are many topics to discuss: Jesus' declaration of sovereignty on polytheistic Rome, King Philip's folly in honoring the unknown gods of his oppressor, the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and the controversial debate of who is the rock... Nevertheless, I am compelled by the Holy Spirit and the limitation of time to discuss Christ's solemn vow of friendship and His spiritual authority.
A.J. Jacobs wrote a book called A Year of Living Biblically. Now A. J. identifies as non-practicing Jew. In his own words, he is “Jewish in the same way that Olive Garden is Italian.” But he did this experiment to test the idea of “taking the Bible literally,” as so many in American claim. He read through the Bible and wrote down every command, something like 750, and spent an entire year living according to those commands. At the end of the experiment, he concludes you simply cannot take the whole Bible literally. It’s just not something we can do. It’s impossible and anyone who says they take the Bible literally is lying or at least kidding themselves.
The Gospel of Matthew was written for people who were Jewish, yet followers of Jesus Christ. They were a minority among the Jews of that time and there was growing tension between the two groups. Thus the story of Jesus’ birth and flight to Egypt in Matthew reflects the Hebrew ethos of the time.
What’s in a name? I was surprised some years ago when a friend asked me what my second name was. I wondered what she meant for a second and then realized that she had two names she used as a first name, Nancy Mack, and she wondered what my name really was. I had to disappoint her, my parents named me Ann. Very simple, no middle name, just Ann.
How appropriate that we read this lesson that begins the Gospel of John on the first Sunday after Christmas. This quieter time gives us a chance to reflect on the meaning of the prophecy fulfilled in Jesus’ birth. To hear these words leads us into that time of reflection.
G. K. Chesterton, the famous British poet and theologian, was a brilliant man who could think deep thoughts and express them well. He was also extremely absent-minded throughout his life, so much so that he became known for getting lost. Once he even sent a telegram to his wife that said: “Honey, seems I’m lost again. Presently, I am at Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?” In a clear and precise answer, she telegraphed back a one-word reply “HOME!”
I remember a cartoon, probably from The New Yorker, that showed three men. One, rather small in stature, was standing against a wall. He had disheveled hair, a long beard, and wore a tunic with patches all over it. He was holding a sign that read: The end is at hand.
Today we hear readings that offer confronting pictures of God’s demands on those who have every reason to think that they have done what is right. Amos’ criticism of ancient injustice (5:6-7, 10-15) and Jesus more poignant encounter with the rich young man (Mark 10:17-31) both pose questions of us about what God might require of us today.