Baptism of Christ 12.1.14 Matthew 3.13-end

5 01 2014

Righteous Action

Matthew’s account of the baptism of Jesus anticipates the slightly tense relationship between Jesus and John we see later in the gospel.  Neither were easy people.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

1. Is the baptism of John something unique and novel or was there a tradition that he was stepping into?

2. Themes of ‘fulfilment’ and ‘righteousness’ are already strong in Matthew’s opening chapters.  What are they pointing to?

3. Why is the baptism of Jesus so important to both the evangelists and the lectionary compilers?

Heart Questions

1. Which of the signs from heaven moves you most – the opening, the dove or the voice?

2. Would you, like John, have resisted Jesus’ approach?

3. How good is it to know that someone is “well pleased” with you?

Hand Questions

1. What is the next step in your journey of faith?

2. Is there any righteousness that you need to fulfil?

3. Is there any person whom you whom you can honestly praise or thank in a way that will be good for you both?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.

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Epiphany 6.1.14 Matthew 2.1-12

5 01 2014

A Journey to Joy

The story of the wise men is both delightful and meaningful.  It reminds us that the giving and receiving of gifts, like going on a great and dangerous journey, is fundamental to the Christian faith.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

1. What is the most convincing way to translate the word ‘magi’?

2. What symbolic meaning attaches to each of the gifts?

3. How many magi are mentioned?

Heart Questions

1. What do you feel about Herod’s words in verse 8?

2. What can you say of the joy (‘exceeding great’) and adoration of the magi?

3. ‘In the bleak midwinter’ says ‘What can I give him – give my heart’.  What might that look like in practice?

Hand Questions

1. What are the main or most important gifts that God has given you?

2. What gifts do you long to offer to God in Christ?

3. Is there a Herod in your life – someone who might misuse information you share?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





First Sunday of Christmas 29.12.13 Matthew 2.13-end

24 12 2013

Refugee Family

Jesus is born into a situation of huge threat and uncertainty.  He is vulnerable because of who he is.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

1.         How many different parallels to Old Testament stories and events can you find in this passage?

2.         History and geography are both important in this passage – which is the more significant?

3.         What is the significance of the word ‘Nazarene’ in verse 23?

Heart Questions

1.         What are the feelings of Joseph and Mary as this series of events unfolds?

2.         What sort of words are appropriate to describe the slaughter of the innocents?

3.         What might have been the psychological impact of these events on the very young Jesus?

Hand Questions

1.         This passage is partly about being wise in the face of overt threats.  If you are under threat – what actions might be wise for you?

2.         Think back over recent dreams: any messages there

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





Fourth Sunday of Advent 22.12.13 Matthew 1.18-end

18 12 2013

Deciding, Dreaming and Doing

Matthew 1.18-end

This story looks at the pre-history of Jesus very differently to the more familiar Lucan version.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

1.  Many people were named in the 17 verses earlier in this chapter.  How many women?

2.  What meaning is in the names ‘Joseph’ and ‘Jesus’?

3.  Is it fair to say that the words of the prophet were fulfilled by “all this”?

Heart Questions

1.  Joseph decides – and then dreams.  Is this your pattern or do you first dream and then decide?

2.  Mary’s feelings, thoughts, reservations, fears, etc. are not mentioned – what are they?

3.  How do you feel about Joseph?

Hand Questions

1.  Are there any duties that you would have in mind if you were a ‘righteous person’?

2.  If an angel came to comfort and advise you – which of your areas of concern would it be addressing?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





Third Sunday of Advent 15.12.13 Matthew 11.2-11

13 12 2013

Jesus and John

This is a highly charged passage, full of tension between people and inner stress.  It makes uncomfortable reading.

Matthew 11.2-11

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ 4Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’

7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 8What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 9What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.”
11Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

1.         This passage is full of questions.  How many?

2.         Who answers the questions?

3.         What does it mean to take offence at Jesus?

Heart Questions

1.         How would John have felt on receiving Jesus’ answer?

2.         What are Jesus’ feelings, with John in prison?

3.         What is Jesus’ tone in verses 7-10?

Hand Questions

1.         What evidence can you give that Jesus is “the one who is to come”?

2.         The way is prepared. How do you follow?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





Second Sunday of Advent 8.12.13 Matthew 3.1-12

2 12 2013

Powerful Words

John the Baptist has something to say to everyone.  But it’s always the same thing: “repent!”

Matthew 3.1-12

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.” ’
4Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. What does ‘baptist’ mean?
  2. What is the reader supposed to be reminded of by the word ‘wilderness’?
  3. ‘Repentance’ is an important word in this passage; what does it mean?

Heart Questions

  1. Why were people drawn to John?
  2. What did the Pharisees and Sadducees feel about his remarks to them?
  3. How do you feel about John’s personality and approach?

Hand Questions

  1. What could active, positive repentance mean in your life?
  2. What’s to prevent you from changing any habits of life that distance you from God or neighbour?
  3. Are you ready for the baptism of Holy Spirit and fire?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





First Sunday of Advent 1.12.13 Matthew 24.36-44

24 11 2013

No-one Knows

The theme of radical uncertainty is with us again. This is why we need faith.

N.B. You really need to read the whole chapter to get a sense of how these verses fit in Jesus’ apocalyptic message

Matthew 24.36-44

Jesus said, ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. What does this passage tell you about time?
  2. Why does Jesus use the phrase ‘Son of Man’ here, rather than, say ‘the Lord of the Universe’?
  3. How would life be different if we did know when ‘that day’ is going to come?

Heart Questions

  1. How do you imagine Jesus delivering this speech? Is he calm or agitated? Sitting or standing? Still or on the move?
  2. How do his hearers feel as he unfolds this great uncertainty?
  3. How do you feel reading this?

Hand Questions

  1. Compare this passage with the verses immediately prior to it. What is Jesus saying about what human beings can know?
  2. Would an observer describe you as ‘ready’?
  3. What do you need to do to become ready?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.