Published on June 24th, 2019 | by squad-admin0
Jesus teachings. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18. June 19, 2019
Nga mihi mahana e hoa ma, rangimarie ki a koutou katoa. Warm greetings again friends and peace be with you all. Assalam alaykum!
The Wednesday gospel text from the lectionary this week is Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-18. We have been back in Matthew reading the Sermon on the Mount for most of the last 10 days. This sermon is a distillation of the core teaching of Jesus and is a regular ‘go to’ place for leader’s in God’s Squad to find discipleship teaching.
Discipleship, discipline, following a teacher and learning from them. The thing Jesus said the most after ‘peace be with you’ (or similar) was ‘follow me’. Today he explains for us how to pray, fast and give so that we can follow in these activities as he would do them.
The not so subtle line holding these three activities together in our text today is to not make a show, not do them in public and make sure no one else knows you are doing them! But do them you must, for your life depends on them. These three incredibly simple actions are the antidote to the unholy trinity of money, sex and power.
We see daily in the media the outworking of many who have succumbed to the trappings of looking good, gaining wealth and being in charge. Once we are on this path of consumption and gratification it becomes more and more important to increase our dose of the unholy trinity. It has an insatiable appetite. This stuff also makes good news and sells easily. They also cause much misery for the vulnerable and not so powerful in our communities. In the last week news has come out that New Zealand also has a stolen generation of mostly indigenous children – and those government leaders responsible are looking for every excuse to maintain their power and position. The Police have even overseen children being removed from loving extended families who want to retain those treasures in their own loving care. Power….!!?? It has become madness.
Giving can be made sexy by celebrities parading their generosity and philanthropy – but fasting and prayer will probably never be sexy. Thankfully the good news from Jesus today is don’t waste your time trying to look good doing these activities – just do them. Taking the time to pray – not babble off some fancy songs or long winded preach prayers – but to read the scripture, reflect on the words and traditions of our faith, mull them over, ask ‘how do these ideas inform what I am going to do today, how will I treat others and the creation?’ and then cry out to God for the strength and grace to actually do those things even if no one notices, to cry in anguish for the broken places of the world and search for loving solutions – this is to pray. Our life depends on it.
Last week World Vision had its annual 40hr famine – a great initiative for kids and others to learn about poverty and justice and to do something fun about those issues. I think for Jesus though fasting is not a once a year gig, or twice if you do Lent as well – it is a lifestyle habit, a discipleship routine where we constantly ask in our prayers ‘what can I give up, go without so that my life can be freer and fuller, so that others can be freed from injustice and oppression’. So fasting becomes a daily routine where we weigh everything we consume or desire. After a while on this street we will notice that we have some extra time and some extra cash that we can give – I think that is another thing in our text today……
After praying and fasting we will have given up the idea that giving needs to be sexy and it will be a habit we just want to do. We won’t measure out the tithe, or ten percent because our hearts will be overflowing with generosity and we will know that what we sow we reap. What goes around comes around. Have a look at the psalm for today (112) and the other new testament reading (2 Corinthians 9:6-11 – they too encourage the grace of giving and speak of what happens when we do. Giving and generosity of spirit will mark us out as the followers of Jesus. We should be cheerful givers says Paul, and generous in deciding what we should give without reluctance or pressure, (gone is the tithe and a measured rule of giving!).
Some will counter these ideas by quoting Jesus as saying ‘you will have the poor with you always’ when someone chided the woman who ‘wasted’ expensive perfume on his feet. This was a quote from the old testament, and Jesus is rebuking the stinginess of the whinger. The reason we still have the poor is because many in our community will not share their toys and wealth.
Be encouraged friends, keep up your praying, fasting and giving as they truly are world changing activities and habits. If you want to change the system do not buy its products – these activities are non-violent direct attacks on the culture of consumption, war and death that our corporate masters profit from. Our life truly does depend on us doing them and the ‘whole creation is waiting with eagerness for the children of God to be revealed’ (Romans 8:19).
Friends be bold and courageous – keep praying, keep fasting, keep giving and the world will be transformed by the ways of Jesus, lover of us all.
Buckshot – Wellington chapter, New Zealand