By Author Unknown
RENEWAL 2 NEWSLETTER & AN UNCOMMON LECTIONARY
February 18, 1995
Matthew 6:16-18 >
Also, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites who wear a pained expression in public so everyone will see they are fasting. The truth is they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head with oil and wash your face so you do not appear to be fasting. Then your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you openly.
WHAT IS THIS?
A teaching, found only in Matthew, that echoes Jesus’s emphasis on worshipping God incognito. The form of his statement builds contrast between “worship for show” and true worship. The reward for those who parade their devotion is presumably their own ego bolstering and such praise as
others might give. The open reward of God presumably refers to the list of blessings in the Beatitudes.
WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT JESUS?
That he is concerned about appearances, but in a way opposite to typical concerns. He wants our observances done in private. This says Jesus gives a secret and individual relationship with God the highest priority. He does not seem to be a fan of public worship.
HOW TO … ACCORDING TO JESUS?
Regardless of your observance or practice, carry it on in private. Regardless of the depth of your experience, do not parade it before others. The matter-of-fact teaching of Jesus is: Do not display devotion. The parading or public display of spiritual practice has no place. Make your teaching, preaching and healing public and your prayer life and spiritual discipline private.
Is there a sense in which, because we are rewarded in the open for our private worship of God, one of our rewards is that the various elements of our life — public or private — tend to fall into place, without much effort on our part?
A N U N C O M M O N L E C T I O N A R Y
February 18, 1995 HELP US TO LOVE, TO LOVE THE LIGHT
[Help us to love the light
Fa Mi Re So – Fa Me Fa Re Do]
PSALMS 56:5 Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil.
JOHN 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and we loved darkness rather than light, because our deeds were evil.
ACTS 6:10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke.
Seed Thoughts: We live in a time of pulling between notions of reality and do not know what spirits to
resist and what spirits to embrace. We live in a time not so different from the time of the Psalmist who could write of having words wrested, twisted, distorted — until speech itself became a danger. But along comes John, the author of what some call a spiritual gospel but I call a theological gospel, telling us that our lost condition does not exist because there is no light or truth. Nor because we lack the capacity to love. We simply happen to love or prefer the be-clouded realities of confused and chaotic existence to the luminous, searing, cleansing reality of Jesus. To the extent that we are under judgement, it is for this misplacement of love. And for John the explanation lies in our concrete deeds. This OR that! This will be a blow to the behaviorists who believe they have discovered a NEW truth. It is always hard to reflect that a Bible which has been used to buttress passivity and conformity is actually a charter of human responsibility. What responsibility? To decide for the light! To reject evil deeds. In the first instance these deeds have little to do with those things we condemn in ourselves. That would be a mite too self-referential. No, they have to do with a general turning-off to the reality of light come into the world, the evasion of a Jesus who calls us, a flight from grace, an ostracizing of true happiness. In the context of these generic rejections, our deeds become thoughtless, we lose all transcendence, and we sink readily into the cycle of activities that Paul and Jesus list as the routine sins of lust, murder and greed. So send not to know of whom John speaks. He speaks of me, and thee.
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