The Sunday adult Bible study group that I lead each week is focusing on the Gospel of Matthew this year. For Pathways through Lent I will be sharing some of the Bible Study notes from our class on each of the Thursdays until Holy Week.
It is fitting that we read passages from the Sermon on The Mount on Ash Wednesday and on some of these days in this first week of Lent!
Matthew 5 presents Jesus as the new Moses, giving a new twist on the Law from a new Mt. Sinai. Old systems of “getting even” morph into “be reconciled,” “say what you mean and mean what you say,” “do not retaliate,” and “love your enemies.” These are ideals worth pursuing in our walk with God toward Easter.
Then in chapter 6, Jesus becomes the Wise Sage commenting on matters of piety. Jesus updates the classic three pillars of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to remove ostentation. Jesus calls us to seek the embodiment of God’s will and forgiveness as our way of life.
You might have loved eavesdropping on our class, as we tried to find the way between “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” and “When you pray/fast/give…do it in secret.” The Bible often gives us a conversation rather than a simple answer.
Discipleship is a major theme in Matthew. No surprise, then, that heavy disciplines are front and center regarding our 40-day pilgrimage. Even the prayer that Jesus teaches has the sense of “you have heard that it was said, but I say to you.” The Kaddish, an Aramaic prayer used in the synagogue, included these phrases: “Exalted and hallowed be his great name in the world which he created according to his will. May he let his kingdom rule.” The Lord’s Prayer turns those into our prayer for the coming of the reign of God and the doing of God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.”
I once heard a sermon that compared the Christian life to a jazz improvisation on a theme. Good image! May God bless all of us as we find creative and imaginative ways to incorporate godly disciplines into our lives.
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: