Thursday, May 13, 2010

Experimenting with the Gospel of Matthew

During the last meeting of our "Experiments in Simplicity" small group, one practical action suggested at the end was to take up a passage or two from the Gospel of Matthew and to engage it throughout the week. In our study, we spent a good deal of time listening to, responding to, and being challenged by the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19:13-30. I was excited to learn that some of us have been journeying with this man, and with Jesus this week! As promised, here are some additional passages for consideration:

Matthew 19:13-30 - the rich young man

Matthew 6:16-18 - on fasting; could also apply to simplicity disciplines!

Matthew 6:24 - "no one can serve two masters..."

Matthew 6:25-34 - on anxiety, worry, and God's provision

Matthew 9:35-10:15 - the "Missions Discourse;" describes how missionally minded people need to live to be effective witnesses

Matthew 25:14-30 - parable of the talents; again, could apply to one's conviction to pursue simplicity as well

Matthew 25:31-46 - sheep and the goats

Admittedly, these are all difficult passages. In my opinion, they are some of the most radical and transformative teachings of any time, and made even more important here in that they spoken by the Son of God. Yet, because they are challenging, I believe they are even more worthwhile to sit with, as God will speak through them to tell us what we need to hear, where we are at. We may encounter God speaking to each of us in different degrees, to different practices of simplicity, to different discipleship challenges. What is important is that we take the time to listen, to be spoken to, and then, in love, to respond with our whole hearts.

In Shelly's last post, she reiterated something she had mentioned in small group, that ultimately, we do not want to make simplicity into an idol. I think this is a crucial point. We do not worship any ideal or abstraction; rather, we worship and follow God-with-us, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. Turning to the Gospels, which are witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is a fundamental discipline of simplicity because it grounds our imaginations not in human notions or self-serving ego-driven projects, but rather, in the Words of eternal life. We pursue simplicity because Jesus Himself not only commanded it, but because He also lived it Himself. We learn what true simplicity is by attending to the way Jesus lived and taught it. Following Jesus, such faithfulness can not but bring us more life, life more abundant than any way we contrived on our own!

And, the best part about Jesus is that his commandments are spoken in love for us. While I love the Gospel of Matthew, I think Mark's account of the rich man is more helpful in that, in Mark 10:21, we are told "Jesus looked on the young man and loved him." Jesus challenges us and even pushes us to the edges of our comfort zones not because he wants to make us feel guilty or angst-ridden, but rather, because he loves us, and is willing to share with us what we need to hear, even if it is not what we want to hear. Jesus' commands are not legalistic requirements, but rather invitations to discover just what we can do, and how alive we can be, when we embrace the power of the Spirit He has graciously and freely given us! I pray that in spending time with Jesus' difficult teachings in the Gospels, each of us will hear His voice of love, inviting us where we are at to courageously take up new experiments, and to embark on new adventures of faithfulness, so that we can in turn experience the joy of the new creation God is making in the world through the transformed lives of love of each one of us!

1 comment:

  1. How funny that we were both typing these posts at the same time, and noting the need to check the ego and continually turn to Christ for how he calls each of us individually to the simplicity that he lived and embodies. Thank you for these additional passages to dig into!