Original post at http://bishopbillmcalilly.com/2013/01/02/245/
Perhaps you saw Bishop Ken Carter’s post on Facebook yesterday inviting others to join a group of us who are reading through the New Testament this year. Our goal is both simple and doable—that is to read a chapter a day beginning with the Gospel of Matthew and reading through the Book of Revelation. Having completed the New Testament, we then would repeat the Gospels. By following this pattern we will, together, read, pray, and reflect on the sweep of the New Testament.
This morning I read Matthew 2, the coming of the Magi.
“From the east they came to Jerusalem asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east and we’ve come to honor him.’ Well, as you know, when King Herod heard this, there was trouble. The king was troubled and that made everyone else troubled. So they gathered the important people and Herod secretly called the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. The Magi did as they were instructed, as you know, and followed the star from the east, found where the child was—they entered the house—and saw Mary with the child. They fell on their knees; they honored him, opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, having been warned in a dream went home by another way.” (Matthew 2:1-12)
After reading chapter 2, I picked up Tom Long’s commentary to Matthew and read his introduction. He reminded me of something I have known, but not remembered in a while: “The Gospel of Matthew was not originally written to be a book in the Bible. It was intended to be a resource for the church—a particular group of people worshiping, serving, praying, striving Christians.”
He further writes: “He wrote his Gospel to speak to a very immediate and urgent congregational crisis. His original readers were wrestling with how to be faithful to Jesus Christ in a changing world and in difficult circumstances, and the Gospel of Matthew was a first-aid manual for this church in the midst of struggle.” (Matthew, Tom G. Long, pg. 1 italics added)
My library is full of books to address the same dilemma. Jorge Acevedo, one of our most creative and dynamic United Methodist leaders, is writing a resource for the United Methodist Church. The title: Vital Churches Changing Communities and the World. It will be read widely and devoured by many. It promises to be a helpful, effective resource in this age of the rapidly changing landscape of the United Methodist Church. The book will address five areas: Pastor, Lay Leadership, Worship, Small Groups, and Mission.
For the last 35 years I have been buying and reading and buying and not reading similar such resources. The bookshelves in my library are overflowing. I have done my part to keep the United Methodist Publishing House in business. I keep reading and buying, thinking that somewhere there is as nugget, a word, a story, something that will make the penny drop and it will all become clear and I will finally have the missing link. I keep reading. I keep buying. (Well actually, I did not buy Jorge’s sample. It was sent to me by the UM Publishing House. It comes with the territory, I am discovering.)
I have a notion, though, that perhaps the month of January will be better spent reading the Gospel of Matthew—a book on how to be faithful to Jesus Christ in a changing world and in difficult circumstances. Lord knows, this is a changing world and we live in difficult circumstances.
• We are hoping to ease our way down off the fiscal cliff of a bruised and broken economy. This morning I read The Tennessean headline: “Weary lawmakers passed emergency legislation to avoid a national ‘fiscal cliff’ of major tax increases and spending cuts in a New Year’s night culmination of a struggle that tested divided government to the limit.”
• We are becoming increasingly aware of the plight of the Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Jodi McCullah, Dir. of S.A.F.E. writes “I find there are military families who struggle with more than 12-years of deployments and usually refrain from speaking up about it at their churches because they learn, like their soldiers, NOT to ask for help – they learn to ‘solider-up and move on…’”
• We continue to struggle with violence in our land as an open house is held today at a repurposed school for students who attended Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
You could add your own list to the difficult circumstances in this changing world of ours.
And yet, across the Nashville Area of the United Methodist Church the Christ will be honored because some congregation will offer shelter to those in the cold, a meal to those who are hungry, a coat to one who is cold. Across the Nashville Area of the United Methodist Church a family will find their way into a congregation, seeking to begin again and that congregation will open its arms and hearts and connect them to Jesus Christ. Across the Nashville Area of the United Methodist Church a veteran will find hope, a child will find love, a teenager will hear the call of Christ and respond to full-time Christian ministry. Somewhere this week, because of the faithfulness of the people called Methodist, darkness will be turned back and the light of Christ will shine.
So this day, I fall on my knees, and worship the Christ child who brings “Hope for the hopeless, Love for the loveless, Peace for the restless - Because greater things are yet to be done, greater things are still to come!”
I pray you will join me as together we seek to honor the One who came so that we might be faithful in the hard places this world brings our way.