I am a person who enjoys life-long learning on a variety of subjects. I particularly enjoy learning in-depth about scriptures, including from an historical context, a linguistic context, a spiritual context, and a social context. I have found that the most authentic understanding of a writing is to understand it (as much as possible) through the lens of the original writer, the circumstances they were facing in the time period from which they wrote and the people to whom they were writing, for that is where the heart, purpose, hoped for outcome, and purest intent finds its seed for propagation (telling forward the truth of the gospel). Scholars who study the scriptures are the most reliable sources of this type of information.
For more information I encourage you to read a commentary such as: The Interpreter’s Bible, Interpretation Commentary, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, John Calvin’s Commentary, or The Reformation Commentary. There is a long list of commentaries available. If you are a member of Cornerstone and would like more information, I am willing to lend you a commentary.
Matthew’s Gospel was written to the Hebrew people to encourage them to place their faith in God who sent Jesus of Nazareth to be God’s promised Messiah. Matthew wrote in a particular style for this very specific purpose. His gospel is written in mirror form of the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Matthew’s gospel is written in 5 parts as well.
My personal reflections of the previous week’s readings are updated every Tuesday. If you would care to read Jen’s Jottings from previous months, please contact me: email@example.com. I am happy to email you the archived materials.
May God’s Word bless and feed you this day and each day you carry these thoughts with you in mind and spirit.
Love in Christ, Pastor Jen
June 15, 2021 Matthew 15:7-27
I find such comfort and encouragement in hearing Jesus say, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” [Mt. 15:13, NRSV] It reminds me that as a child of God, you and I cannot become uprooted from God’s kingdom, no matter what. This passage also reminds me that people who choose to gossip, tell lies about another as if they are the truth without having all of the information, who smear another person’s character by talking to groups of people behind the target’s back, in order to feel justified for the manner in which they are behaving, will have much to answer for before God’s throne of grace.
This is precisely what Jesus was talking about. There were people who were maligning Jesus’ character and person. Whatever falsehoods come out of your mouth come from a false heart, a mean heart, an ill-intentioned heart and this defiles the speaker not the target. “For out of the heart come evil intentions, … false witness, slander. These are what defile a person …”
“Oh, be careful little mouth what you say. For the Father up above is looking down in love; so, be careful little mouth what you say.”
May the peace and blessing of our Lord, Jesus Christ, guard you in all your ways this day and forever more.
Serving Christ Together in Faith, Hope, and Love and the greatest of these is LOVE ~ Pastor Jen
JUNE 8, 2021 Matthew 14:22-15:6
These are just my simple reflections - a fluid thought. If there are points you wish to discuss for either or both of our enlightenment - I invite you to contact me.
“Honor your Mother and Father, so that you can live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
The word “HONOR” does not mean what European thinking has stated it means. In Hebrew culture, of which Jesus is referring in this passage of Matthew’s gospel (Mt 15:1-8) means to care for your parents and their needs in their old age. So Jesus is pointing out the Pharisaic tradition of giving your funds to the temple above taking care of one’s parents – the “tradition” of the tithe is not one of God’s commandments, just as the tradition of circumcision is not a commandment. To “HONOR” one’s parents means that you highly prize their presence in your life and that you show respect for the care of their bodies and lives when they are most in need of your care (as they age). This commandment of God was the first Commandment in the Ten that came with a promise from God – the promise being “you can live long in the land God gives you [Israel].” [Exodus 20:12, NIV] However, while Jesus was alive, the tradition, as we learn about it, states that “Whatever support you [the parent/s] might have had from me is given to God.” [Mt. 15: 5, NIV] Meaning, the person did not have to honor their parent.
Jesus’ statements were in direct response to the accusations of the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus was permitting his disciples to break the laws of Moses – not God’s commandments mind you; just traditions. These traditions were developed to preserve PURE worship of God in the oral traditions of Rabbis following the Babylonian exile. But, if traditions were what is important to God, Jesus would have never allowed his disciples to break with tradition. What we learn from Jesus is the truth about what is important to God. What is important to God is the care of people first. Caring for one another is of top priority to our Lord, Master, Teacher, Sovereign God.
If you are holding your “religion” up as authentic worship of God – take time to focus upon and reflect on how you are caring for your aging parents and the heart you bring with you to the task. I know many people who feel caring for their aging parent is a burden and they act very put-out about doing the smallest tasks for them such as grocery shopping or house maintenance, stopping in just to visit and play a game, or calling on a regular basis. It does not always feel like an easy task and it might not feel “rewarding” to you sometimes – honoring your mother and father is not intended by God to be an oppressive task; it is meant to be a joy; and, it is promised to be a blessing. I think it was the same in Jesus’ time or people wouldn’t have been looking for an out like Jesus describes.
I feel such gratitude for the manner in which my dad was sent to the next life by myself and my family. He died the night before Thanksgiving. On that Monday and Tuesday, while he was still cognizant, I had the opportunity to spend some time alone with my dad. It was so joyful to share with him why I felt such gratitude that he was my dad. It wasn’t because he was such a great dad all the time. He was a practicing alcoholic for all of my childhood and young adult life. He was violent and verbally, emotionally, and psychologically abusive to all of us, including himself. There was a great deal of chronic repetitive violent trauma during that time. My feeling of gratitude was because I wanted to focus on his healing – not physical healing but spiritual and emotional and relational healing. I wanted to send him with blessing and gratitude for his presence in my life. You see – you and I get to make that choice and that is where our power is.
God does not care if you go to church every Sunday while you choose to dishonor another of God’s children. God does not care if you keep every commandment but you choose to follow the traditions of a culture rather than the commands of your God. God cares about justice flowing down like a river. God cares about mercy and compassion. God cares about “love one another as I have loved you.” God cares about “forgive others as you have been forgiven for if you do not forgive others their sins, neither will your sins be forgiven.” Otherwise, as Jesus said, “you nullify the word of God” and you “honor [God] with [lips] but [your] hearts are far from [God].” [Isaiah 29:13]
Jesus wants for us to honor one another and not pretend to ourselves or others that how we treat others doesn’t matter. Here is what the entire passage of Isaiah states:
“These people come near to me with their mouths and honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish. Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “he did not make me”? Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing”? In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field and the fertile field seem like a forest? In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear, and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down – those who with a word make a man out to be guilty; who ensnare the defender in court; and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.”
Read that one again, and re-read it. I will be reflecting on and thinking about where I find me in these texts. I pray you will do the same and that we will go out and pursue in life what God requires of us all to the praise glory and honor of God’s holy name.
JUNE 1, 2021 Matthew 14:1-21
Matthew presents this interlude in the journey of Jesus to further his description from the end of Chapter 13 to point out the level of rejection and verbal persecution Jesus was undergoing by all of the leadership in Israel and Judah. He was rejected by the Pharisees and Sadducees. He was rejected by his home town. And now, Herod the ruler threatens Jesus again based on a false claim (that Jesus was the reincarnation of John the Baptists who was murdered in essence at the hands of Herod through the deception of his sister-in-law/wife and niece/step-daughter).
Jesus’ response to opposition was to teach the disciples that the weeds must be allowed to grow with the fruit; otherwise, if one attempts to pull up the weeds, the fruit might be damaged in the process. It is better to let the weeds grow alongside the plant you are harvesting from Jesus’ perspective.
The other response Jesus typically used was to state the woe for those who opposed and then to quietly move on to another location and continue to good works and spreading of the good news that God’s kingdom was at hand. Those who were open to receiving Jesus’ words discovered their blessing and those in opposition knew no better and gained nothing either by listening or by objecting to Jesus.
This sets for us an example of how to approach the people who oppose us as well. Bless them. Let the opposition be present. Do not give negativity [whether through people or circumstances of the day] your mental, emotional, or spiritual energy. Address the issues, always address important issues with firmness, as positively as you are able. Address the person/people with as much kindness as possible.
When Jesus heard that Herod thought Jesus was the reincarnated John the Baptist, and he recalled Herod’s treatment of John as described in Matthew’s gospel, “he withdrew from there by boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.”
Jesus withdrew after the bombardment of verbal accusations, personal attacks upon his character, his integrity, his authority, and his role ~ and was exhausted!!! Be a fountain in people’s lives. Seek to fill them instead of a drain on their energy. Seek to bless and to not be a toxic negative presence in another person’s life. And if you happen to be on the receiving end of a toxic relationship - consider if it is time for you also to withdraw to a solitude place with God. Recover your spirit, refill your energy. Don’t negatively create drama thinking you will feel better about your self. That is what Herod was doing. Creating drama out of his own issues and projecting them onto Jesus - who was not part of Herod’s drama by choice to begin with. Herod was the source of Herod’s own problems and drama. I encourage you my friends, if you are the creator of drama in the life of people around you - they are not the problem. Be a part of the solution.
Go in peace my friends to love and serve your Lord, Jesus the Christ, with deep regard ~ Pastor Jen