Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Disciple's Handbook - Matthew 28 and 1

Yesterday was the start of the week of prayer for Christian Unity – that’s why it’s around this time of the year that we share a service with our friends from St Luke’s.

It’s a statement that belonging here in Highbury, or belonging there in St Luke’s, or belonging to a Congregational church and belonging to the Church of England we are all of us part of something bigger, something more inclusive, something that stretches all over the world and all down the ages – the One Church of Jesus Christ.

How good to share.  And so next Sunday please note – we will  be starting our service at St Luke’s at 10-00 in the morning … and not 10-30!!!

That’s not the only way we share – there are more ways we are sharing too.  This Tuesday and every Tuesday in term time we run Transformers jointly with friends from St Luke’s.

St Luke’s are responsible for  St John’s school – they have invited us at Highbury to share with them in building closer links with the school – that means that at Christmas we had a stall at the Christmas fair and took the opportunity to build up relationships.

On Wednesday mornings Mike Workman, who is the minister at St Luke’s, and I alternate taking assemblies – we work through a cycle of 12 core values – and this half term the theme is Hope and in five weeks we are telling the story of the whole Bible as the most wonderful book full of Hope!

St Luke’s have just re-started the prayer meeting for St John’s school and Carolyn and I joined Helen Bloxham at St Luke’s and on the first Tuesday of February,  4th February we are going to host that prayer meeting here at Highbury.  It would be great if people could join us.  It will be after Transformers – a cup of coffee as people arrive around 7-15 and then 7-30 to 8-45.
There’s one more thing we are going to do in that spirit of togetherness and unity.

Mike has given me a passage to preach from next Sunday morning – it’s part of a series they are doing at St Luke’s on St Matthew’s Gospel.

Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if we could take a look at St Matthew’s Gospel too.  That way my sermon next week will not stand alone but will take us forward from today.

I love Matthew more than anything else as a very practical guide to what it takes to be a follower of Jesus, what it takes to be a Disciple.  Matthew the tax collector is very much the outsider who finds through Christ that actually he belongs as much as anyone else!

It’s a wonderful sense he has.

He belongs on the one hand to Jesus Christ and to that group of people who are determined to follow him.  I get the feel that the clue to what Matthew’s gospel is all about is at the very end.

Jesus has shared his ministry with so many people and in doing so has ushered in the kingdom of heaven.   He has gone to the cross.  He has been raised to life.  And now he gives a final commission to his disciples …

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Those words are full of hope, full of promise and full of challenge.

You get the feeling that the person behind this gospel has taken those words to heart.   How can you go teach people everything Jesus has commanded them unless you have a record of his teaching and all he did command his people.

That’s exactly the inspiration of Matthew’s gospel.  He has basically followed the outline of the story as the earlier gospel, Mark tells it.  And then into that basic outline he has brought together something missing from Mark – a compendium of the teaching of Jesus.

He has arranged it in five blocks through his gospel.

If you want to follow Jesus then turn to Matthew’s gospel and you will find a compendium of al that he has commanded …

Matthew 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 23-25

The  Sermon on the Mount – 5-7

do to others
As you would have others do to you

The charge to the 12 – 10

proclaim the Good News,
The Kingdom of heaven has come near

The Kingdom of Heaven – chapter 13
 hear Christ’s word and understand it
And bear fruit in the living of your life.

On the nature of the church 18
welcome one small child
And so  welcome Christ

The final words – 23-25
give food to the hungry
Something to drink to the thirsty,
To clothe the naked, to care for the sick
To visit the prisoner … for inasmuch as you do it
To one of the least of these my brothers and sisters
You do it to me.

This is powerful stuff.

Take this book in hand and feel as if you belong to Chist … and it begins to make a difference in your life and through you in the lives of others too.

But more than that.

Matthew doesn’t just feels he belongs to Christ and to his circle of followers.

Matthew senses he belongs to something that stretches back to the beginnings of time and forward to the end of the age.   To belong to Christ is to be part of the people of God stretching back to the beginnings.

Read through the Old  Testament and it really is a book of hope!

As the story unfolds you get the feeling that the world of God’s creation is a wonderful world but people have made a mess of that world.   Repeatedly that mess does not get the last word – but God gives people a fresh chance.  God acts to set things right and to show people how to do just that.

At our assemblies last Wednesday and next we found a colloage of pictures to help us tell that story to the children.  It was a visual way of going through the whole story o fthe Old Testament.
Matthew does something similar at the very start of his Gospel.

He prompts the memory – he sums up the story so far.

The opening verses of Matthew’s Gospel are among my favourite in all the Bible – and they are so rarely read!

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.


There are people who got things right.  And people who got things dreadfully wrong.

Matthew the tax collector who had felt so much the outsider really felt as if he belonged to Christ and to the people – maybe it’s no coincidence that he includes Rahab the prostitute in this family tree – Ruth the foreigner turns out to be the great grandmother of David.

And David is key.  The first great king in God’s Kingdom of Israel.

And Matthew is going to tell the story of the one who is born to be King in the God’s Kingdom of heaven.

And he is born of the line of David.

Hebrew is one of those languages that doesn’t use numbers.  Instead letters of the alphabet have a numerical language.  It is a language without vowels as well.  So the three consonants DVD add up to 14.

And so Matthew stylises his genealogy and breaks it down into three lots of 14.

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations

And then Jesus is born – those wonderful stories we have been reading from Matthew spell out more than the others the way the birth of Jesus, the coming of the Magi, the slaughter of the innocents, the flight to Egypt, the return to Nazareth are all in fulfilment of the prophets.

Mattthew has a sense of belonging to this movement that goes back to the beginning of time – that has been moving forward to this moment in time.  And he sees Jesus as the one who is the Messiah – who ushers in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Wow, it is a wonderful book.

With St Luke’s we share in that very movement.  We are part of the one Church of Jesus Christ world wide.

We are to welcome all and make people, especially the outsiders, feel at home and feel they belong.

We are to delight in the promise that Jesus is always with us.

And we are to rise to the challenge teaching people all that Jesus has commanded.

And Matthew’s gospel is not a bad place to start – and not a bad handbook to put into people’s hands!

Lord, teach me
Lord, teach me
All that you have commanded

Teach me, O Lord,
In everything to do to others
As I would have others do to me

Teach me, O Lord,
To proclaim the Good News,
The Kingdom of heaven has come near

Teach me, O Lord,
To hear your word and understand it
And bear fruit in the living of my life

Teach me, O Lord,
To welcome one small child
And so to welcome you

Teach me, O Lord
To give food to the hungry
Something to drink to the thirsty,
To clothe the naked, to care for the sick
To visit the prisoner and so to serve you.

Matthew 28:20, 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 23-25

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