Tag Archives: Matthew 5

January 18, 2014 (Year B Epiphany 2) Celtic Meditation

John 1:43-51

John tells us at the end of this gospel that the purpose of his writing is so that we who have not seen Jesus face to face will know who he is (John 20:31, see also 1 John 5:13). John began this gospel with a poetic statement of who Jesus is (John 1:1-18).  In this passage we get a glimpse into how two of Jesus’ disciples came to know who Jesus is and how they began to live into the reality of God the Son entering into human history in order to reunite heaven and earth.

As devout Jews, Philip and Nathaniel were looking for the Messiah. They knew what they were looking for because God had told his people what to watch for. They studied the Law and the Prophets in order to be ready for the day when the Messiah would come and invite them to participate in this new phase of God’s plan of redemption. As Church, how do we prepare in order to recognize our invitation into God’s work of redemption?

Even though Nathaniel sounds skeptical,[1] he trusts his friend’s recognition of Jesus as worth investigation. By trusting Philip, Nathaniel goes to Jesus. The man that Nathaniel meets exceeds his expectations. Philip had invited Nathaniel to come and see by giving a partial description of Jesus: a man with a hometown and a family. Nathaniel’s discovery is that Jesus is much more: Rabbi, Son of God,[2] King of Israel! Nathaniel’s discovery comes from his study but the key to unlocking this understanding is Jesus revealing that he knows Nathaniel’s heart as well as his mind. How, as Church, have we experienced being known by God so that we can know and trust God?

Jesus names Nathaniel as a true Israelite,[3] one in whom there is no deceit. Nathaniel’s pure heart is able to see God incarnate (Matthew 5:8). Jacob, the first Israelite, one who practiced deception, saw in part, in a dream, what Nathaniel, one who is pure in heart, will see with his physical eyes: God’s redeeming work of uniting heaven and earth. Jesus is revealed to be the gate to heaven, which is also the house of God, that Jacob saw (see Genesis 28:10-17). How, as church, can we more fully live into knowing that Jesus is uniting our realm, earth, with God’s dwelling place, heaven?

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[1] My husband, Doug, notes that Nathaniel’s and Thomas’s good confessions serve as bookends to John’s Gospel.

[2] Even here, in this part of the first chapter of John’s gospel, we see that John is developing a thick description of who Jesus is. While John places the declaration of Jesus as Son of God on Nathaniel’s lips, we hear Jesus referring to himself as the Son of Man in the conversation. The sequence of revelation of who Jesus is in John 1:35-51 is Lamb of God, Rabbi, Messiah, the one of whom Moses … and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph, Son of God, King of Israel, Son of Man.

[3] This true Israelite recognizes his King.

November 2, 2014 (All Saints Day) Celtic Meditation

Matthew 5:1-12

As is fitting on a day when we celebrate the wisdom and lives of the saints who have gone before us, Augustine of Hippo will be our conversation partner tonight as we reflect upon this reading. Augustine saw this sequence of nine “blessed are those who” statements as a series of seven steps toward Christian maturity with the eighth step (the last two “blessed are those who” statements) serving as a call to begin again at the first step. [1]

The poor in spirit are humble and submit to divine authority. This continues our discussion from the last few weeks about Jesus’ authority. The meek are teachable, they know their faults, and they seek to learn from scripture. Those who mourn recognize their condition; they cannot attain the greatest good in life. Where, as church, do we need to exercise humility, live more meekly, and what do we need to mourn?

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness labor diligently and vigorously to free themselves from the things and systems of this world that entangle them, preventing them from living fully into the reality of the Kingdom of God. The merciful embody humility, meekness, awareness of their condition, and a desire for righteousness. They mercifully receive counsel and assistance from God to disentangle themselves from misery. The pure of heart, from a good conscience and the practice of good works, are able to contemplate the highest good. In what ways do we, as church, need to more actively seek righteousness, God’s counsel and aid for righteousness, and where do we need to examine our conscience and actions?

The peacemakers, having drawn near to God in virtuous actions that purify the entire body, are able to act wisely and contemplate the truth. Those who are living wisely, living kingdom lives, live counter-culturally and are persecuted for this lifestyle. How, as church, are we living as peacemakers and in what ways are we called to begin again because we are fitting in too comfortably into patterns that do not reflect the kingdom life?

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[1]The following definitions of the beatitudes are taken from Augustine’s De sermone Domini in monte, I.III.10 NPNF 1-06, 6.