Jesus clearly tells us not to practice our piety before others in such a way that draws attention to ourselves (a very strong temptation in the age of social media). However, Jesus ALSO tells us to let our lights shine before others so that others see our good works and give glory to God (Matthew 5:16). So which one is it? Are we to practice our faith privately or publicly? Jasmine addresses this question in her Ash Wednesday sermon.
In last week's Bible Study, we talked about how NOT to pray, focussing particularly on what Jesus has to say in Matthew 6:5-8. In this Bible study, we'll focus on the model prayer that Jesus offers his disciples- that which we call "the Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father" (Matthew 6:9-13). If you're a Christian, you've said this prayer countless times in your life. But, how often do we truly think about what we're saying? Today, I'll take a deep dive into this prayer, verse by verse.
Jesus begins his teaching on prayer with the words, "WHEN you pray" not "IF you pray." Clearly, Jesus wanted his disciples to make prayer an integral part of their lives. But, is there a proper way to pray? Or, to phrase the question differently, is there a wrong way to pray? The answer to both questions is yes. In the first of this two part series on prayer, we will take a closer look at Jesus' teachings regarding how NOT to pray, focusing particularly on Matthew 6:5-8.
Most of us consider ourselves to be ordinary people, stumbling along in life, trying our best to do the right thing. That's why it's easy for us to relate to Saint Joseph- a man who wants to do the right thing in the face of life's complicated dilemmas. In Matthew's account of Jesus' birth, Joseph is most certainly placed in a situation where he is forced to wrestle with that question, "What is the right thing to do?" And (God bless him) at the beginning of the story, Joseph makes the best decision he can possibly make with the limited knowledge that he has. However, it’s only when Joseph has faith in the message that God reveals that he is finally able to pursue the right course of action— the course of action that’s most in keeping with God’s will. Allow me to broaden that statement: it is only when we have faith in the message that God reveals to US that WE are able to act rightly. This will become clear as we take a closer look at today’s story from Matthew’s Gospel.
In chapter 22 of Matthew’s Gospel, the Jewish religious leaders surround Jesus, asking him one controversial question after another, all in an attempt to embarrass him in front of the crowds. After handling three particularly tough questions, Jesus then turns to the religious leaders and asks them: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42). It is a question that is directed, not only at the Pharisees and Sadducees, but to us, too. What do we think of Jesus?
In today’s sermon, Jasmine will take a closer look at this question along with all of the other tough questions that the religious leaders have for Jesus.
In the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, Jesus likens Israel to a vineyard- a vineyard that is naturally expected to bear fruit. However, the "fruit" that this "vineyard" is supposed to bear isn't grapes. Rather, Israel has been called to bear the fruit of righteousness and peace.
But what if Israel's leadership- the Pharisees and the chief-priests- refuse to hand over this fruit? What will God, the owner of this "vineyard," do to them?
We feel we’re being treated fairly when we get what we deserve. But what happens when we DON’T get what we deserve? What if there is no obvious payoff for all of our hard work? What if, despite all our laziness and failure, we’re still (to our astonishment) rewarded magnificently? None of this satisfies our innate sense of fairness. But, as we learn from Jesus’ Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, such is the nature of God’s divine love. It is, to our sensibilities, rather unfair. But that is the beauty of it.