Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Journey With Matthew - Day 7

Read Matthew 6:1-18.

Two words really leap out at me in today's reading and I find myself wondering about the relationship between them.

The Greek word Πάτερ, "Father," occurs 418 times in the New Testament; eleven of them are found here in these verses. The Greek word hupokrités, or "hypocrites," comes up eighteen times in the New Testament, and three of them are here. 

What to make of this? First, Jesus spoke Aramaic - not Greek. The word he used here would have been "abba" which is more accurately translated as "daddy" - that is a familiar, intimate term, not the formal one. We cannot ignore the patriarchal context of Jesus and of Matthew and we shouldn't. But we can note that the term is one of endearment and relationship more than it is focused on God's gender.  

Hypocrites are fakes. Actors. Posers, as the English might say. Unlike our awareness about God-talk, here very little is lost in translation or needs updating. Hypocrites are more interested in pretending for the sake of appearances than in an intimate relationship with God. We Christians need to move beyond Christian anti-Semitism which sees the "hypocrites" as first-century Jews - of which Jesus was one, after all. Rather, it is a unique problem that religious people face, across the generations. We pray and act in certain ways so the neighbors will notice - rather than as a means to deepen our relationship with the living God. And that's a problem.

So as I translate this text to our time and place, I see Jesus saying, beware of the kind of piety that impresses the neighbors and makes God wince. Beware of praying long prayers, just say "Hey Mr. (or Ms.) God - this is Anna!" 

Obviously faith has both dimensions and we are called to "love God and love our neighbor." But when it comes to who we need to impress, it seems to me the answer is pretty clear. The neighbors are fickle, and love gossip and are often simply concerned with appearances. We can spend our whole lives faking it. The goal of the life of faith is to be in relationship with the living God, who loves us as a parent loves her child. Unconditionally. 

1 comment:

  1. Is the word “Father” really more focused on endearment and relationship than on gender?
    Then, why do we never translate any scriptures to read “Amma” for the word God?
    I’ve never been at a service where we prayed “Our Mother, who art in heaven.” And I’ve have never been blessed “In the Name of the Mother, Son and Holy Spirit”. All of those names are endearing and intimate. I will have difficulty believing that our church sees God as beyond gender until gender names can be interchanged without fuss. It only makes sense, doesn’t it?

    “Kingdom” is another multi-layered word, as it most often describes different classes of people with a male ruler. As we are all related to God in God’s family, and are God’s “kin”, a number of writers have begun to use the phrase “kindom of God” to describe a family of humans where all are equal.
    I look forward to the day when we might pray, “Our Mother who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kindom come…”