Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Journey With Matthew - Day 50

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." (T.S. Eliot) 

And so our journey with Matthew comes to an end. But it really is a never-ending story, isn't it? In the end is our beginning - "Go! Go and make disciples and teach them everything that I have commanded you. And remember I am with you, always." Ah yes, still Emmanuel.

Teach them everything. Not that "they better accept me as their personal Lord and Savior or else they'll end up in hell." Baptize. Teach. Remember. 

One can be a theist without a community of faith, but one cannot be a follower of Jesus without being part of a community - even a very small one of two or three that gather together. The Church is a fragile and imperfect institution to be sure - trust me I have a close-up view! But disciples of Jesus Christ are not forced to choose between being spiritual OR religious. With God's help, we are working on both.

Baptism is not a private matter. Thanks be to God that the liturgical folks who put together the 1979 Book of Common Prayer insisted that we stop baptizing on Saturday afternoons for the convenience of the family and return the Sacrament to the gathered assembly, where promises are made and with God's help even kept. Thanks be to God for those who live those promises by agreeing to teach Sunday School, so that those who have been given inquiring and discerning hearts may grow into the full stature of Christ. Thanks be to God for our sacramental life together where the bread is broken and shared. Jesus is in the bread business. So are we.

Baptize. Teach. Remember. 

Most of this journey has been pretty one-sided - I have felt that there are companions with me but you've mostly been pretty quiet. If you have traveled with me, however, I'd appreciate hearing what you have seen and heard - and most importantly how you've been changed. I am told it's hard for those who don't have a degree in computer science to leave comments on this blog. Feel free to send me an email then or a private Facebook message - or an old-fashioned letter. I'd love to hear what this has been like for you and maybe sometime before the summer is out I can share some of that feedback (anonymously) in a blog post. 

I was asked recently what this has been like for me. I told the person that reading, marking, and inwardly digesting Scripture is a natural part of my lived-faith and a joy. I am more used to the Daily Office and at times I've lived with a particular text -maybe just a few verses - for weeks and even longer in my prayers. I'm listening to Chaim Potok's The Chosen during my commute these days and there is a line in there about the study of Talmud that talks about breadth and depth. We need both. Our journey has been, from my perspective, at a pretty good pace - we've covered the breadth of Matthew's Gospel, from beginning to end. But it has made it harder at this pace to linger for a while over a verse, or image - to go deeper. I've been reminded that when we travel together we keep moving but as this time comes to an end it might be worth taking some time on a particular issue or question raised for you along the way, and to linger a while longer on a much smaller piece of Scripture. 

What has been more challenging to me than the reading, of course, has been the discipline and commitment to write something every day. That, I think, is where my own growth has come. It's been like making a commitment to get to the gym every day: the payoff is there but it's easier said than done. Some days I've felt like I had nothing yet to say - that it had not yet ripened. But I "had to" say something. So that's been interesting; my normal rhythm of reading Scripture and writing on it is with a weekly sermon - not a daily meditation. 

Like a lot of journeys, I'm sad to see it come to an end. The journey itself, however, has been the thing - more than the destination. As was often the case, Eliot was right about this too: we shall not cease from exploration. In this end, is our new beginning: Go! Baptize. Teach. Remember. 

Blessings on the Way. 

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