Scriptures for August 21st: Exodus 1:8-2:16; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20 Theme: Who do we define as the other?
Exodus: This scripture begins with the much used words – A new Pharoah took over the land of Egypt, who did not know Joseph. That scripture is used for the day when things change. The day when what used to work in the past, no longer applies. I think God has been warning us for some time that things are going to change. Are we really prepared for a change? Probably not. The first thing that we do when we are not ready to change, is to start to judge other people. We start to rank ourselves, who am I better off than? Who do I deserve to do better than? Who are the people that God loves less than me? If that is a strange question – that is the point of this text. We are all in different circumstances, but God loves us all just the same. In God’s eyes, there are no other people. And yet the story of the Egyptians making slaves of the Israelites, is a story that repeats itself over and over again. Jesus’ mission in the world is to undo the damage of degrading other people. He created a promised land for us all. How are we working to include all people in the church, so that they can all enter the promise land?
Matthew: Jesus talks about his mission of taking away the division of Jews and Gentiles. In previous chapters, Jesus has made it clear that his mission is to save the children of God. As he continues his mission, he comes to realizes that God’s mission is bigger than that. God has a lot of children, from a lot of different places. He asks his disciples ( and us) the important question, who do people say that I am? If we are able to recognize him as the messiah, then we have to power to be saved. If he is a prophet, or just a nice person, then we miss the point. If Jesus is the messiah – then there are no other people. We are all brothers and sisters. We are all a part of one family. We work for unity, not division if we are doing the messiah’s work.
Questions: Does slavery continue today? Does oppression happen today? Why does that seem to be a universal story, no matter what country we live in? How does Jesus help us to do something different? Who is Jesus for you? Have you heard others say that Jesus is just a prophet? What is your response to those people? What can you do to continue Jesus work of unity? When is there a time when unity is not a good thing?