Weekly Bible Reflection
JOURNEYING WITH MATTHEW
Welcome to New Way’s Small Christian Community study resource for Year A of the Common Lectionary. It is offered primarily as a basis for group discussion though it can also act as a stimulus for sermon preparation.
We invite you to join us in journeying through Matthew’s Gospel in a way that is somewhat different from the norm.
Vital aspects of Christian faith and life seem to be lost to us because of our over-emphasis on the individual at the expense of the communal. In Jesus’ culture, identity was very much oriented towards others. People relied on the group to which they belonged to give them a sense of who they were, be it their family or clan or particular group in society. Given that the gospels were written in cultures with that orientation, we intend to engage with Matthew’s gospel with the Christian community at the forefront of our minds.
We think and act differently when we look to our Christian community as the source of our identity.
Marked as Christ’s own in baptism, we are part of a new household, a new community, the Body of Christ. We’re not called to do the work of the gospel alone but as a community of disciples. Transformed by our relationship with Jesus Christ and with one another we are to be a sign of God’s future, what Matthew’s Jesus calls the ‘reign of heaven’. This requires that we acknowledge our interdependence and sit loose to individualism.
So, in this study series, we will be focussing on our response to the gospel as a community of faith and then, within that framework, on individual response.
Reading the Gospel – two windows
We need to be mindful that reading a gospel today is like standing in one culture while peering into other cultures through two windows that are set one behind the other.
Through the outer window we glimpse the early Christian household communities wrestling with the life, person and teaching of Jesus in their context and time, in Matthew’s case in Antioch during the last couple of decades of the first century, some two generations or 50 years after the apostles walked with Jesus.
Through the inner window, which is a little darker and not so well defined, we catch sight of Jesus himself and his community of followers engaging in ministry as they move through the towns and villages of Palestine during the third decade of the first century.
In other words, the story of Jesus was re-told by the author of Matthew for a different time and place. And we read it twenty centuries later praying that the Holy Spirit will enable it to speak anew in our very different culture.
We will explore how Matthew’s communities were encouraged to respond to the gospel in their time and context in order to take the further step of addressing the challenges of living the Jesus Way in our own time and context.
We are grateful to Peter Price whose Reflections of Matthew’s Gospel (see below) provided the inspiration and foundation for this new series.
David Bosch,1998, Transforming Mission, Orbis, New York – especially Chapter 2, page 56ff
Raymond Brown, 1984, The Churches the apostles left behind, Paulist Press, New York, esp. chapter 8, p. 124ff.
Michael Crosby, 1988, House of Disciples: Church, Economics and Justice in Matthew, Orbis. This is an exceptional commentary, especially the last chapter on Matthew's message for the third millennium.
Peter Price, 1998 & 2001, Reflections on Matthew's Gospel for Small Christian Communities, New Way, Suffolk
Keith A Russell,1994, In Search of the Church: New Testament Images for Tomorrow’s Congregations, Alban, New York, especially chapter 3, page 23ff.
Glen Stassen,2006, Living the Sermon on the Mount, John Wiley and Sons, San Francisco. A gem.