Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Matthew 23

23:1 ¶ Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,
2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;
3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.
4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.
5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.
6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues,
7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.
8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.
9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven.
10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.
11 The greatest among you will be your servant.
12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

It is important to notice that Jesus does not say, "Since they do not practice what they preach, don't listen to them." Instead, he says, "Do whatever they teach you." He says this because these teachers, though hypocritical, nevertheless sit in the seat of Moses, that is, they fill an office.

So too in the church, although I do not encourage pastors to be hypocritical, and I strive myself to practice what I preach, people are supposed to listen to and be shaped by the preaching I do not because of who I am or how I am, by the influence of my personality or actions, but because I fill the role of pastor in the congregation in which they have been called to participate. God makes use of these offices for our own good, and sometimes in spite of our own bad.

But now notice, even as I have said this, Jesus goes on to change the authority and power structures substantially in his own instructions to the new community. This new egalitarianism is the result of his profound reliance on one Lord as Father, teacher, rabbi. The One, in Trinity, levels the playing field precisely in His/Their exaltedness. Because God is above, we are humble and equals below.

This is why all those who are baptized into Christ Jesus are called to continued learning and growth in the faith (faith seeking understanding) and can fill the role of confessor and servant, hearing the sins of others, praying with them, serving them. For in humility we are all little Christs to each other.

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