Today’s daily reading for Holy Week: Matthew 22-23
Pastor Helen’s reflection on today’s Scripture:
Grandmas are great storytellers. There’s just a way about them. The details they remember after all these years. The way in which everything just seems like water under the bridge. I can remember my grandma telling a childhood story about when she was totally distraught over not having an Easter dress. It was the night before and had nothing special to wear on Sunday.
As the story goes, her mother scurried about their apartment and pieced together an ensemble from a fur coat, an old dress, and tassels from a lampshade! Extra fabric was fashioned to craft a bonnet. My great-grandma wasn’t a seamstress, but she did the best she could with what she had.
Now, let’s add in some context: this was Easter in 1930 during the Great Depression. Also, an Easter outfit complete with petticoat, gloves, and shiny shoes would have been a staple for Catholic families in the Bronx at that time, Depression or otherwise.
Understanding the times and the norms make all the difference in knowing why a dress was so important to my grandma at that age (just think about how our own kids want to keep up with trends). Context also sheds light on the dire circumstances which would have led her mother to resort to home décor as a viable clothing accessory. In some ways, previously eccentric choices become normalized, and perhaps even admirable.
It’s this very kind of understanding history, norms, and culture that we should strive toward when reading Scripture. How can we fully grasp the parable of the wedding invitations unless we also understand how weddings fit into fabric of society? How can we grasp some of Jesus’ wittiest responses to those who questioned him if we don’t also know the Old Testament laws those very people were steadfast followers of.
The Holy Spirit will absolutely guide us in our understanding of scripture and will reveal whatever we need to learn and apply from a text. That’s what He does! That said, learning about the culture of 1st-centruy Palestine or Old Testament Hebrew law can go a long way in helping us make sense of what may originally seem a bit curious.
Nonetheless, just as one can glean that my great-grandmother must have loved my grandma very much, even without knowing the particulars of time and place, so it is with the passages we find here today. We can see that the motive behind God and Jesus is love. So, even if some details trip you up, as you read these two chapters, where can you find evidence of God’s love?How are those realizations magnified knowing what we will celebrate later this week?
Also, whenever Jesus shares a parable, as is the case today, He is telling us something about the Kingdom of God. What can you learn about the Kingdom by applying that framework to the text?
God is love. He invites many to the feast. His son’s sacrifice on Calvary makes that possible, but will you accept the invitation? If you have accepted, will you allow the reality of the resurrection to transform your life?
In what ways will people know that He is both your Lord and Savior? Will people just be able to know by knowing you, or will they only find out after peeling back layers of information? Those layers can be rich with context: our testimonies, how God has provided for us, how we know we can trust Him, etc. But, like scriptural context, they should just enhance what is already plainly evident: that we love Jesus above all else.
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