Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: A Radical Reordering

Psalms 97, 99, (100) * 94, (95); 1Samuel 16:1-13a; Ephesians 3:14-21; Matthew 8:18-27

I have always found today's passage from Matthew a bit off-putting. Jesus appears a bit cranky today - when a scribe says he will follow him Jesus complains about not having a place to rest; when a disciple asks for some time to bury his father, Jesus tells him to let the dead bury themselves; when the disciples awaken him because of their fright of the roaring seas, Jesus rebukes them and the seas, and probably goes back to sleep. Looking through that lens, Jesus certainly appears to be a crank-head, which for me can be off-putting.

There are much deeper meanings behind these (almost) one-liners Matthew provides to us today. In regard to the scribe - Jesus doesn't trust them because of their literalist nature. Jesus really isn't rebuking the disciple who asks for time to bury his father, Jesus is saying that the disciple (and we the present day disciples) need to think of the world in a different way, in a re-ordered way - where the definition of family (father, mother, sister, brother) are widened to encompass those beyond our blood-lineage. Jesus' rebuke of the frightened disciples and the calming of the stormy seas are metaphors for how Jesus works in the world.

This may seem surprising but Jesus is following a model well-established by God, a small piece of which is seen in the reading from 1 Samuel today. God sends Samuel to anoint Saul's successor. As with most of the "heroes" of the Hebrew Testament, they are not the first born, which is how society normally orders succession. God usually picks the second or youngest to be first. Today Samuel looks at all of Jesse's sons brought before him, and God tells Samuel that none of them are his choice to succeed Saul. Jesse then admits he has another, youngest, son who is in the fields. David then appears and is anointed: a radical reordering of expectations.

Jesus commands the seas to calm and they do. The raging seas that can engulf us in the course of any given day can likewise be calmed if we can pay attention to, and look at life through a different lens: one that upsets the expected norms society thrusts upon us. God will be found by us in the most unexpected places in our lives: shall we look there?

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

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