Who Needs Baptism? Second Sunday of Christmas, Year A

Matthew 3; Romans 15:4-13; Romans 6:4-14

The Elves that put together the Revised Common Lectionary divided Matthew 3 into two different sections.  The first is read on the second Sunday of Advent; the second is read on the first Sunday after the Epiphany.  But look at what might happen if Chapter 3 is allowed to keep its integrity, following on after the Holy Family returned from Egypt.

We meet John the Baptist, wearing clothes made of camel hair, eating locusts and wild honey.  Everyone streamed out of the villages to hear him harangue them, and be baptized in the Jordan River so that they could be purified; their sins could be washed away.  The Baptist is the forerunner, the herald, the one shouting in the wilderness, “Make the way of the Lord ready; make his paths straight.  Heaven’s imperial rule is closing in!”  Among those flocking to the riverside to be cleansed are many of Matthew’s favorite scumbags,: the Pharisees and Sadducees.  John rips into them: “You spawn of Satan!  Who warned you to flee from the impending doom?  [Like, I certainly didn’t!] Well, then, start producing fruit suitable for a change of heart, and don’t even think of saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  Let me tell you, God can raise up children for Abraham right out of these rocks.  The axe is aimed at the root of the trees.  So every tree not producing choice fruit gets cut down and tossed into the fire.”

But he doesn’t decline to baptize them. …

Christmas is Over: What’s Next? – First Sunday After Christmas

Matthew 2:13-23

The Child is born, the angels have sung, the Wise Men have come and gone; the dinner has been cooked and eaten, the children’s toys have been played with and discarded (except for the iPhones).  Because today is the day after the Christmas holiday, the gifts nobody wanted have not yet been returned to the stores, which might explain the low church attendance. So far, the malls have not decided to open on Christmas Day, although given the precedent set at Thanksgiving, they likely will be in the future.

I’m not going to explain how these birth stories never actually happened, and that they are really politically subversive tales that illustrate how the current rulers are not the lords of the universe, and how – if we live as Jesus taught – then there is a chance that distributive justice-compassion can indeed hold sway among human societies.  Tea parties and the right wing notwithstanding.  No, instead I’m going to talk about what’s next, now that Christmas is over for everyone except the die-hard Christian traditionalists, who insist on continuing the celebrations for another 11 days.…

Take a Different Road: 4th Sunday in Advent

Matthew 2:1-12; Numbers 24:17-19; Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-14

The Elves cut Matthew’s gospel to shreds so that it can be applied to the four Sundays in Advent according to Christian dogmatic belief and teachings.  In contrast to previous years, this blog is going right through Matthew from beginning to end.  As we have seen, Matthew’s stories coincide nicely with Advent without all the skipping and cutting and proof-texting – let alone all the apocalyptic fear-mongering normally offered up on the 4th Sunday.…

Third Sunday in Advent: What’s in a Name?

Matthew 1:18-25; Isaiah 7:14; Romans 1:1-7

. . . you will name him Jesus.  This means, “he will save his people from their sins.”

. . . they will name him Emmanuel (which means “God is with us”).

The writer we call Matthew believed that ancient prophecy was prediction.  He undoubtedly knew that the prophecy he quoted from Isaiah is about Ahaz (a descendent of King David) who does not trust God’s promise.  It is no accident that in Matthew’s story an angel comes to Joseph in a dream and explains why he should not just break off the engagement with Mary.  Just as original patriarchal Joseph had dreamed of his own ascendance, and trusted the promise of God (see Genesis 37:5-11), so Joseph, the husband of Mary, unlike Ahaz, trusted God’s promise.

Matthew was convinced that Jesus was the Anointed one, the new Moses, who would save the people from the oppression and corruption of their Roman occupiers, just as Moses had liberated the ancestral Hebrew people from the oppression of slavery in Egypt.  Joseph, the descendant of King David, at the end of Matthew’s ancestral list is assured that in fact, God is with the people.  This child will save the people from their complicity with and corruption by the Roman Empire.…

Begotten, Not Made

Matthew 1:1-17; Psalm 18:46-50; Galatians 3-4

In this Year of Matthew, in the Season of Advent, we start with what is normally ignored:  “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Anointed, the son of David, the son of Abraham,” or – in the spirit of the King James Version of the Bible – “the Begats.”  Eyes are undoubtedly rolling, and fingers poised to click out of here, but wait.  The argument may seem ancient and arcane, but in a world where fundamentalist atheists insist that the historical Jesus is a figment of demented Christian imagination, Matthew 1:1-17 is far from irrelevant.…