The Rev. Mark Wegner of the Minneapolis Area Synod has provided us another opportunity for bible study and reflection with this Just a Minute dive into the revised common lectionary's five weeks of August in the Gospel of Matthew. Take a look at each week's reflection questions based on the 9th through 13th weeks of Pentecost, and share your thoughts with family, friends, or Pastor Kelly.
9th Sunday after Pentecost (August 2, 2020): Matthew 14:13-21
The miraculous Feeding of the Five Thousand is the only story, apart from the Passion Narrative, which appears in all four gospels.
Now when Jesus heard [about the beheading of John the Baptist], he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.”
Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
QUESTIONS for REFLECTION:
1) A key idea here is Jesus’ “compassion,” which he demonstrates by healing and feeding. Think of ways the church today uses medicine and food to demonstrate God’s care for sick and hungry people.
2) Some have “explained” this story to suggest that when Jesus shared the fish sandwiches, he inspired others in the crowd to share their sack lunches with the result that all had more than enough to eat. What do you think? Could this, too, have been a miracle?
3) Jesus’ actions at this meal—he took the loaves, looked up, blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples and the people—are similar to his actions at the Last Supper (see Matthew 26:26). Conversely, do our everyday table manners reflect the spirit of our Holy Communion meals?
10th Sunday after Pentecost (August 9, 2020): Matthew 14:22-33
The “Lectionary 19” Gospel for this Sunday is the story of Peter (almost) Walking on the Water.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.
And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
QUESTIONS for REFLECTION:
1) Technically, the setting in question is not a salt-water “sea” but a fresh-water “lake,” smaller than Mille Lacs. Does calling it a “sea” make it sound more dangerous? What dangers do sailors encounter on the sea?
2) Often we compare the perils of life to a storm upon the sea. If so, what is the point of this story?
3) “Lord, save me!” It’s a cry we could all plead at one time or another, even if we’re not in danger of drowning. When could you have uttered these words?
4) Someone once said, “If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat.” Is that part of the message of this text? If so, what exactly does it mean?
11th Sunday after Pentecost (August 16, 2020): Matthew 15:21-28
This is the only case in the gospels where someone else—and a woman—gets the best of Jesus.
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all.
And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
QUESTIONS for REFLECTION:
1) In Matthew’s narrative, Jesus restricts his ministry to the people of Israel, and thus refuses to respond to the plea of a non-Jewish woman. Matthew’s community, however, was in the business of sharing the Gospel with Gentiles. A story like this would have given them “permission” to do so. How does this incident inform our church’s mission today
2) Jesus clearly insulted the woman by comparing her to a dog, rather than to a human child. Are you surprised to find Jesus so insulting? Why?
3) “Have mercy on me” and “Lord, help me” area good phrases to memorize. Do you use the in your prayers?
4) Some take the woman as an example of humility. Others see her as an example of trusting faith. Does she serve as an example for you? If so, would you be inclined to imitate her humility, or her faith? Or both?
12th Sunday after Pentecost (August 23, 2020) : Matthew 16:13-20
Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi is a key text because it gets at the heart of who Jesus really was and is.
And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
QUESTIONS for REFLECTION:
1) Jesus two questions move us from the merely intellection (“What are they saying about me?”) to the intensely personal (“What do you think about me?”). So, what are they saying? And what do you think?
2) Roman Catholics often quote this passage to show that the bishop of Rome, as the successor of Peter, is the supreme pontiff in the church. Others, Lutherans among them, argue that Peter’s confession of faith, not his person, is the rock on which the church is founded. Where do you stand on this?
3) In Martin Luther’s Smalcald Articles or Schmalkald Articles (German: Schmalkaldische Artikel), his 1537 summary of Lutheran doctrine for a meeting of the Schmalkaldic League in preparation for an intended ecumenical Council of the Church, Luther has in mind this passage when he says: “The keys are an office and authority given to the church by Christ to bind and loose sins—not only the crude and notorious sins but also the subtle, secret ones that only God knows.” Do you find this encouraging? Or threatening?
13th Sunday after Pentecost (August 30, 2020): Matthew 16:21-28
The gospels agree that Jesus anticipated his death and resurrection. Here is one version of his passion prediction.
From that time on [after Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah], Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”
But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
QUESTIONS for REFLECTION:
1) Notice how Jesus calls Peter “Satan.” What an insult! Peter obviously had the wrong idea. When was the last time you did something so ungodly you deserved to be called a “Satan”?
2) It is difficult for us to imagine how obscene “taking up a cross” would have sounded to people in Jesus’ day. Today what words would we use if we wanted to express the scandal of the cross in our Christian living?
3) “What will it profit us…?” Do these words have any implications for us in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic?
4) Jesus said that some of his companions would not die before his return in glory. Did this prediction come true? If so, how? If not, why not?