Mt2v1-2 Thinking about other religions this morning before opening the Bible, that God knows what God is doing better than we do, and our best prayer for Yemen today might (incompletely) be that Jesus would be revealed in dreams & visions, Jesus answering himself to each heart's question, Jesus the only possible impossible conclusion. Praying for ourselves, the church & the world that God continues to draw all people to himself, which is what she does, as these verses, the most magnetic force the heart knows, we all find our home in v2 the worship of the only God there is. Of this, reminding ourselves again that God is not afraid to v1 use astrology to speak, God is not afraid to use part-truths to draw us closer to himself and so closer to the whole-truth. And this is our partnership, prayer & participation today in psychoanalysis, in work, & in Yemen. Amen.
Mt2v12 'In the days of Herod the king': 300 years after Alexander and Aristotle, friends of Athens and the Acropolis, Antioch started then, Augustus rules now. Context via the letter 'A'.
Mt2v3-4 What troubles you and why? Who troubles you and how? Jesus troubles.  'Herod was troubled..' - the trouble with kings is they're troubled by things which threaten their kingly endeavour. Easy to see how kings/we are troubled by the King of Kings' affront to our sovereignty. (Imaged in marriage's troublesome mutual ceding of sovereignty?)  'Jerusalem was troubled..' Why? Herod was a pantomime baddy who murdered his wife and sons, so Jerusalem rightly feared a backlash. More interestingly he was the 'master builder who restored the temple in Jerusalem and built many theatres, cities, palaces, and fortresses..' In troubling Herod, Jesus troubles the city, Jesus troubles those who are actively complicit in the City's corruption as well as those who passively enjoy the status quo of the untroubled life on their rung in the social pyramid. Jesus inverts pyramids Ac17v6 – that's my King, do you Know him?
Mt2v5-6 As the NT writers use the old, we see again this relationship betwixt them which becomes emergent and altogether other in the direction of continued time. Mic5 doesn't look like the gospel narrative of the historical Jesus at all, and we are reminded, especially at crossroads, that God's way of fulfilment exceeds the imagination in kind as well as degree, and that this frees us, not to try to be the completers of our faith and hope. Eph1v23 Jesus the shepherd is the completer of all things, who fills all in all. .. Also of this prophecy that it addresses a place by name, speaks to the place directly. Oh Bethlehem, Oh London, Oh houses that we love...
Mt2v5-6 The relief of reading slowly, two verses at a time, thank you. In Micah the prophecy goes on 'whose coming forth is from old' or 'he is from old' Without knowing who it is, the first interpretation is easy. Because who would guess the great levelling, a member of the Trinity to step onto the utmost deck of a stricken liner, and by his weight, to right her?
Mt2v7-8 Secret Power. In my mind I have the pantomime Herod again: “Our three main weapons are surprise.. fear and surprise.. ..and ruthless efficiency” So much darker than this. Herod is doing what Phil does, before a holy God, and before a watching world: hiding. As Eph5v12, Ps36v4, Mic2v1, hiding misused power. And it is a strange self-deception: what feeble power, how innately unpowerful, how wasted, the little power I have is spent energetically covering over the mess of strength misused. Can we contrast this with the ninja-gifting of Mt6v3 or the modesty of 1Cor12v23 – which by their secrecy cover a laying-down-of-power, where the secrecy of Herod conceals a taking-power-over? .. The right response to baby Jesus, apart from grace, is hiding. The appropriate comportment towards the world, apart from grace, is hiding. but we have grace, and in abundance, we are blameless and beloved, so, Ps26v2 test me.
Mt2v9-10 v10 Rejoicing exceedingly, yes. Here is the moment when everything takes its rightful place and recedes to the background before the bright morning star. The one thing worth pursuing. Rejoice! From St M's this morn, Ps57v6 'be exalted oh God, above the heavens' .. Ps57v8 Awake my soul, Ps57v9 I will give thanks and praise, even as Ps57v4 my soul is surrounded by lions... The UCB Word given on Sunday for Friday 14th Sept – on Jn10v10 'The joy is in the journey' Behold, the wise man's journey'. Behold the wise man's star as you journey, as it rests, behold and rejoice. God is enough, God is enough.
Mt2v11-12 Facedown philanthropists. What transaction is happening here? And, what would it mean for me to be a wise man with my treasure? .. In giving, the Maji  give to God symbolically and, in the same move, they  give to missionaries practically.  Not that we can repay God Ps116v12, but rather see here wise worship: (1) 'fell down' I know a whole Bible's worth of wonder more than these Maji did, do I fall down? Wisdom is a body theology Rm12v1 leading to prostration Mt17v6. (2) 'Frankincense' and smell memory. Wisdom recognises aroma 2Cor2v15 and its power to convey truth Mk14v9 to your memory. (3) 'Gold' Mt13v44 'The Kingdom of Heaven is like.. ..sells all he had..' - getting God is worth more-than, always. More than gold, even Olympic gold Pr8v19.  Horizontal giving serves God. These (apocryphal tradition notwithstanding) anonymous Maji give to support and send the Rm10v14 feet of Mary and Joseph carrying good news wrapped in a blanket to Egypt.
Mt2v13-14 Joseph's second dream visitation is a mandate to go and to leave, 'flee to Egypt', where 1v20's 'take Mary as your wife' was a command to stay and to remain. As in church this morning, straightforwardly to ask ourselves in this season, 'is God call you to stay or to go?', as regards specific places or projects. Again, God, let us be Josephs to hear your voice, unmaking our plans and directing out path, as we keep doing this life with you. Perhaps also here to think about Jesus, Mary & Joseph's experience of home and of exile. Our Christ was an exile, a stranger welcomed, vulnerable to the other. He learned to walk and talk in a place that was foreign, he knew a misplacedness. Jesus teaches us to welcome the Jn4v7 foreigner & the Mt18v5 Child, but also to remember all the ways we live as exiles ourselves, we must accept the vulnerability of the other's welcome in order to be alive.
Mt2v15-16 Herod had a god, as we each do, a cosmic originating force with a divine plan for Herod's prosperity. Here, similar to mocking the prophets of Baal 1Ki18v27, the tragi-comedy at work is a display of the weakness of this god and the crisis of Herod's faith which corresponds to the force he uses against the powerless in compensation. And yet, although he kills powerless babies, we can appreciate his motive : babies are always a threat to out autonomy. So intergenerational animosity is such an Herodian crisis of faith and the demonisation of 'youth' at all levels of politics is a grasping of power-over. So, where Herod was willing to kill for a just-in0case, we who trust God for the next generation must be willing to die for out but-if-not Dn3v18. To be weak to be strong 2Cor12v9, to be vulnerable in order to be effective 1Cor1v27. Vulnerable in creating art, in raising children, in speaking Jesus.
Mt2v17-18 Matthew draws us back to Jer31, Jer31v31-34 the promise of the new covenant, the law written on our hearts, tattooed on our body, birthed from our womb. Here he is, the new covenant, bundled away under cover, terrifying in his proximity to us. The new covenant is one. of. proximity. Here in Jeremiah God promises that Jer31v15 mourning will turn to Jer31v17 hope and that children will be brought home. God fulfils this as Jesus speaks his words backwards and forwards in time Jn11v25, 'I am the resurrection & the life.' He speaks it over children murdered by Herod, that even though they die, yet they will live. So we ask in Jesus name, for the world, for that resurrection hope in grief, that you bring exiles home, the knowledge of your proximity, from which restoration begins.
Mt2v19-20 Jesus the refugee understands your captivity and your eviction. Jesus knows what it is like to be far flung, to be a third culture kid, to be on the outside looking in, Jesus knows. .. Two exiles: (1) The Israelites were pulled-from their home and kept-in Egypt/Babylon by a superpower. (2) Jesus was pushed-from his home and kept-out in Egypt by a superpower. We can read and apply these exile narratives literally and analogously. Analogously: What superpowers lock you in, or lock you out, of the good life? What past experience or learnt ingrained mental patterns keep you out of commitment, what genetic predisposition estranges you, what of your finance imprisons you? Ours is a God of Exodus, who sets you free for freedom. .. Literally, whoa re the exiles in your midst, the trafficked, the OE wanderers, the excommunicated, the urban lonely. We practise Exodus by hospitality because he homed us first.
Mt2v21-22 In each of Joseph's dreams 1v20 2v13 v20 v22 God or an angelic messenger 'appears' to him, and then speaks...'saying', 'being warned'. This came to my heart again yesterday, trying to grasp what it is like both to see God and to hear God, and how to articulate this to the seeker of truth as something with substance...in an impersonal universe things may 'appear' but you cannot be spoken to by such a universe, there is no sovereign subjectivity to be addressed by. Help me God, to know this in my lived experience, and to be able to put words to it in a comprehensive life-giving way. We live addressed, we live addressed, the address is why we live.
Mt2v23 – What do you 'need' in order to change the world? There are refutations of poverty theology which say that it's not about how much you give but what you do with it; that say that rich people need Jesus too; that wealth is a gift that we steward; that it is not more noble or authentic or righteous to be poor. It isn't, but demonstrating the sufficiency of the immaterial is more straightforward for the materially unencumbered, and pioneering a replicable Life on a poor budget excludes no one from enjoying to imitate: poverty of location, reputation, finance and power is beyond the reach of none of us – you have only to give it away. Nazareth was such a nowhere. It was here that the downwardly mobile stranger on the bus travelled up the junction for you, for you sake, so to say to all: however far you've fallen, however low you feel, God has gone beneath you, to catch you, Ps139v8.