“Born to Be King” – Combined ONLINE ONLY Worship.
Reading: Matthew 2:1-12.
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain.
As we start the new year, we have made the decision not to gather in person but offer an ONLINE ONLY combined worship service – with elements from all three of our worshipping communities. In this service Phil will be introducing the Narrative Lectionary as well as giving an overview of the gospel of Matthew and showing how Matthew reveals right from the beginning that Jesus was born to be king. Also has great songs from all three congregations and talk for the kids.
Links that are referred to in the service:
- Kids Talk activity sheet – https://www.turramurrauniting.org.au/download/threewisecamels/Bible Project
- Matthew Videos:
(Please note that Communion has been shifted to the 15th January)
Introduction to the Narrative Lectionary
This year in our morning two worship services (and to some extent at Night Church), we have made the decision to follow the Narrative Lectionary.
For the past five years our worship has been based around different series or themes (largely chosen by myself or the worship support teams). These series have been based on different chunks of the Bible, or theological ideas or mission focus – and I think that they have helps us to grow in our faith and spirituality.
A Lectionary is a different approach – one where we have a pre-determined list of Bible Readings allocated to each Sunday of the year. Before I came, TUC was following the Revised Common Lectionary and this year we are going back to a lectionary – but trying another style – the Narrative Lectionary.
As the name suggests, the Narrative Lectionary attempts to provide a more “narrative” flow to reading and studying the Bible. The idea is that over a 12 month period, we will spent three months exploring the Old Testament Narrative, 3 months working through a gospel, three months delving into the New Testament letters and three months which are open to explore other issues or ideas.
We are jumping into the cycle at the New Testament (which runs from Christmas to Easter) and today we start the journey looking at the gospel of Matthew. Actually we are spending the next 15 weeks looking at Matthew – following the narrative in Matthew’s gospel from Jesus birth to teaching to death and resurrection.
One of the goals for using the Narrative Lectionary in a congregational context is to increase biblical literacy in worshippers. I am really excited to spend this extended time on the gospel and Matthew and together learn how the different stories and ideas are connected.
So are we ready to start this journey? Well, technically, we have already started last week with the Christmas narrative, but we continue today with the Christmas story of the Magi from Matthew chapter 2.
It’s New Years day and we are probably not up for a heavy sermon … so I am limiting myself to only two points
- If we are going to study the gospel of Matthew for the next 15 weeks, I thought it might be good to give you a five minute summary of the gospel and the things that make Matthew’s gospel different from Mark, Luke and John
- And then I wish to take one of the mega-themes from Matthew’s gospel and tie it in with our Bible reading of the magi’s and show how right from the beginning of his Narrative, Matthew is declaring Jesus as king.
That’s it. So, let’s jump into the overview of The Gospel Matthew.
As weird as it sounds, none of the gospels in the Bible directly identify who wrote them, but it has been the church’s understanding that the first gospel in the Bible is attributed to Matthew, a tax collector who was one of the twelve disciples.
The gospel was written around 40 years after Jesus’ ministry … which sounds like a long time to wait until you understand that the Jewish people in Jesus time were oral teachers, they would pass on their history, or teachings by sitting together and telling the stories or narratives over and over. And that is what they would have done with the Jesus’ narrative. But around 70 BCE there was some threats of the nation of Israel being destroyed, so they wrote down their stories to make sure they weren’t lost – and hence that is where the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke came from.
Mark was written first – and reads like a newspaper … a simple report of what Jesus said and did. Matthew and Luke actually borrowed some of Mark’s material but shaped it for a particular audience. Matthew writes from a Jewish perspective for a Jewish audience, whereas Luke is writing to a largely gentile (or non-Jewish) audience. As such, their language and emphasis is slightly different. A good example is the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God”. Kingdom of Heaven is Jewish term and is mainly used in Matthew, where as the rest of the world used the term “Kingdom of God”, which we find mainly in the gospel of Luke. (John is another story for another time).
But this is important – because if we are going to study Matthew we need to understand that it was written with a distinct Jewish emphasis. Matthew has collected a lot of these oral stories and have woven it together into a narrative to highlight a number of key points (or mega-themes) such as
- Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us
- Jesus is a great teacher – like Moses – who gives us guidance for life
- Jesus is the Messiah, the one promised one who has come to save us.
- And the one that I will focus on in a moment – Jesus is the great King – greater than his ancestor King David.
Without getting to deep into this (after all, it is New Years Day), the Gospel of Matthew has an introduction and a conclusion which surrounds five main sections (sometimes called discourses), with each section containing a narrative of things Jesus did and block of Jesus teaching … all building a picture of Jesus as the Messiah, Teacher, Emmanuel and King.
If you wish to learn more about this I can recommend the Bible Project Matthew videos – which are easy to follow and very helpful in understanding Matthew. Each video is about 8 minutes long and I think it will be worth the 20 minutes investment to get the most out of the next 15 weeks of learning. Check them out sometime.
One interesting idea to understanding Matthew (from William Loaders – a Uniting Church minister in WA) is to read it backwards. Matthew ends with the declaration that Jesus is with us forever and just before that is the great commission to go out into the world and make disciples – help people to follow Jesus in their lives. If this is the goal, then we need to understand who Jesus is and the example Jesus sets for us to follow … which is what Matthew is trying to help us to with his gospel narrative.
Let me give you an example using today’s reading.
One of Matthew’s mega-themes is to highlight Jesus as King. Remember that Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience and the Israelites liked to reminisce about the high points of their history, especially the time of Kings and their greatest king, King David. They hoped for another time of kings and the prophets declared that a great king, in the line of David, was coming.
Throughout his narrative, Matthew keeps adding pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to reveal that Jesus is indeed this king. For example, in Matthew 4:17 one of Jesus’ first statements in his ministry is “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”, and in 4:23 we read that Jesus went through Galilee proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.
In Matthew 9:27, two men called out to Jesus saying, “Have mercy on us, son of David” – a clear Jewish reference to the great king in the line of David. This phrase becomes more frequent as we move through Matthew.
Matthew continues to add these Kingly jigsaw pieces and by the time we get to Palm Sunday, Matthew 21:5 declares, “See your king comes to you – Hosanna to the Son of David!”. In chapter 26, Jesus is anointed in the kingly fashion; and in chapter 27 there is literally a sign placed on the cross which reads “The King of the Jews”. And if you are in any doubt – Jesus is asked point blank by Pilate in Matthew 27:11, “Are you the King?” and Jesus affirms this.
Matthew in his goal in revealing to us that Jesus is indeed the King of all Kings has been feeding us these pieces along the say and now the jigsaw is complete … except for this top corner … which brings us back to our reading today. You see, right from the beginning in our reading from chapter 2, Matthew is weaving this narrative into the larger story.
Matthew 2:1 presents us two different kings. Where Luke tells us that Jesus was born during the days of Caesar Augustus and the time that Quirinius was governor … Matthew (and I would add deliberately) tells us Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod and then follows it up by saying that the magi arrive and ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew is holding two kings to his Jewish audience and inviting them to discern the true King.
Is it King Herod – who is a puppet of Roman power and rules with cruelty or it is the one who is referred to by the prophet Micah…
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
It is the one whose shadow is cast across the land bringing fear and darkness, or it the one whom brought joy to the magi when they saw him.
Is the one who has become rich through over-taxation and suffering, or the one who is offered gold, frankincense and myrrh as an act of worship.
Matthew right from the beginning of the narrative is asking the question … who is your king? And then invites us to come and worship Jesus, the newborn king.
As we stand at the beginning of 2023, and at the beginning of a 15-week journey through the gospel of Matthew – I also offer than invitation… Come and Worship, Christ the new born king.