Today is the feast day of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. I am reminded that before Matthew was an evangelist and an apostle, he was a tax collector, and as such, an agent of the occupying enemy government with the legal authority to cheat his neighbors. And Jesus called him to be a disciple.
I am mindful this feast day of all of the folks that Jesus surrounded himself with on a day by day basis. As best as I can figure, two brothers were blue collar workers (Peter and Andrew); two were sons of a prominent business owner (James and John); one was a religious radical to whom Jesus stayed faithful even when he betrayed him (Judas); one was a man who asked endless questions (Thomas); one was a man who brought people outside the faith to meet Jesus (Philip); there were other men whose names can’t be gotten straight across the Gospels; and then there were the women and children. Who but Jesus would gather this unlikely group of souls to be his first Church?
I suspect that they seldom all agreed. Which is why I imagine Jesus gave them a prayer to pray, on which they could agree–the one we call the Lord’s Prayer. I also imagine that because Jesus knew that conflicts within his community were surely ahead that his last act in the Gospel of John, before his betrayal, was to pray that we would all be one as Jesus and God are one.
I’ve been called by God, I believe, as Rector of St. Mary’s, to help us to be a yes to Jesus’ prayer. How can we be united in mission when we have disagreements? We’ve been practicing doing this as we’ve been revisioning our master plan for what we call our sacred space.
We’ve begun another conversation about marriage. As Rector, it may be the most challenging yet for me. For the dear people with whom I’ve walked for years and love dearly, each has an often very deeply held conviction about what marriage is and isn’t. Marriage between man and woman. Between two men. Between two women. Remarriage. Blessing and marriage. Civil union and Sacrament.
If Jesus could choose to walk daily with an enemy of his people, a man who would betray him, rich men, ordinary men, a person whose questions never seemed to get answered, another who kept bringing “those people” to meet Jesus, can’t we figure out how to be a “yes” to Jesus’s prayer to somehow live together with the more which unites us than the smaller bits that don’t? I know it’s not that simple………but maybe, it is.
There’s is prayer that we shared yesterday in Adult Christian Formation. It was written by The Right Rev. Charles Slattery (1867–1930), Bishop of Massachusetts. Called A Prayer for a Married Couple, he wrote it to be used for daily devotions in his family. Knowing that the image often used in Scripture about the relationship between Christ and his Church is that of marriage, it seems to me that it is a prayer that could also prayed as a Church family.
O God, our Heavenly Father, protect and bless us.
Deepen and strengthen our love for each other day by day.
Grant that by thy mercy neither of us ever say one unkind word to the other.
Forgive and correct our faults, and make us instantly to forgive one another should one of us unconsciously hurt the other.
Make us and keep us sound and well in body, alert in mind, tender in heart, and devout in spirit.
O Lord, grant us each to rise to the other’s best. [my favorite line]
Then we pray thee, add to our common life such virtues as only thou canst give.
And so, O Father, consecrate our life and our love completely to thy worship,
and to the service of all about us,
especially those whom thou hast appointed us to serve,
that we may always stand before thee in happiness and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.