Learning from Saint Matthew (part 2)
Readers of our weekly reflections will spot that this is the second week in a row that we have focussed on Saint Matthew. Last week, Reverend David Parry reflected on Matthew’s calling, as a once despised tax collector, into the radical hospitality of Christ – and the powerful resonance that has with how we welcome the outsider today.
As the church celebrates the life of Saint Matthew on 21st September, it seems apt to take his story a step further, and ponder his life beyond that first calling – and indeed, what that can teach us about how we can live out our faith in 2020.
St. Matthew painted in the Lindisfarne Gospels (c.698 – 721)
Digwyddodd hyn i gyd ar Fynydd yr Olewydd oedd rhyw dri chwarter milltir i ffwrdd o’r ddinas. Dyma nhw’n cerdded yn ôl i Jerwsalem a mynd yn syth i’r ystafell honno i fyny’r grisiau yn y tŷ lle roedden nhw’n aros. Roedd Pedr yno, Ioan, Iago ac Andreas, Philip a Tomos, Bartholomeus a Mathew, Iago fab Alffeus, Simon y Selot a Jwdas fab Iago. Roedden nhw’n cyfarfod yno’n gyson i weddïo gyda’i gilydd, gyda Mair mam Iesu, a’i frodyr, a nifer o wragedd.
Actau 1: 12-14
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
Acts 1: 12-14
Reverend Eryl Parry writes:
It never fails to amaze me how in a few short months, we have adapted to life and new ways of communicating with one another – learning, praying and worshipping together. This weekly reflection is just one of a number of ways that we encourage one another in our faith, as we live through these unprecedented times of COVID-19. There is a joke doing the rounds, of a person being interviewed for a job in 2015, and being asked what they see themselves doing in five years’ time. Surely, if the answer had contained the words ‘zoom’, ‘masks’ and ‘social distancing’, there would be more likelihood of a recommendation to have a lie down, than to start employment!
But we have had to learn to live in a different way, and I wonder as I reflect on the life of Matthew the apostle and evangelist, what it has to say about how we’re communicating the Gospel through these times. I invite us to consider these four ways, by way of the beautiful depiction above from the eighth century Lindisfarne Gospels.
Use our gifts: Matthew is often shown in Christian art with a pen in his hand. As a tax collector, he would have been an educated man and he was certainly a record-keeper! The Bible passage we’ve chosen today from Acts lists him as present at the ascension of Jesus (just before), and with the other apostles – a small group of men and women – in an upper room, where of course they were about to be filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He is right there in the centre of the action! He subsequently puts his writing skills to use so that we as one of the readers across the centuries also hear God’s Word, by reading his Gospel account.
We all have very different gifts, but this is the time when we value each one in our community – and God uses them to communicate His love and care. The gift of writing, speaking, painting, nursing, gardening, praying, cooking, listening … If someone were to draw each one of us, we would not all be with a pen in hand (or a computer!). What would you be doing?
Feel God’s presence: St. Matthew is often depicted, as here, with a ‘winged man’ on his shoulder. This is both a reference to the four Gospels in Revelation 4:7, and to Christ having come to Earth as one of us – His incarnation. I love the way this angel is holding a trumpet, emphasising the way Matthew is being used to tell of God in the form of Jesus, the man who called him out of his tax-collecting booth, into a new life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we too have Jesus with us, in all we’re going through, here on Earth.
The world is looking for hope, and googling ‘prayer’ like never before. Through this time, when have we been most aware of God’s presence with us?
Invite others into the story: This picture is framed by a curtain, pulled back to reveal the truth of God’s word. There’s a man full of curiosity, peeping around the corner looking at what Matthew is writing. He’s being invited into the story, in the same way that Matthew fully embraced his new life. Historians believe that Matthew preached for fifteen years to the Jewish community in Judea, before travelling further afield.
Our many different contributors to the daily reflections through many months of lockdown, not only shared their faith, but encouraged others to do the same. Together, we deepened our knowledge and experience of one another and of God Himself at work. How can we continue to do that now, online and offline, in this protracted period of fluctuating restrictions?
Be signs of hope: We see in this picture, the sacred nature of St. Matthew by his halo, and his feet are raised on a pedestal. If you had been on the receiving end of Matthew’s bills in his tax booth, you could be forgiven for being cynical that this man could be anything but a despised, corrupt traitor. Hardly Saint material! But the call of Jesus on his life indeed transformed him, and he was able to bless others with the kind of hope and peace that is beyond human imagination.
In these times of great uncertainty, people are looking for signs of hope. Our faith in a power far greater than ourselves, drives us to pray – for our communities and those in governance. We continue to pray for all those who feel isolated and fearful, especially as the numbers of Covid sufferers is rising once again. Let us thank God for every sign of His love that we experience, even in the darkest of times, and for all we are learning together. In praying the prayer for today below, we dedicate ourselves afresh to following St. Matthew’s example. A man transformed, who used his gifts and the everlasting presence of God in his life, to bring others to faith.
O Dduw Hollalluog,
y galwodd dy Fab bendigaid
Mathew, y casglwr trethi,
i fod yn apostol ac efengylwr;
dyro i ni ras i ymwrthod â cheisio elw yn hunanol
a chariad trachwantus at gyfoeth,
fel y gallwn ddilyn yn ffordd dy Fab Iesu Grist,
sydd yn fyw ac yn teyrnasu
gyda thi a’r Ysbryd Glân,
yn un Duw, yn awr ac am byth. Amen.
Yr Eglwys yng Nghymru
O Almighty God,
whose blessed Son
called Matthew the tax collector
to be an apostle and evangelist:
give us grace to forsake the selfish pursuit of gain
and the possessive love of riches
that we may follow in the way of your Son Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
You are warmly invited to Zoom Coffee tomorrow at 10.30am for friendly and engaging conversation about this week’s theme
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