WAY #20 Start at Home
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
So Matthew’s story is big on Jesus being your guru; your ultimate Jewish Rabbi come life coach. There are 5 teachy bits of which we have spent nearly half this 40 ways journey in the first… The Sermon on the Mount.
Now we’re jumping from there, which is sort of like, ‘this is how you should see or approach or understand reality’, to some themes fron the second teachy bit in chapter 10, which is about how you should go about spreading this reality and live it missionally in the world. Pretty relevant for small inner city churches like Newmarket and Moreland re-imagining renewal!
(We don’t get so many direct instructions in the last three teachy sections for this Lenten journey… but plenty is implied! Chapter 13 : imagining what the kingdom of heaven on earth would look like; Chapter 18 how we hang together an alternative community; Chapter 24-25 ‘beginning with the end in mind’!)
So this section has us pondering Jesus instruction to ‘Start at Home’
I probably translated the command as that because I’m a good middle class boy who was always been taught that ‘charity begins at home’. Sadly in my experience this has sometimes been middle class, meritocratic code for ‘that is also where it should end.’!
I can’t help read this and think about our governments decision this week to refuse legal support for those seeking asylum in our country. To me it seems mean spirited, timed as it is just before a Senate election re-run. Is this a play to our worst instincts? Forget generosity! Tax payers money is for us first!
I also flinch at the cultural implications in the text. Matthew is written to emphasise Jesus’ deep connection with the Jewish tradition but it’s probably fair to say this passage has been interpreted as a text of exclusion throughout history, either to favour Jews over Gentiles or to ‘wipe the dust’ and characterise the whole Jewish nation as having rejected the ministry that Jesus prioritised. The emphasis here is categorically NOT on cultural exclusion or supremacy, but as we will consider later, on reaching out in vulnerable openness.
Unlike this 40 ways journey through Matthew, the Sunday lectionary readings through Lent actually follow John’s story of Jesus and only two weeks ago, the story of Jesus prioritised speaking with a Samaratin Woman at the Well in a way that scandalised his own followers. (John 4). In this gospel the mission is all about starting in safer places.
I wonder whether it is at least worth imagining that Jesus sends the disciples to Jews first for the same reason that seminaries send interns to familiar churches: they have a better sense of what they will be getting into. Even for Matthew, the mission eventually spreads to others. Matthew 28
What is your sense of priority when it comes to serving others who are similar or radically ‘other’ than yourself? What feelings does it raise within you?
For myself as someone who comes from an activist faith tradition, when I here the call to ‘start at home’ I am challenged by the way ministry, work and vocation can threaten your family and children’s emotional health and stability . As we have previously discussed, the tension between leaving and cleaving with family is a rich and creative one in the discipleship tradition. (Way #18 Leave the Dead)
I found this article on Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement on parenting pretty interesting, including the quote “While Dorothy Day was undoubtedly a saint, she does not appear to have been a very good mother.” Closer to home I loved the honest struggle with these tensions presented in last months episode of Family Confidential with The Costello’s. Pray for them as they are remain important friends and mentors for inner city Baptists in the way they gift their public/private passions and struggles to us all.
Pray for someone ‘close to home’. Do something practical to help them today.
Pray for someone ‘other’. Consider when there might come a time for you to serve them?