Bishop Colin Winter was a dear friend whom I met when I was teaching at a seminary in London. Colin had been the Anglican Bishop of South West Africa, now Namibia, but he was thrown out of the country because he refused to separate people from each other during the apartheid years and repeatedly held events that brought black and white Christians together. He wore out his body as he continued the fight against apartheid through his prophetic ministry in the United Kingdom and the United States. In his exile, Colin turned down ministry in a comfortable Oxford Church and spent his time among the poor in London’s East End.
I remember Colin as I read Matthew 23 where Jesus opts to directly address those guilty of promoting inequity and oppression. To the scribes and Pharisees he cries, “Woe to you . . . hypocrites” (v. 13) and accuses them of turning people away from God’s kingdom and failing to enter it themselves.
It is one thing for Jesus to warn his disciples about their religious leaders, albeit within their hearing; but it is another to address them directly. There is no subtlety in his confrontation and no smooth talking about their behavior. My friend Colin was like this; and his church hierarchy, which was protecting huge investments in South Africa, did not like it.
Jesus’ courage becomes clear throughout this chapter as over and over he pronounces woe to the Pharisees and scribes. No wonder they look for a way to silence him, and all too soon the political and religious authorities come together to plan his crucifixion. It makes me wonder, What acts of injustice might I protest today? Is my faith community a place where all are affirmed and accepted?
Reflect on 1 Corinthians 16:13-14: “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
The book of Joshua tells the story of the return of the Israelites to the land promised to Abraham. They have escaped captivity in Egypt by a miraculous crossing, and now they enter the land in a similar way. Psalm 107 speaks of God gathering the people from distant lands and bringing them out of the desert into a land of plenty. It is a poetic reflection on the experience of the Israelites. Paul often experiences resistance from various sources. In a defense of his integrity, he points to his actions as proof of his virtue. Jesus reminds us that we can do the right thing for the wrong reasons. If we act in order to draw attention to ourselves, then even good deeds lose their luster in God’s eyes.
Read Joshua 3:7-17. When have you had to trust leaders for the good of your community?
Read Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37. Recall difficult times in your faith journey. How did you experience God’s steadfast love through these times?
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13. What daily practices give you insight into God’s Word? How do you encourage others in their life of faith?
Read Matthew 23:1-12. Do your leaders live what they preach? If you are a leader, how do you strive to live the gospel?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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