Monday 13 November 2017

Matthew 23v1-12, Narratives of Power

Last week we saw the use of power to belittle and abuse others in the form of Harvey 
Weinstein and others. They proclaim their innocence. This week we have seen the use 
of male power in parliament to abuse those beneath them and heads have rolled. The 
mighty have been toppled. And they proclaim their innocence. 
Any woman in the UK growing up since the 11WW will have experienced harassment 
at least, abuse at the worst. It has been part of our culture, a norm of disgraceful 
departure from Gods line. Abuse in the work place, childrens homes, families, the 
army, the church, the BBC. 
People who abuse believe they are entitled. They are better and more important then 
you or the one they abuse who is just an object for them to be used for their 
gratification. They have no remorse and no conscience. They never apologise. 
Jesus teaches us that such behavior is not the way for Gods community. Chapter 23 
is a sermon delivered to the crowds in the temple during the week before his arrest 
and crucifixion. The sermon is addressed to the Scribes and the Pharisees, the 
legalists, the nitpickers, who thought they were the moist important people. 
Moses' seat" is a stone block in the synagogue where the teacher taught the 

Orthodox Jews wear large phylacteries, a box worn on the arm or forehead with four 
texts inside. The Pharisees wore large versions to show how good and holy they were. 
and they wore long tassels hanging from the corners of their outer garment. 
They honored dead teachers with the title "Father", which is why Jesus started the 
Lords prayer with “Our Father which art in heaven.” 

Pharisees taught the Law of Moses, with an emphasis on minutia or what scholars 
have called insect law/nit picking. The Jewish Halakah. 

Jesus says about these nitpicking Pharisees “they do not practice what they preach". 
Could the same be said of us? Are we hypocrites? Do we nit pick and ignore Jesus 
two commandments to love one another and love God ? 

The covenant God made with Abraham was based simply on faith in God. Jesus was 
reminding the Jews of this. The Pharisees were puffed up with their own importance. 
They did things so they looked good. They were insincere. Hypocrites. Whitewashed 
sepulches! Empty graves! 

They loved status (remind you of anyone?) and to sit in the place of honour at 
banquets in the most important seats. They loved to be greeted with respect and for 
people to call them Rabbi, master, teacher. 
So Jesus' is warning his disciples and us about pride, about being puffed up with our 
self importance. He says but you are not to be called Rabbi, teacher 
For you have one Father, master / teacher. You are all brothers, all sisters. 
Do not call anyone on earth "father" - In Aramaic, abba, (sometimes used to refer to 
distinguished teachers), because you have one Father and he is in heaven. (Catholic 
use of Father?) 
it is very easy for a minister / pastor / priest to use their position to impose their will on 
a congregation. The legacy of abuse by priests shows that a false elevation of anyone 
so that they cannot be criticized or questioned is an abuse of power. 
Instead we are to be humble. The greatest among you will be the least/ servant. In 
Gods kingdom. "The first will be last and the last will be first". 
Whoever exalts themselves will be humbled, made low. 
Leadership in the community of Jesus is exercised by serving others in love rather 
than by ruling. Humility is the principle which should rule a leader. And us. Amen. 



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