Pentecost 2, 2023

The festal season is behind us, unless you want to extend it one more week. This Sunday can be celebrated as the festival of St. Barnabas, the companion of Paul and leader in the first generation of Christians. His name means “Son of Encouragement” according to Luke. In these days of ecclesial decline and all the politicking which leads up to a convention, I could use some encouragement.

Most of us will begin the long march through the green Sundays which are numbered after Pentecost. It is ordinary time, but it is anything but ordinary. Unfortunately, because Easter floats in our calendar, we pick up some things in the middle. This is actually proper 5 this week. Propers 1-4 were omitted because Easter was in the second half of its range and something had to make way. Our pericope system eliminates the first weeks of the season. The old one, used to eliminate the last weeks of the year in a strange and complicated formula. I like this one better, but it does present us with a bit of a challenge this week.

The Gospel is Matthew’s call, which falls toward the end of a lengthy catalog of miracles by Jesus. You might want to read chapter 8 and the sections of 9 which lead up to this if you are preaching that Gospel lesson. I have long thought that the connection Jesus makes between healing and forgiveness, the crescendo of these two chapters, are key to understanding them. It is right after Jesus has stated his authority to forgive sins that Matthew includes his own call to follow Jesus. You might want to play with that. If you are attracted to the Epistles and the words of Paul, the Apostle expounds the illustration of his thesis in the story of Abraham. But of course, the preacher who would preach this needs to be immersed in just what it is that Paul is illustrating here: Rom 3:21ff.

In any event, we start of this season with a strong statement of God’s gracious forgiveness. Abraham believed and it was counted to him as faith. Matthew, was not even seeking to follow Jesus, but was counting money in his tax collection booth or whatever it was one does therein. Jesus found him and Jesus has found us and uttered the same call: Follow me!

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