We begin a new four-week worship series this Sunday called Temenos. We’ll make our way through the entire Gospel of Matthew in the coming four weeks, highlighting certain passages in worship and Kitchen Tables each Sunday.
The word Temenos comes to us from a Greek verb which means “to cut.” Temenos is a piece of ground surrounding or adjacent to a temple; a sacred enclosure or precinct” (from Oxford Classical Online Dictionary). Tradition tells us that the Temenos was marked in various ways so that persons entering a sacred space or precinct would be aware that they were entering “Holy Ground.” Creating Temenos was part of the way of life for the people in Matthew’s community.
Like this ancient community, we experience dramatic change in our day today and we continue to create and notice sacred space as we journey in faith.
Alexander Shaia writes, How do we face change? is the core question of the Gospel of Matthew. The great, overarching message of Matthew is courage and trust. In writing to the early [followers of Jesus] who didn’t know they were to be among the founders of a new religion, his steadying words still echo with prophetic insight and pragmatic counsel invaluable to all who [seek to grow in faith]. How often are we, too, surprised by the completely unexpected way events turn out in our lives?
Matthew’s Gospel was written for a community facing enormous change. We live in a moment in history in which change is occurring more rapidly than ever. Take a few moments to reflect on some of the most significant changes our world has known during your lifetime. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve faced personally in your own life?
People in Matthew’s community had recently lost their Temple. It was completely destroyed. Again, we turn to Alexander Shaia to frame our reflection this series. Shaia writes,
This loss threatened the foundation of their faith and wiped out most every leader they had known. Somehow, everything the Temple had represented in their hearts had to be rebuilt if they were to survive as a people. We often overlook the genealogy in Matthew. The names mean little to most of us. To the people of Matthew’s day, the recitation of these names would have brought comfort and hope. The people listed include Jewish icons: a long line of people who had suffered great loss and prevailed. The list includes names that represent loss and betrayal and historical twist. You might not know all the names today, but the full list would have reminded people to expect the unexpected. Your forebears have not only survived, they have discovered treasure in their reverses and thrived.
Our reading this Sunday will be from the first verses of Matthew’s Gospel. Read Matthew 1.1-17 here.
If you were to trace your own genealogy, who would it include? Who are some of the people from your own past that have taught you to be the person you are today? Who are some of the imperfect people who have shaped your life and helped you to know yourself as beloved?