Reflection by The Reverend Ted Witham
Once upon a time, the good book tells us, heaven and earth, that is, God’s creation, had it all together. God said, ‘It was good… it was good, … it was very good.’ (Genesis 1: 4,10,12,18,25,31). The first account of creation in Genesis appeals to us and challenges us because we recognise that the world we know is not so good: it is marred, fractured.
We see the degradation of the environment, even Covid-19 is a result of the unwanted collision of wild animals and humans. We feel the rupture of relationships, our own and those around us. Ultimately the cause of this broken world is a mystery, but we can be sure that God means to mend and restore creation.
The Gospel tells the astounding news that we are part of this great project of bringing heaven and earth back together.
Matthew recounts how Jesus led the leven up a mountain. For Matthew, going up the mountain meant two things: on the mountaintop we experience the power of God, and secondly, on the mountain, Jesus, like Moses before him, teaches about the reality of God.
So we are there with the Eleven on the mountaintop to experience something of God’s power and to open ourselves, week by week, to God’s teaching.. Like the Eleven, we both ‘worship and doubt’ (v.17). We are human beings after all. But our power to believe or not it is not relevant.
‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me,’ Jesus states (v.18). The extraordinary claim of the Gospels is that the Risen Jesus has all God’s authority. We can be tempted to domesticate Jesus and turn him into a harmless friend. The reality, however, is that Jesus acts with power in our lives.
The French philosopher Simone Weil (1909-1943) was born to agnostic Jewish parents. From her childhood, she took seriously the teaching of Jesus to love one’s neighbour as one’s self. After a lifetime of activism loving her neighbour, she was drawn more deeply into the life of Jesus, experiencing his power in a series of prayer experiences. Weil’s book, Waiting for God, has become a spiritual classic. After reading George Herbert’s poem ‘Love III’, she wrote, ‘Christ himself came down and took possession of me.’ These experiences transformed her into ‘a great spirit’ recognised by Christians and non-Christians alike.
Our journey may not be as extreme as Simone Weil’s, but the reality of Jesus’ power in our lives shapes us also to be instruments of healing.
So Matthew reminds the Eleven – and us – of the colossal enterprise to which Jesus calls us: the healing of earth and heaven. We, the community of the faithful, are called to teach all nations his commandments, those of love and healing.
And the best of the Good News is that Jesus ‘will be with us always, to the end of the age.’ (v.20).