Today in the Offices and Eucharist we pray:
Lord Jesus, you called Matthew from collecting taxes to become your apostle and evangelist; grant us the grace to forsake all covetous desires and the pursuit of inordinate riches, so that we may follow you as he did and proclaim to the world around us the good news of your salvation; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Combined with his story from Matthew 9:9-13 and the other lessons from today’s Communion (Proverbs 3:1-12, 2 Timothy 3:1-17), we have a day that provides a solid groundwork for a “stewardship” sermon or devotion. Perhaps that is an evangelical buzzword, I’m not sure if everyone uses it with the same connotation – this is an opportunity to talk to people about money and what they do with it.
St. Matthew was a corrupt lover of money before he followed Christ. Although the Bible doesn’t give us any specifics of his life post-call, it stands to reason that he, like the others, lived a life radically dedicated to his Lord: his priorities changed from “covetous desires and the pursuit of inordinate riches” over to the proclamation of “the good news of… salvation.” This is a transformation that is part and parcel of Christian living for everyone. For some of us the love of money is manifest in the insane hoarding of wealth – buying that summer cottage and new yacht while neglecting the tithe and basic charity; for others it is the more subtle beast of “waiting for the next pay-raise” before finally trusting God with generous giving; for others the love of money is the miserly life in constant fear on the edge of poverty. Money can rule the heart of rich, comfortable, and poor, alike. All need the transformation of heart.
What makes this feast day particularly interesting in timing in Year C of the Sunday Communion lectionary is that (this year at least) we’ve been hearing about a lot of hospitality and wealth related lessons from Luke 14-16. St. Matthew’s Day fits right in to this context, giving us a concrete example of a person who experienced this reformation of heart regarding money. To make this clear, here are the Gospel lessons from September 1st, 8th, 15th, and 22nd in the 2019 Prayer Book:
- Luke 14:7-14 = be hospitable to those who can’t repay you
- Luke 14:25-33 = renounce all to be Christ’s disciple
- Luke 15:1-10 = Jesus is hospitable with sinners in order to draw them to salvation
- Luke 16:1-13 = parable of dishonest manager, you cannot serve two masters
Obviously it’s too late to go back and turn September into Stewardship Sermon Series Month. But in your own devotions today may be a good time to glance back, put some of these pieces together, and reflect on your personal relationship with money versus your personal relationship with our Lord. And if your reflections bear fruit in the form of an article or bulletin note or other communication for your congregation, all the better!