The rabbinic sages who lived in the Olden Days had a saying:
“There are seventy faces to the Torah; Turn it around and around, for everything is in it.”
In other words, Scripture is like a jewel, they’d say; it has many interpretations, illuminations, and insights, winking at us from all different angles, and there’s no way to read it once and grasp them all. So, to be faithful, we must turn it around and around and around and learn to see it differently each time, more thoroughly, along the way.
Christians reframe it; there are lots of ways to understand Jesus, we might say, his words, his life, his death and resurrection, and it’s no surprise to me that at the end of John’s Gospel, he declares that if we were to try and write it all down, “the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” Indeed.
When I was a teenager, I thought I’d write down all my thoughts on Matthew’s Gospel. I scribbled them in cursive in a little journal I still have on my shelf. I read the world differently then, so I related to these stories in a different way, an important way, but a different one, and it laid the foundation for how I relate to them now. Since then, I’ve continued turning the Scriptures around and around, and I often see things I hadn’t before. It’s a treasure hunt in my comfy chair. And as I study, I realize how much I have left to learn.
So I share this little guide, not as a theological commentary or as a final exegesis paper, but as a collection of reflections, one face of the jewel as I see it right now. The words of Matthew’s Gospel are rich, their messages wide, long, high, and deep, and as you read these stories, something may stand out to you that I didn’t highlight or see. When that happens, stick with that thing instead of with my thing, and let the Holy Spirit share a new face on the jewel, perhaps one that you can only see from the angle you’re sitting in right now.
Pastor Brynn Harrington
About the Devotionals
There are devotionals written for each of the 40 days in Lent (Mondays through Saturdays). On Sundays, we'll study Scripture together during worship.
We’ll spend the first half of Lent walking through Jesus’ ministry. We can’t hit everything, but hopefully we can highlight a few key themes along the way. I’d encourage you to read each passage from Matthew thoroughly first - the devotionals won’t always make sense if you don’t. Some devotionals are shortish and some are longish. Some are more exegetical and some are straight stories. Read what you can.
Some of them have random Yiddish words in them to honor the fact that this Gospel was written for a mostly Jewish audience. If you can figure out what the Yiddish means, you get a lollipop.
After Day 22, we’ll slow way down, focusing on the Passion Story as we prepare for Holy Week, walking step by step with Jesus as he approaches the cross.
About the Artwork
A handful of Highrock artists have created artwork especially for this, for us. I hope their artwork challenges and inspires you, as it has challenged and inspired me.
About the Embodiment Opportunities
God’s cosmic project has always been to marry soil and spirit, not sift them apart. We're not saved "from" the world and "to" heaven. But we're really saved "from" sin and "to” eternal life - and that begins right now and right here in this world when we become his followers.
As Pastor and Scholar NT Wright has written, “Jesus’s resurrection is not the beginning of God’s new project to snatch people away from earth to heaven; rather it is the beginning of his project to colonize earth with the life of heaven.”
And what is Lent if not a preparation for the Resurrection?
So to help us remember this Lenten season that we embodied, that our bodies are redeemed and good, that we are to steward our bodies and prepare them for use in service and sacrifice for the Gospel, we have included something “physical” with each day’s devotional.
This is not a diet plan, nor is it a map to “get healthy in 40 days.” Rather, they are just simply exercises in remembering that “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God. You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
But we are also spirit as well, and so included with each day, Pastor Aaron has included either prayer points or a spiritual exercise to go along with the themes of the passages. We invite you to pray and practice these with the rest of the church as you go along.
Now. Let’s turn the Scriptures together. Everything is in them.
Pastor Aaron Engler
Bamidbar Rabba 13:1.
Wright, NT. Surprised by Hope.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20.