Welcome to the first episode of our new worship series, Words. Each week there is a reading assignment in our companion book, Woman of Words, by Angela Hunt. You don’t have to read with us. I’ll summarize the chapters and point out references to Bible stories.
We chose this approach to our series based on experience. Those who read the companion book report a deeper connection to scripture.
We begin with the first four chapters. Peter, John, and James, asked Matthew, an apostle of Jesus, to move to Jerusalem to offer help. Meanwhile, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, realizes that someone needs to write the story of God’s Son to preserve His teachings for others to read who were not around. Mary believes God called Matthew to Jerusalem, through the church leaders, to be that person.
But there is the question of Matthew’s past. Before Jesus asked Matthew to follow Him, his name was Levi, and he was a tax collector. A profession known for collaborating with the Romans and taking advantage of people. But tax collectors also knew how to keep orderly accounts or payments.
Matthew was well aware of both his past and what people thought of him. He was self-conscious, with persistent feelings of unworthiness and low self-esteem.
Many, if not most, of us can identify with Matthew in feeling as though we don’t quite measure up to standards set by others. It is as though there is some overall system of scoring that ranks us against an unpublished standard.
Dr. Gina Simmons Schneider, in a Psychology Today article, writes, “Feelings of unworthiness can stem from childhood trauma, previous rejection, or shame. Feeling unworthy, at its extreme, is a symptom of depression, a potentially life-threatening illness.”
In her article, Dr. Schneider connects healthy self-esteem with having a clear sense of what we value. Noting that we feel good about ourselves when our behavior aligns with what we truly value. However, things get messy when you don’t know what you find important or meaningful, or your behavior is out of alignment with your values.
We don’t know who actually wrote the four gospels found in scripture. The traditional titles and implied authorship are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Scholars widely agree that Mark wrote the first Gospel. Matthew and Luke contain many of the same stories, with several parts matching word for word.
Angela Hunt invents a creative story about how Matthew’s Gospel came about. Angela Hunt’s story about the author of Matthew’s Gospel is creative and believable because she paid attention to details.
While interesting in its own right, perhaps what is more pertinent to this week’s theme is the commonality that you and I may have with the story. Matthew’s past weighed heavily on his conscience, creating obstacles for him and others.
Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting in his office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up, left everything, and followed Him.
Life is messy. Most of us make decisions that conflict with our values under the everyday stress that accompanies the challenges we face. But as we do, we’re more likely to experience an uneasy feeling that our past disqualifies us from possibilities in the present.
In her book, Matthew is wrestling with his desire to preach and teach like Peter, John, and James do. However, his past vocation qualifies him to keep the books. The same past that Matthew wants to leave behind.
One night, Matthew dreams of meeting Jesus face-to-face. In his dream, Matthew says to Jesus, “I want to serve you, Lord. Whatever you ask, I will do it.” He questions whether it is right or wrong for him to want to do something other than keeping the books. The response Matthew hears in h is dream from Jesus, “Trust the Father, Matthew. He will use you in ways you cannot imagine.”
Matthew realized it was only a dream. But he awoke with a sense of reassurance that whatever he was called to do, God had plans for him.
And God has plans for you and me.
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A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
Our series was inspired by and relies on content provided by Angela Hunt. A Woman of Words. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2021.
Gina Simmons Schneider Ph.D.. “How to Stop Feeling That You’re Not “Worthy”.” © Psychology Today, October 25, 2022. Retrieved from: link