So let it be written, so let it be done.
Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston fans will remember these words repeated throughout Hollywood’s version of the Ten Commandments. For generations, people have believed it important to remember the details of the Exodus. But as the opening to the Fellowship of the Rings reminds us, much that once was, has been forgotten, because no one lives who remember. Long before Cecille B. DeMille directed the screenplay, an accountant echoed that narrative of liberation, choosing a similar tagline – as it is written. And since we’ve now entered the season when tax collectors will alternately seem our best friends and worst enemies, maybe it was appropriate to reconsider the blog of an ancient tax collector.
Bear with me; because unlike most of our random tweets and multiple text-messages, these entries have been the favorite of generations of readers. Like choosing FOX News over CNN (or vice-versa), Christians are familiar with Matthew’s version of the beatitudes, the Lord’s prayers, and the golden rule. While some have described this genre we call “a Gospel” as a passion narrative with an extended introduction, to do so ignores it’s fusion of faith and morality. Like the blog left by James, the brother of Jesus, this fusion of gospel and ethics stands over and against those who claim accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is all that is required. Like Micah wrote, what is required is practicing justice. So let it be written, so let it be done.
But I’ll get back to that.
So we have before us an ancient entry. And contrary to my general practice of avoiding single texts for preaching, I draw your attention to what we call Matthew 26:24
The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to the man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.
(I suspect Judas wished that tweet hadn’t gone viral)
It is always important to remember, Christian Scripture is not first about us. The Bible provides an ordered account of God’s activities of setting things right even though we keep messing things up. If God hasn’t given up on the world, then we can face the problems and difficulties of this moment, because we know what we see now is not the way things will always be. When we pay attention to the revelation made available in Christian scripture, we see what God is doing. And what we see God doing in the Bible, we are supposed to be doing in the world. So let it be written, so let it be done.
Such a commitment may cost you your life. It’s dangerous to walk your talk. Consider Martin Luther King Jr., Oscar Romero, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, or Stephen Biko. Note, Judas isn’t the significant casualty in this narrative. Still, it is not the death, but the life of Jesus that needs to be examined: A life lived to demonstrate God’s words are true. A demonstration punctuated by the willingness to die in order that others might have a more abundant life.
These words of Jesus recorded at the very end of Matthew’s blog stands in direct opposition to the notion of packing your bags and waiting to cash in on that fire insurance policy with its eventual pie-in-the-sky.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The challenge for the disciples was to be the bridge for someone else to experience justice. When Jesus called the disciples, he didn’t send them out in search of instant conversions. He gave them an example of living before telling. Doing before speaking. Go. Make. Baptize. And teach. This is one way in which Jesus was the incarnation of God. His life was a demonstration of God’s promises given to a chosen people on behalf of every nation. Use words to explain not promise, because God has already made the promise that matter.
This is significant. That which is written, that which we are to do…was already spoken. The only time words create from nothing is when God speaks. Ever since creation, we have only been reporters of what is happening …to what God created good.
But if our practices match God’s promises, we can exercise the right to remain silent. Take note: Matthew has preserved for us not merely a passion narrative, but a record of how Jesus always acted before he spoke. That should be our Christ like behavior. Rather than talk the talk, walk the walk so people look at you and see a glimpse of the glory of God.
This is significant. Today the people of God do good works in order that the world knows God is good. Ours resume is supporting cast member not center-stage celebrity. We are translators not spokespersons. We don’t have to mimic Walt Disney to create a world – we’ve been hired as tour guides for those who visit God’s wonderland.
Think about this: God is not asking us to transform the world. God is not asking us to fix the world. God is not telling us to tell the world what to do. Really.
We don’t have to set things right. We merely demonstrate what right looks like. We practice justice.
So since it was written, so let it be done.