Philip Batten reflects on Matthew 9.35-10.38
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth: and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’
The opening words of our gospel reading for this Sunday aren’t just addressed to Matthew, I believe they are for us too.
At the start of the Trinity Sunday service last week, Ian referred to the surveys that abound overwhelmingly indicating that when the lockdown restrictions are relaxed most people don’t want to return to how things used to be. He asked a really significant question, ‘What is it we don’t want to go back too?’
Like Ian I don’t want to return to putting up with the divisions and the ‘lie of separation’ which has dogged the dominant culture of the world, until now. I don’t want to return to the divisions caused by poverty, economics, race, injustice, exploitation of the environment, exclusion and a way of living that just ignores these things as if they do not exist. I am tired of the inadequate mantra ‘that this is the way the world is’. If the lockdown has taught us anything it is, that the way we have been living, has been built upon that lie of separation. What the last few months have shown is it is clear as day that life is all about community. How we live in together in cooperation.
When we take care of our environment in the way we all know we should, we can hear the birds sing, breathe fresh air and see the worth of every living thing. I want transformation; change is not enough. So, I am bound to ask, is, ‘not wanting to return’ to a system that stifles life the same as saying ‘I will not return’ to following the way we were before?
When I write that the words of Jesus, ‘Follow me’ are for us all, the challenge has to be, how? That is the question I hope many will reflect and act upon in the coming weeks and months. Perhaps it might be helpful to find something practical that might help us with this.
I have spent much more time in my back garden these past few months; I consider myself extremely lucky to have one. What I see in it is the unfolding of the rhythms and patterns of life in the natural world, in creation. That reality of how life is, not the human constructs of prejudice, competitive control, oppression and self-interest. If our lifestyles and life choices, how we want to live, recognize the real patterns and rhythms of the way the world actually is then the promise is abundance. When I say, abundance, I do not mean material comfort and certainly not at the expense of others but the very fullness of life that so many are now beginning to intuitively understand we all need for our well-being.
So, if ‘going back’ does not look that attractive to me, what then?
I think I seek intentional living, communal in its approach rather than individualistic self-interest. The monastic tradition of all faiths has much to teach us, as indeed do many secular groups which seek to live ‘together with’ rather in ‘competition with’. Monasticism supports those who join in living to a community rhythm with a rule of life, the most well know of which is The Rule of St Benedict.
When monastics speak about a Rule of Life they are not thinking of a list of rules to follow. The word we know as “rule” comes from the Latin word ‘regulari’ which gives us the modern words of regularise or regulations. So, the monastic understanding of a Rule of Life is something that helps regularise our life which brings order and an intentional approach to how we live.
So rather than living in a random way allowing ourselves to simply respond to the things that happen to us in life, a Rule of Life gives us an opportunity to think about what we value and how we intend to express those values in our daily lives.
I am currently reviewing my rather basic Rule of Life, which clearly needs some updating, to help me respond and live in the world.
I have found an online resource produced by the Society of St John the Evangelist which is helping me by focussing on the four relationships that we experience in life, being:-
- Relationship with Self.
- Relationship with the environment/creation.
- Relationship with others.
- Relationship with God.
If you are interested in exploring more about having a Rule of Life then do please contact me, either directly if you have my details already or by e-mailing the Parish Office and I will happily contact you.
When Jesus says, ‘Follow me’ then we need to hear those words for ourselves and welcome the values he demonstrated into the core of our own way of living.