I admit that I have been part of the education system that taught Jesus as being nice and kind and seemed to often gloss over his more challenging attributes and now I know better; I admit that I do believe that Jesus, his Father and the Holy Spirit have it in their minds that we should all make it to the Kingdom and if we don't then maybe we have to accept that it is our fault; I admit that I believe that there is nothing that is unforgivable and that this all-forgiving love is God's default position.
I have come to realise that I believe all of this because of John, Mark, Luke and Paul - but Matthew? Not so much.
Matthew, as he gets nearer and nearer the end of his Gospel becomes more and more threatening in his language - 'You had better be good or else'; warning after warning after warning. And I do want to be 'good' but the likelihood of me managing it becomes more and more remote - the standards are just too high; the suggestion that there will be a 'them' and an 'us' becomes more frightening as I come to realise that I am likely to be in the 'them' group.
I have found it hard to read the accusations thrown at the Pharisees for being hypocrites - how much is that like me; I find it hard to read about the arrogance of the teachers -how often have I done the same; today I find it hard to read about the unreadiness of the servants - when I know there are times I have been distracted or unable to be there when I am needed.
I find Matthew makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable and maybe that is the point. I don't feel able to write about 'others' - the people who do...; the people who don't... the people who should ...- I am all those people. Why should I look outside myself for what is 'not good enough' ?
In past years I have wondered why the bridesmaids don't share -surely that would be more Christian than this very sensible reply? If they have given the right answer, what do they mean?
Perhaps the answer is there is only so far you can go to help anyone - but to help a fool? I have lamps and candleholders around the house - looking beautiful. I even have torches and storm lanterns in the drawer and garage - in case of emergency. If I am a fool then once the emergency comes - I may know where the lamps and the torches are but where are the candles, the oil, the matches, the batteries?
Getting ready is only part of the work- if all I have done is build an exterior that looks the part- if all I have done is fulfill an initial expectation and then pretended it might never happen - isn't that my fault?
I may be proud that I had everything in place for last year's cold winter - but what about this year?
In my past I have felt God calling and have had the desire; taken the time, made the opportunities to deepen my faith; to find a place to live out what I believe God wants of me -
and what about now? Do I believe I've done enough; has complacency set in; am I a fool?
Perhaps I should thank you after all, Matthew, for the wake-up call.