A Letter From Phil | February 2020

Phil and Jan Strout

National Director, Vineyard USA



Friends,

There is a moment recorded in the Gospels where Jesus is walking through a town and meets a tax-collector who will forever have a place in history – Matthew.
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We are given no back story on Matthew’s life. All we know is that one day he will pen a Gospel that will be used by God to move innumerable others, over thousands of years, to put their faith in Jesus as the Messiah.
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At the time of their first meeting, however, Matthew is just a Jew in first century Palestine who is hated by his fellow Jews. It was well known that the tax-collectors in that society were not only an unwelcome presence as they worked for the hated authorities, but they were also known to collect a bit extra for themselves when collecting to make ends meet.
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Matthew, the writer of the Gospel that has his name, places the story of his encounter with Jesus right in the middle of a number of healing stories. Why? It’s possible he saw his encounter with Jesus as a healing in the truest sense of the world – a miracle moment when a life gone wrong is turned right by the healing presence of Jesus?
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N.T. Wright suggests that the verb Matthew uses to describe his response to Jesus’ call to follow him is quite intentional. “‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him” (Matt. 9:9). The word for “got up” used here is sometimes translated “arose” – it is a resurrection word.
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Matthew knew what he was writing, and why he was writing it.
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Jesus called him to Himself, and Matthew “arose” to a new life.
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How many hundreds of people, if not thousands and thousands of people, have you met in your lifetime who, when confronted with the Gospel, “arose?”
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Jesus, the Good News Himself, is in the dead-raising business. And the greatness of the Gospel is that every person you know in your town or city can experience the same life-changing encounter that Matthew did.
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And that, friend, is the business of the Church.
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The Gospel is the only thing we have to offer the world. As a follower of Jesus, and as communities in which Christ is worshipped, let’s let the Gospel transform lives by making sure we place it front and center in all the ministry work we do.
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Blessings to you as we head toward the celebration of Easter in a few short months, and I’ll see you on the trail,
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Phil
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Phil Strout
Vineyard USA National Director