Year A – Epiphany 7 – Matthew 5:38-48

Matthew 5:38–48 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Summary – In the Sermon on the Mount thus far, we have seen 1) the beatitudes that picture character of the Kingdom of Jesus; Jesus embodied these characteristics and in His passion and death he was denied all of the blessings of the beatitudes. poor in spirit (humble), who are mournful (who acknowledge sin), are meek, desire righteousness, are merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted, insulted and are slandered for righteousness sake. 2) Kingdom people that express the character of Jesus are salt and light in the world and they are righteous, beyond the righteousness of hypocritical scribes and Pharisees. In this section, Jesus directly contradicts the teachings of the religious leadership of Israel. This is signaled by a variation of the statement, “You have heard that it was said.”

Matthew 5:21 You have heard that the ancients were told … But I say to you (MURDER VI Commandment)
Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you (ADULTERY VII Commandment)
> Matthew 5:31 It was said  . . . but I say to you (DIVORCE IX Commandment)
> Matthew 5:33 you have heard that the ancients were told . . . but I say to you (FALSE VOWS III & IX Commandment)
Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you (EYE FOR AN EYE X Commandment)
Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you (LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR VI Commandment)

How should we interpret these? Here are three principles: 1) Continuity – Since Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, we should accept that Jesus is not contradicting Moses or other prophets. Rather, he is contradicting the legalistic interpretation of the Law that came through the Pharisees and scribes. 2) Radicalism in the application of the Law and Prophets – He is taking the Law to the root, not just actions, but motivations, words, emotions. There are many examples of this throughout the Old Testament too, such as Psalms 15:1–3:  “O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? 2 He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. 3 He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, …Psalms 15:4 He swears to his own hurt and does not change.” 3) Jesus uses hyperbole, an expansion and exaggeration to make a point.  We use these too, “I’ve told you a million times.” “I am so hungry I could eat a horse.” “I have a million things to do.” Jesus does this in this way: “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you … If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off.”

Insight – Unlike the Pharisaic approach which claimed righteousness by not physically murdering and by not physically committing adultery, etc., – we cannot earn anything through  keeping the Law because we regularly  desire, emote, and speak in ways that violate the character of God. It is impossible for sinners to achieve righteousness through the Law. Jesus raised the Standard so high in His interpretation of the Law that we must find another way. That way is His perfect righteousness which we receive by faith.

Discussion – Since we cannot be “perfect” in thought, word, and deed, do we give up seeking to be obedient to God’s Law? How do we live with sin, yet continue in faith and seek to be obedient? [Remember the Collect for this day]

Prayer – O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing; Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

 

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Year A – Epiphany 7 – 1 Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23

1 Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23 – According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Summary – Paul addresses the hero worship problems in the Corinthian church and while he does this he provides some amazing theological insights. He likens the church to a building and the foundation has been laid. We can read of the actual foundation of the Corinthian church in Acts 18. Paul had first gone to teach in the synagogue in Corinth, but at some point they began to strong oppose and revile him. After being rejected at the synagogue, Paul moves into the house next door! So essentially Paul creates a rival congregation next door to the synagogue. Paul was preaching that Jesus is the Christ and as such is building His Church which is a new temple of God (as opposed to the temple in Jerusalem). It is striking. He says, “you are the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Don’t boast about any human leader, God dwells in your congregation. What does it matter if Paul or Apollos or Cephas has worked on your building. If the king has come to your home, why are you talking about the plumber? Why speak of the A/C repairman? God is here. Not only are you part of God’s eternal kingdom, “all belongs to you” and you belong to God. This is similar to the Psalms/Christ’s teaching that the meek will inherit the earth. We must see current issues in the light of eternity.

Insight – What if you inherited a billion dollars. The catch is that for a few years, you can’t access the money and are really poor. How would that change your life immediately? Would you be able to endure a few years of limited means? God has promised us resurrection life eternal, no more pain, no more sorry and perfect joy, but we must endure in the mean time. We must persevere in hope.

Prayer – O Lord, we thank you for your great promises of resurrection life, paid for by our Savior, Jesus. Help us walk in the knowledge that we the temple of the Holy Spirit and to see any of God’s servants in that light. Grant us the grace to endure this life in faith with hope that we may fully enjoy the glorious world to come, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 7 – Psalm 119:33-40

Psalms 119:33–40 –  Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. 35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. 36 Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways. 38 Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you. 39 Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good. 40 See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.

Summary – Many students of the Bible know that Psalm 119, like a few other Psalms, is set as an acrostic. So the first 8 verses begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph), then the next 8 verses begin with the second letter (beth), etc. In order to capture this, below is a paraphrase of these verses, using the English alphabet (now we are up to the letter E) as a reference point:

Educate me, O Lord, in the way of Thy statutes, And I shall observe it to the end.
Enlighten my understanding, that I may observe Thy law, And keep it with all my heart.
Eagerly cause me to walk in the path of Thy commandments, For I delight in it.
Encourage my heart with Thy testimonies, And not to dishonest gain.
Extinguish my desire to gaze at vanity, And revive me in Thy ways.
Establish Thy word to Thy servant, As that which produces reverence for Thee.
Exonerate me from dreaded reproach, For Thine ordinances are good.
Even now, I long for Thy precepts; Revive me through Thy righteousness.

Discussion – Why does this Psalm move through the alphabet? Why does it go from “A to Z”?

Prayer – †Collect for Seven Sunday after Epiphany – O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing; Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

Year A – Epiphany 7 – Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18

Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18 – The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. 9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God. 11 You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. 12 And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD. 13 You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. 14 You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. 15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD. 17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Summary – Leviticus 19 begins with the call for Israel to be like Yahweh. Yahweh is holy and that holiness is manifest in kindness. God is kind and so you shall not take all the produce of your land for yourselves, but rather leave some to be gleaned by the poor and the non-Israelite in the Land. Even so, don’t steal or cheat or lie. God tells the truth and does not rob, but freely gives. God does not defraud us or hold back what is good. God cares for those with disabilities. He does not make fun of the deaf or blind. He does not slander us or hate His people. Love your neighbor as yourself because we are to be like God in His gracious and just character.

Insight – In light of the Exodus from Egypt, we can see that God treats His people graciously. Earlier in the book there is a rationale attached to the command to be like the Lord: “For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy” (11:45). Because God delivered His people we are to be holy. If we unpack this, it means because God has saved and provided for us, we should desire to obey Him. This is very consistent with the New Testament’s teaching that since we have been give salvation by grace, we should strive to walk in good works (e.g., Eph. 2:8-10). Even more, we should want to be like God’s gracious and just character since He is our Deliverer. Compare and contrast your SlaveMaster Egyptians with God: Your Masters in Egypt would not let you worship the true God (commandments 1-3); they made you work without rest (4th commandment); they stole authority (5th commandment); they killed and hated you (6th); they broke the sanctity of marriage and family (even killing your children) (7th); they stole your labor (8th); they did not speak the truth (9th); they coveted what was not their own (10th). So don’t be like your Masters in Egypt, be like the true and gracious God who saved you.

Discussion – What are ways that we act more like the slaving Egyptian masters than God?

Catechism – Why should we be kind? Because God our Savior is kind to us.

Prayer – O Lord our God, we praise you for your mercy and kindness to us in providing for our Deliverance from sin and death in Jesus Christ. Grant that we who see more and more your great mercies grow to be more and more like you, pleasing you by showing kindness and mercy to others. In Christ’s name we pray.

Year A – Epiphany 5 – Matthew 5:13-20

Matthew 5:13–20 – “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Summary – This passage can be summarized in three main points: 1) As a kingdom disciple, you must not become a moron (v13). His people are illustrated with two vivid pictures: salt and light. Salt in manifold in its mean. It preserves and flavors food, among other things. During the time of Jesus, salt soil contained many impurities. The actual “salt” (sodium chloride) could dissolve and it was of no use. Salt was a common wisdom image and so the words used for “lost it’s taste” also means to “make foolish” (moraino). The Church is to have an antiseptic and savory influence in society. 2) As a kingdom disciple, you must shine (vv14-16). We are mirrors of the light of Christ. Christ is the very personification of light (John 8:12). All who catch and reflect the light of Christ are themselves called “light” (Eph. 5:8). At least three biblical images arise for the function of light: a) Light dispels darkness (John 1:4-5). b) Light gives guidance (Ps. 119:130). c) Light reveals the reality of sin (Ps. 90:8). 3) As a kingdom disciple, you must stand on the authority of God’s Word in its fulness (vv17-20). The authority of the Old Covenant written Word is not diminished by the Messianic age, but the incompleteness is filled (Heb. 1:1-2). Jesus did this by fulfilling the types and shadows of the old covenant, the “ceremonial law” and the narrative of Israel’s story (Col. 2:17).  Since, we find that many such laws have passed away, e.g., “Thus he declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19) – this “fulfillment” is related directly to the cross (temple veil torn) and resurrection (new creation) of Christ (2Cor. 5:17; Is. 65). He brought a new “heavens and earth” of the new covenant, and thus, the Torah of Israel has passed away (Gal. 3). We are to affirm the absolute authority of the Word fulfilled in Jesus. In this our righteousness must exceed that of the religious leaders of Israel, scribes and Pharisees.

Insight – When disciples are saline in a bland and rotting world, this comes through in all aspects of our lifestyle, our relationships with neighbors, the service we render in the workplace.  Our faith therefore must be visible in the way we treat family, friends, coworkers, how way we treat our employees or serve our employer, even in how we drive our car.

Discussion – How salty are you? Are you shining the light? Are you standing on the Word of God fulfilled in Christ? Does Christ call for an excessively high standard of righteousness (exceeding the scribes and Pharisees? [No, their righteousness was skin-deep and they were hypocrites (Matt. 23).]

Prayer – Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP Ephany 5)