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.

 

 

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)

Year A – Epiphany 5 – 1 Corinthians 2:1-12

1 Corinthians 2:1–12  – When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. 6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.

Summary – Paul explains to the Corinthians that he did not come to them in the power of sophistry and rhetoric. Rather, he came expressing only that the true King of all reality, was put to death by crucifixion. This kind of death was not noble or charming in that day, but shameful and disgraceful. But this is the message: Jesus was crucified. So, the world is not what it seems. Worldly power and authority are not what they seem. Actually God is working out His secret wisdom through this crucified Messiah. If one can just grasp this reality by faith, God has prepared glorious things: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” None of these riches can be received without God’s Spirit whom we have been given freely.

Insight – Have you ever started a new job or task and did not really understand much about it? I remember being hired to do some work on a farm as a teenager. I drove a tractor and plowed fields and such things. But I really had no idea what I was doing. I had to be told just about everything in detail and I messed up many times. I broke a few things, as I recall. In our passage, Paul is saying that we cannot understand what God is doing without His Spirit’s work in us. The Spirit is necessary for us to comprehend God’s truth, Word, and plan. We will really mess things up without the Spirit’s work in us. So give thanks that He has sent His Spirit from Pentecost even to this very day.

Discussion – Have you ever had an experience in which you knew the Spirit of God was at work in your life?

Prayer of Confession – Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 5 – Presentation of the Lord – Psalm 84

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise. 
Selah
5 Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
*
6 As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!
Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.
10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
he bestows favour and honour.
No good thing does the Lord withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.

SummaryThe psalmist loved God, and loved engaging with God, and so he loved the place of God’s special presence, where he (with the worshipping community) engaged with God.  God’s courts were dear to him—he longed for them—his soul yearned to encounter God there.  In verse 6, he mentions that, leading up to the time of corporate worship, there may be times of “Baca” (tears), but the joy of worshipping God in His Temple turns those tears to refreshing springs.  The psalmist’s delight in God’s House—the place of God where he engaged in the worship of God—climaxes in verse 10, where he proclaims that he’d rather spend one day there than a thousand days anywhere else.  In fact, he’d rather be a doorkeeper at the place of God’s worship than live luxuriously in any other place.

Insight Are there any places special to you because of what has happened there, or who you’ve been with there?  One such place, for me, is a certain spot by a certain river in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: the girl whom I’d marry and I spent time there on our first date, and (later!) I proposed to her there.  To me, that place means my wife, and means those events.  Maybe, for you, there’s a kitchen where your grandmother always bakes cookies, or a tree branch on which you always write stories, or a park to which your dad always takes you.  A place can take on special meaning for you.  The psalmist felt that way about the tents and Temple in which God made Himself specially present for corporate worship.  Today, we are God’s Temple—we are the place of His indwelling presence—so, we no longer worship in Jerusalem, but anywhere we gather together, in spirit and in truth.  On Sunday mornings, when we come together at any place, we ascend to the Heavenly Temple and engage with God, and He makes Himself specially present with us at His Table.  Do you long for this time of corporate worship in God’s presence?  Does your heart yearn to be engaging with God among other worshipers?

Child Catechism
Q:  One day in God’s courts is better than what?
A:  One day in God’s courts is better than a thousand days anywhere else!

DiscussionIs there anything that we can do to engage with God more intentionally, and to enjoy Him more deeply, during Sunday worship, so that that time would grow more dear to us?

Prayer O Lord of hosts, how dear to us is your dwelling place!  One day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  Grant that our souls might long for Your courts, and that our hearts might sing to You for joy, O living God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose presence is fullness of joy.  AMEN.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year A – Epiphany 5 – Malachi 3:1-4

Malachi 3:1–4 – “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.”

Summary – Malachi was written after the temple had been rebuilt after the exile, probably around 450 B.C. Though some of the people had been restored to the land, there was still corruption, particularly in the priestly family of Levi. This corruption continued into the New Testament era. Malachi promises a coming Messenger to prepare the way, John the Baptist. Malachi also speaks of a “Messenger of the Covenant” who will refine and purify God’s people. This was Jesus. The result of this purification will be that the offering of God’s people will be pure and pleasing to the Lord. Verse 5 goes on to explain the nature of their corruption: sd”I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.”

Insight – I remember melting lead to make fishing weights when I was 10 or 11 years old. Malachi uses this image to speak of Christ’s coming to purify Israel. When metal ore is smelted into a purified form, the heated metal melts and impurities or dross rises to the top. One of the ways the purifier knows the dross is gone is by seeing his own image reflected in the glowing molten mass. This is what the Lord has wanted from the beginning, for people to bear His image. Unfortunately our sinfulness, like the dross and impurities of metal, blur and disfigure His reflection. Christ came so that we would have a final purified offering for all of our sins. By trusting in Jesus we receive Him into our lives and now when the Lord looks into the melted ore of our lives He sees His reflection there through Jesus.

Catechism – Who was Malachi’s messenger of the covenant? Jesus.

Discussion – When your life is heated up, what does the Lord see when He looks in?

Prayer – Heavenly Father we give you thanks for sending Jesus, your messenger of the covenant, for us. We thank you that he became a completely pure sacrifice for our sins and we gladly trust in him and receive him into our lives. Grant that we live in a manner that evermore reflects our trust and obedience to him. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 4 – Matthew 5:1-12

Matthew 5:1–12  – When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

If you were in the position of the Jews at the time of Christ, you would want to know about the kingdom. In Matthew this is the first instruction on the kingdom. At the end of chapter 4, Jesus announced the kingdom of heaven and called for repentance. Now He explains the character of the kingdom. This is a vision of the kingdom from the lips of our Lord who is represented as prophet and king, the son of David. Note, it was ON THE MOUNTAIN, signifying the prophetic role. He SAT DOWN signifying his kingly position. He TAUGHT WITH AUTHORITY. The kingdom of God transforms the people of God (Dan. 7:13-14) since the kingdom is given to the people of the king (Rev. 11:15). This vision is of a “happy” (Greek: makarioi) people. “Happy” is a little insufficient. But “eulogeo” is really the Greek word that means “blessed.” This word means experiencing the favor of God. Rejoice today because we are called into His presence, not outer darkness, but His presence. We are given eyes through these words to “see God” – to see the character of what God’s kingdom, His rule is to be like. That kingdom has presence now there are also some future tense aspects: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “for they will inherit the earth.”

Insight – These Beatitudes begin with the most important foundation: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This kind of poverty is recognizing that without Christ, we have nothing to commend ourselves before God. He is the Vine and apart from Him, we can do nothing. It is to recognize that no amount of attempts at being righteous by good works or self-effort gets us into the kingdom (Eph. 2:8-9). The first step of faith in the King of this Kingdom is turning away from ourselves to Him. A good example of the contrast between those who are “rich in their own spirits” vs the “poor in spirit” is the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:10ff).

Child’s Catechism – Who are the first that are blessed? Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Discussion – What is the opposite of being “poor in spirit”? Can you think of examples in our culture today?

Prayer – ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  Amen.

Year A – Epiphany 4 – 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

1 Corinthians 1:18–31 – For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Summary – This passage falls as a “parenthesis,” or a “side-note” in the midst of Paul dealing with a particular problem in the Corinthian church.  The Corinthians were boasting about which apostle they followed, in other words parading their “wisdom” around, showing off to other Christians how much they thought they knew.  Paul chastises them, reminding them that they’re all “on the same team.”  Then in this passage he uses his own preaching as an example to show them that the world’s wisdom is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, Paul’s gospel proclaims the crucified Christ who is the power and wisdom of God.  He goes on to show that God uses the weak things to shame the wise, so don’t boast in yourself: Christ is your life and your wisdom.

Insight –  Things can be upside-down in the kingdom of God sometimes.  Imagine if an extremely TALL person as well as a very, very SHORT person were standing beside each other, looking at a table, and I told them, “There is a $100 bill in front of you.”  Now imagine if the money was taped to the bottom of the table: the short person would say, “I see it!” while the tall person would say, “Where is it?”  Normally, people who are tall and strong are considered to be more powerful people, but in this situation, for all his strength, the tall person couldn’t see the money while the short person, looking up at the bottom of the table, could!  This is how the kingdom of God is.  Jesus told stories called “parables” so that the Pharisees whom everyone thought were really smart couldn’t understand, while simple fishermen could.  Paul teaches us the same thing in this passage of 1 Corinthians.  The people who we often think are the most smart, intelligent people think that the truth of God is false.  Just like the tall man who couldn’t see the money because he wasn’t looking in the right way, the people who say they will believe God if they can make the gospel “make sense” will miss it.  God calls people to himself by the preaching of Christ crucified so that we won’t think our own “smart-ness” is why we believe.  Jesus “became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” Thank God today that He has revealed His truth to you: because it is a gift!

Child Catechism – What is the Good News you believe?  That Christ was crucified for me.

Discussion – Paul says that the Gospel is foolishness to “those who are perishing.”  Does this mean we shouldn’t try to gain wisdom?  Why/why not?  Paul says, “the world did not know God through wisdom.”  What do we know Him through?

Prayer – Dear God, you tell us that your foolishness is wiser than our wisdom.  Since in your great wisdom you have saved us through our crucified Christ to show us that we are not saved by our wisdom, we thank you for calling us to your truth.  We acknowledge our helplessness to find the truth without your grace and we pray that you give us the strength to cling to Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.  We pray this in His name.  Amen.

Contributed by Jon Herr