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 – Proper 9 – Romans 7:15-25a

Romans 7:15–25: I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Summary and Insight – How often have we known what was right, and desired to do it, but yet for some reason always fall into the trap of sin. Part of what Paul is doing here is describing times when believers fall into sin. This passage can be hard to understand, part of the reason for that is the different uses of the word “law.”  One of the Old Testament background to this passage i believe is Jeremiah 31 where God states that he will “put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”  Outward conformity to the Law cannot save a person, the Law cannot deliver us from “this body of death.” Only through the death and resurrection of Christ can we be delivered from death.  And through his work, God will write the Law on our hearts and help us to serve him in righteousness.

Discussion – Can you relate to Paul’s statements, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Are there some practical ways to avoid doing the things you hate? Later Paul was write, “Make no provision for the flesh and its lusts” (Rom. 13).
Prayer – Holy Father, thank you for you’re son Jesus Christ, in whom the Old Testament is fulfilled. We thank you that Christ has completed the work that we could never accomplish ourselves.  We thank you, that you have called us from a kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. We ask that through you’re Son you would write you’re law on our hearts, that we would live in conformity with your will.  AMEN.

Contributed by Jared McNabb

Year A – Lent 5 – Psalm 130

Psalms 130: A Song of Ascents. 1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. 2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. 8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

Summary -Psalm 130 is a song of Ascents which were sung by those journeying to worship in Jerusalem to celebrate annual festivals. The Psalmist cries out to the Lord, recognizing that no one can stand on their own righteousness in God’s presence. But He is rich in forgiveness. So the Psalmist waits for the Lord. Israel is to hope in the Lord because God will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.

Insight – The Psalms teach us the full range of prayer, praise and even complaints that we may properly express to God, not only individually, but corporately. In Psalm 130 we have a call for God’s presence along with a recognition of our unworthiness (“If You should mark iniquities . . .”). We are sinners and saints at the same time. We have no inherent righteousness whereby we can demand a Holy God’s presence and power in our lives. He forgives and now we see the full basis for that forgiveness through Christ’s death and resurrection. Despite our natural unworthiness, it is right and good that we still call upon Him to be present. We should be those whose “souls wait for the Lord.” We need a thirst for God that is just as eager as those in the dark night of battle who await for new light and safety in the morning. The promise is that “with the Lord there is mercy” and “abundant redemption.” Do you believe this? Israel shall be redeemed and this will come through resurrection (see Ez. 37) which breaks into the cosmos through Christ. Easter is on its way!

Child’s Catechism – What does God do for His people? He forgives their sins.

Discussion – Do you sense God’s abundant presence in your life now or are you awaiting more of His presence like the Psalmist?

Prayer – O Lord, we ask boldly for Your presence in our lives. Forgive our many sins, fill us with Your Spirit, and redeem us as we trust You and hope in Your redemption, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year C – Proper 19 – Luke 15:1-10

Luke 15:1–10 – “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.””

Summary – The ministry of Jesus showed compassion on those who were known to be sinners, such as low-life tax collectors and prostitutes. This caused those who thought they were righteous, the Pharisees and the scribes, to look down on Jesus and judge Him. Jesus explained that bring the lost back to God and seeing them desire to know God was the essence of joy in heaven. He did not come to save the “righteous” but sinners.

Insight – Have you ever looked down on someone because of the way they dress or because they do things you disapprove of? Perhaps you reason that, “Since I am a Christian, I don’t dress like that or do that.” While it may be true that “as a Christian I don’t dress like that or do that,” don’t make the mistake of thinking that makes you more righteous and so you can sit in judgment over them. Our righteousness is like filthy rags before God. Only being “in Christ” by faith causes God to see us through the righteousness of Jesus. What kind of righteousness did Jesus have? He had the kind that looked with compassion and mercy on those that were obviously destroying their lives with sin. This is the kind of righteousness that Jesus had: grace, mercy and compassion. When we judge others because we think we are more righteous (of ourselves), we are doing just what the Pharisees did.

Catechism – What brings the greatest joy in heaven? One sinner who repents.

Discussion – Do you have anyone in your life that constantly judge as “in sin”? What kind of attitude should you have toward them?

Prayer – Persistently forgiving God,
we are a stiff-necked and stubborn people
who try your patience;
yet, instead of giving us up for lost,
you seek us out until we return to you.
Break our willfulness
and bring us back from our wanderings;
bend our pride and create in us pure and faithful hearts,
which rejoice in your forgiveness
made known through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Year C – Seventh Sunday in Easter – Psalm 97

Psalm 97 (NRSV)

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.
Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O God.
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

Summary – Psalm 97 triumphantly declares God’s kingly reign over the whole earth, demonstrated in the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in bringing false religion to an end, providing justice and deliverance for God’s people, which results in their joy and gladness. The psalm divides itself into four portions, each containing three. The psalm is divided into four portions, each containing three verses. The reign of God and the coming of His kingdom in the earth is described (Ps 97:1-3); its effect upon the earth is declared (Ps 97:4-6); and then its influence upon the heathen and the people of God is illustrated (Ps 97:7-9). The last part urges us to holiness, gladness, and thanksgiving (Ps 97:10-12).

 

Insight – Verse 2 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” What is righteousness, and what is justice? When the Bible talks about God’s righteousness it refers to God’s goodness and moral perfection. God is the source of all good, and there is no evil or wrong doing in Him. All that He does, and all that He is, is good. Righteousness also means that God is faithful. That means that God keeps His promises. He always tells the truth, and He does what He says He will do, and He means what He says and says what He means. So righteousness means God is good, and he always tells the truth. Justice is very similar to righteousness. Righteousness refers to who God is in Heaven, and Justice is the outworking of God’s righteousness on earth. God judges our thoughts, words, and actions based upon His own perfection. God is fair.

The problem for us is that we are sinners, and we have told lies, and we have done wrong. So if God is going to judge us according to His righteousness, and if we are to get justice, then that means we will all be punished, because none of us are perfect.

But God provided a substitute for us, Jesus Christ, to stand in our place. Instead of God judging all of us, He judges one person for us all. We all deserve to be punished, but because God is fair, God has to punish someone. And Because God is merciful, He punished Jesus instead of us. Because Jesus took our punishment, our punishment is now gone! And Because He lives forever, we will live forever too. We can see that the foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice, and that is because Jesus Christ Himself is the righteous one who satisfies God’s justice.  Praise God for His amazing grace and mercy for providing a way for sinners to to be right with Him.

Catechism – What is the foundation of God’s throne? Righteousness and justice.

Discussion – Discuss further how Jesus satisfied God’s demand for justice. Discuss how God’s goodness and truthfulness (righteousness) are important to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayer – O Holy, Righteous Judge of all the earth, You have created the world in order that you might save it. You have demonstrated your love to us by sending forth Your Son Jesus to be our Savior. Please grant us Your Holy Spirit, that we would trust in Jesus and in Your promises, which You have made to us in Your Holy Word, that we would rejoice and be glad at your righteousness and justice, and thus be saved. In Jesus name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover