Deuteronomy 30:15-20Taking a diversion and excursion away from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew to listen to God speaking through Moses in the book of Deuteronomy from the Pentateuch, one of the Five Books of Moses. We've discussed Matthew's community's emphasis on Jesus' Jewishness, on Jesus as the New Moses, New King David. Last fall we had several readings from Deuteronomy that's in the covenantal tradition of the prophet Jeremiah who also was part of autumn's readings.
15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
We haven't talked nearly enough about covenant; briefly, derived from co-venire (come together), covenant is about two or more parties coming together in agreement, with obligations on both sides—mutual dependence and mutual vulnerability. Scripture brings us a long list of covenants between God and humanity, from Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to David. Jeremiah tells us about the New Covenant of grace God will bring in Jesus Christ. God covenants with us in baptism!
We often refer to the ten commandments God gave the people through Moses as the "Sinai Covenant." Deuteronomy is one long covenantal book! Deuteronomy mostly comes from the next to latest written Pentateuch source either from time of Babylonian exile or from post-exilic resettlement of Jerusalem—around when Huldah and Josiah rediscovered Torah? Or from both eras. In any case, the content long had been part of the oral tradition that we've discussed as not being the same as written-down words spoken out loud, but a way of transmitting words and ideas that has a dynamic life of its own.
We can consider Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew (Sermon on the Plain in Luke) an interpretation, spelling-out, exposition of the Ten Commandments, just as Jesus' birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension demonstrates the meaning of the Commandments. During Lent we'll study Luther's Small Catechism that starts out with the Commandments. We really only need the First Commandment:
I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (so therefore!), you shall have no other gods before me.The other nine commandments (as well as Jesus' birth, life, etc.) and the great commandment to love God, self, and neighbor clarify the first. The commandments are working papers that lay out boundaries and limits of attitudes, words, and actions of our life together in community, of our lives vis-à-vis the world out there when we physically leave the covenantal community of the church.
Last fall when we still were in Luke's lectionary year, immediately after Jesus pronounces the Great Commandment to love God, self, and neighbor, his disciples ask, "And who is my neighbor?" Then follows Good Sam about the guy who gets beaten up and left by the roadside to die on his way "down to Jericho." Amongst Luke, Jeremiah, and Deuteronomy, we talked some about neighborology, "the word about the neighbor."
When Jesus starts his Sermon on the Mount, he lines out blessings of grace we receive and in turn use to bless others. Being blessed, happy, prosperous, shalom-filled isn't quite the same as the deep-welling joy we experiences as Christians, nor is it abundant money, success, and property as the world and as "prosperity gospel" people consider prospering. In today's Deuteronomy passage, Moses also speaks about being blessed.
LCM does well welcoming everyone, including immigrants, refugees, and LGBTQ&c. persons; in some ways they don't need these words, yet as our guest preacher observed during our SS discussion, seemingly innocuous desirable goods and everyday behaviors carried to extremes can become gods, so we all need to be careful and observe our own behaviors and compulsions.
I commented on the Persian Patio that's a ring of yard chairs under an umbrella our office administrator arranges in the yard on Sundays so our Persian People (who have Farsi-language bibles we gave them) can have a gathering place to speak their own language and talk about their own concerns. Last week in SS I mentioned the late environmental theologian Sittler, who also was part of the devotions offered at Friday's Green Faith Team Meeting Interim Pastor and I serve on. I mentioned the dad of one of my former housemates/landlords was first president ever of LSTC, and Dr. Sittler frequently visited their home. Pulling this together, they chose Stewart Herman as seminary president because of his experiences and work with refugees in the World Council of Churches and for Lutheran World Relief. In other words, he'd help students and others learn about being a welcoming, diverse church without borders or boundaries.