Monday, February 17, 2020

Epiphany 6A

Deuteronomy 30:[11-14]; 15-20

11Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" 14No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

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.
Matthew 5:21-24; 43-45

21"You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, "You shall not murder'; and "whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, "You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire.

23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

43'You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so 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."

This is Matthew's gospel year in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) that gives us our Sunday scripture readings. The synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke all view Jesus in a similar manner (syn=together, as in words like synthesis, synoptic, synergy, synod, synchrony; optic=eye, as in words like optical, optician, optometrist, optimistic, optimal), yet each gospel account has distinctive themes. Matthew especially presents Jesus as the new Liberator Moses, as the new King David. Matthew never lets up on justice and righteousness.

We're still in the season of Epiphany that especially emphasizes Jesus as light, savior, and reconciler of all creation, not solely for the Hebrew or Israelite people. Epiphany means revealing, showing forth, shining out. Last Sunday we talked about us as light to the world, us as salt of the earth. Yes, in John's gospel Jesus calls himself light of the world, but we're in Matthew where Jesus announces us as salt and light!

We can consider Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew (Sermon on the Plain in Luke) a spelling-out of the Ten Commandments. This would have been our third Sermon on the Mount week, but last Sunday we celebrated Jesus' Presentation in the Temple because February 2nd was a Sunday. With new members being received again today, we didn't program all four of the appointed scriptures, but after we heard the passage from Matthew in Sunday School I read part of the first lection and four verses before.

The Ten Word or Commandments of the Sinai Covenant [Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5] God gave the people through Moses mirror God's nature and provide working papers for living together as community and out in the world beyond the gathered church. In our Deuteronomy reading, via Moses God insists the word of life is so close by it is in our heart and in our mouths; it is part of us. The NRSV translation says we can observe the word, but better ones say we can do God's word. In his Message translation, late Pastor Eugene Peterson says... Just Do It!!! Moses presents stark if-then contrasts of life/death // blessing/curse.

Matthew's gospel never lets up on justice and righteousness. God created us in the divine image, so God's attributes of justice and righteousness are among characteristics that reflect our divine nature. For us as people of God, justice and righteousness, love and forgiveness for all – including our enemies – permeate everything we are and everything we do. The commandments and the sermon on the mount are paths to shalom and wholeness for all creation. Everything is relational in both vertical (toward God) and horizontal (toward our neighbors) directions. Jesus calls us to treat everyone as a significant other, to practice the neighborology we especially talked about during Luke's lectionary year.

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