Readings for 7th Sunday After Epiphany, 2/19/14:
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18, Psalm 119:33-40, 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23, Matthew 5:38-48
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18:
- I love the repeated, "I am the Lord" refrain throughout this passage as an explanation for each command. Almost like when a child asks, "Why?" and a parent says, "Because I said so." Why do we have these commands? Because God is God.
- "You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great." Elsewhere in scripture, we certainly get the sense of God's partiality for the poor and oppressed. But I get the sense here that we're not to act unjustly in order to favor the poor in a situation unfairly. What do you think?
- "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people" - oops. How good are you at this? Any grudges you need to think about?
- "but you shall love your neighbor as yourself" - Sometimes I think we forget and believe that talk about loving neighbors only happens in the New Testaments. It's all here though!
- I like this excerpt, because for once, the requests to God seem reasonable, and less about asking God to smite enemies. What does the psalmist want? To learn and understand.
- Look at the language: Teach me. Give m understanding. Lead me in your commandments. Turn my heart to your decrees. Give me life in your ways. Your ordinances are good. I have longed for your precepts. In other words: I want to learn, learn, learn how to follow you.
- What do you think happened that the psalmist wrote this? A particular event where the lack of learning and understanding God's commands was displayed? A time of study where the student loves learning, wants to learn more?
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
- As with last week's text, again this passage has me particularly thinking about clergy who serve before and after you in a church. Do you feel competitive with them? Collaborative?
- Who are the people who have built your foundation? Built you up in your life? Have you helped others build a foundation in Christ and built them up? How?
- Dr. Larry Welborn, one of my DMin professors, wrote a book about Paul and his fool imagery. It seems like Paul's tent-making might have actually been more of theatre-set-designer, so when you read about the "fool" in Paul's letters, think of what you know about the fool in theatre, like in Shakespeare.
- Jesus continues, as in last week's text, to use the "You have heard that it was said . . . but I tell you" format.
- "If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also." I think we read passages like this and immediately wonder, "How literal is Jesus being? Does he really mean it?" Followed by, "could I actually do that?" I wonder - would I turn the other cheek? If Jesus doesn't mean it literally, what does he mean? It is easy to say Jesus is speaking metaphorically whenever his words are particularly challenging to us!
- "sends the rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" - I know questions of why bad things happen to good people, and vise versa, really seem to trouble people, challenge people - but Jesus doesn't seem to need to offer further explanation here - just "they way things are" in a sense.
- "Be perfect." A tall order, right? John Wesley had a clearly developed doctrine of Christian perfection. When United Methodists are ordained still today, we have to answer "Yes" to the questions: "Are you going on to perfection? Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this lifetime?" Wesley's understanding of perfection is one of my favorites in his theology.