Readings for Sixth Sunday After Epiphany, 2/16/14:
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 119:1-8, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Matthew 5:21-37
- All the readings for today are significant in that this liturgical Sunday - Sixth Epiphany - and the couple following - only show up occasionally depending on the date of Easter. Enjoy these texts - they may not appear in the lectionary again for a while!
- This is Moses speaking in this text, preparing the people to enter the Promised Land, where Moses himself cannot go.
- Moses sets up two clear paths: obey God, and you will be numerous and multiply and have blessings. Disobey, and you won't stay long in this land, and you will be cursed. The first verse of the reading lays it out: life and prosperity vs. death and adversity. Of course, things rarely work out in such a black and white cut and dry way, but Moses' point: your choices have consequences.
- These are the first verses of the longest Psalm in the Bible. Each stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and each line in the stanza begins with that letter as well.
- "Happy are those" - this is the same language as used in the Beatitudes by Jesus. How are the Psalmists sentences similar or different than Jesus'?
- "blameless," "shame." Blame and shame can be powerful weapons of abuse and oppression. But obviously they have appropriate uses too. When is blaming appropriate? When/how do you think God wants us to feel shame?
- Paul returns to his theme from our reading a few weeks ago about claiming to belong to Paul/Apollos/etc.
- "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." Paul's point is that Paul and Apollos are both servants of God - God is the one to credit, not Paul or Apollos. I think as pastors we would do well to remember this, as we sometimes struggle with the pastors that serve a congregation before or after us - and we need to help communicate this to our congregations as well. We should be working for a common purpose, not in competition.
- Who has planted and watered in your life? How did God give the growth?
- This is a huge text covering a lot of ground from the Sermon on the Mount, covering conflicts in the community, adultery, divorce, oaths, etc.
- Notice the "you have heard that it was said - but I say" pattern here. In last week's reading, Jesus made it clear that he doesn't come to abolish but to fulfill the law. So his statements here must be interpreted with his understanding in mind. He doesn't see his words as abolishing what is already believed, but as completing, explaining, getting to the heart of what is already commanded.
- How many times have you come into a place of worship bearing grudges and anger at others? I'm afraid I've certainly been guilty of this. Do we place much seriousness on Jesus' words here? What situations in your life stand in need of reconciliation?
- Have you preached on divorce? People who have experienced divorce bring a lot of anxiety to this text, to hearing sermons about this text, waiting to be judged by the preacher and by God. I fully believe that God doesn't wish for people to remain in abusive marriages. I recommend extreme compassion and gentleness if you focus on these verses.