Finding the Lessons

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Friday, February 18, 2011

7th Sunday after the Epiphany, Ordinary Time

"'Perfect', it turns out, is not only a sermon in itself but the theme that makes sense of the entire passage. Whether you translate it 'complete' or 'true', 'integrated' or 'whole', it underlines and unites all that Jesus has said so far: you are to love as God loves, wholly, completely, consistently."

Jana Childers, Lectionary Homiletics sample, 2011.

Matthew 5:38-48
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

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. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

A Little Bit for Everyone
Oremus Online NRSV Text

Textweek General Resources

Textweek Resources For Sunday's Gospel from Matthew

Some interesting articles on this passage:

William Loader's "First Thoughts"

Working Preacher thoughts on each lesson appointed for today

PrayerLift from our hearts the burden of hatred, and drive all resentment far from our lives; so that, loving not only our neighbors but even our enemies, we may, by your grace, be perfect, even as you are perfect.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
Some thoughts...
As last week we are continuing our passage from the sermon on the mount wherein Jesus uses the phrase, "You have heard that it was said...." Last week we worked on lust, marriage, and swearing (oath taking). This week we are presented with two more. They are offered as examples of how Jesus "came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it." This is an important theme within the whole of Matthew's Gospel as Jesus is the righteous one and those who claim to be his followers are to be righteous still.

We might recall that last week I talked about how Jesus is in these reflections being very pointed about his comments and is clearly making them with the idea that one's commitment to these principles is a necessary component to one's response to the covenant God has with all of creation and with us specifically as creatures.

The last two antithetical teachings have to do with violence and with loving neighbor. 

Jesus is clearly calling those who would follow him and desire to fulfill all righteousness must refrain from violence; in fact choose intentionally not to enact violence upon one another. Specifically not to retaliate or seek to revenge violence with violence. What wold a world be like if we were able to create a culture wherein people lived whole lives without physical violence being done to them.

I think as Christians and as people who live in a world of the internet and a world with an understanding of phsychology we must broaden Jesus' imperative to say that we as Christians are called, challenged, to live a life without being violent in our words (written or spoken), in our emails, videos, conversations, treatment of others, etc. The world would be a very different place today if Christians took this to heart. I imagine the world would be transformed if we simply tempered in some measure the violence we pepetrate and perpetuate on others.

Christian community today is very complicated and the reality is that most congregations have been involved in violent heart rending conflict inthe past decade.

The congregational study called FACTS reports: 86% of congregations had conflict in the last five years. 32% of churches reported very serious conflict. Of congregations that had serious conflict, that conflict: is ongoing in 6%; remains, but is no longer serious in 28%; was resolved with no negative consequences in 26%; was resolved with some negative consequences in 40%.

The report says that the following are the primary reasons for conflict in a congregation: priest’s leadership style (17% so report); money/finances/budget (11%); priest’s personal behavior (11%); who makes a decision (10%); member’s personal behavior (7%); how worship is conducted (6%); program/mission priorities (5%); and for theology (4%).From what I gather these statistics are not uniqe to Episcopal congregations alone.

I believe one can make a case that based upon this statistic most congregations have not paid much attention to this passage of scripture at all! One might also say this may very well be one of the most important passages to preach!

I believe that if we as Christians and as Christian communities do not truly try to work on this area regarding loving our brothers and sisters, our enemies and our neighbors unconditionally as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ does then we will perpetually live within the false expectation that people will want to become members of the community of Jesus Christ; a community which promises love and kindness, gentleness and hope.

The Lambeth Bible Study Method

This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican

Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question

Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.

2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.

3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.

4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.

5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.

6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.

7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"

8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father..."

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