Finding the Lessons

I try to post well in advance of the upcoming Sunday.

You will want to scroll down to find the bible study for the lessons closest to the upcoming Sunday.

The blog will be labeled with proper, liturgical date, and calendar date.

You also can simply search below by entering the liturgical date, scripture, or proper. This will pull up all previous posts.

Enjoy.

Search This Blog by Proper and Year (ie: Proper 8B or Christmas C or Advent 1A)

Friday, February 25, 2011

8th Sunday after the Epiphnay, Ordinary Time, Year A

"If God so clothe - The word properly implies, the putting on a complete dress, that surrounds the body on all sides; and beautifully expresses that external membrane, which (like the skin in a human body) at once adorns the tender fabric of the vegetable, and guards it from the injuries of the weather. Every microscope in which a flower is viewed gives a lively comment on this text."
From Wesley's Notes.

Matthew 6:24-34
24“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

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

Chris Haslaam's Clippings Site
Prayer
From the mountain where his disciples gathered around him, O God, Provider for our every need, Jesus, your Son, the teacher of righteousness, calls us to forgo worry and anxiety and to seek first your kingdom and its righteousness.  Deliver us from striving after the false security of worldly wealth that we may entrust ourselves to you, the God who cares for us as a mother has compassion for the child of her womb. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your So, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever an ever.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some thoughts...
Daniel Harrington (NT scholar, author of Matthew, Sacra Pagina, p104) gives us a great birds eye view of the text we have been making our way through over the last few weeks in our lectionary cycle.  He writes: "The introduction (5:1-20) and the first two major parts (5:21-48; 6:1-18) of the Sermon on the Mount display clear structures: nine Beatitudes, six antitheses, and three acts of piety.  The third major part (6:19-7:12) has no obvious structure."

Jesus is in this section winding together pieces that are very similar to the books of wisdom and proverbs. They seem to be loosely connected in theme, they are very traditional pieces (Harrington shows most are from previous documents and sources), and they are rooted in Jewish tradition. (Harrington, Matthew, 109)

Each section is its own teaching; but keep in mind that the "golden rule" is offered by Jesus as the culmination and summation of discipleship behavior towards others.  I have broken the sections out below:

Visionary Focus and Mission:
v24“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Here Jesus' message seems clear, follow God, imitate the love of your father who is in heaven, and your path will be clear.  It is not that you will not have difficulty or that you will not have difficult decisions to make, but your measure and your rule will be that of your Father in Heaven who loves and cares unconditionally. We of course remember here Jesus words at the end of last weeks reading: "Be perfect as your Father is perfect...be merciful as your Father is merciful."
Anxiety and Fear:
v25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

v28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’
In this second section Jesus reminds us of the eternal truth expressed both by our ancient Hebrew faith ancestors and by Jesus himself: the God we proclaim is the creator of both heaven and earth.  Our Father who is in heaven, our God, is a God of providence who provides for all of creation and for his creatures.  God has created a sustainable universe.  Anxiety and fear only moves our vision away from God's vision for creation and Jesus' mission of restoration to a vision of personal caretaking. When we allow fear and anxiety to rule we move to a much more narcissistic place where the only one we serve is our ego.

Your Goals are different than the goals of those who do not follow Jesus:
32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today."

In this last section of this week's reading we are reminded that we choose to follow Jesus. We make Jesus' Father in heaven our God. We claim this God and acclaim his works in creation, providence, and the gift of both cross and resurrection that we by the power of the Holy Spirit may be once again at work in the world.  Be not afraid of comes, but live into the opportunity God has already laid out before us.

I am struck in our churches and our communities of faith how often we allow fear and anxiety to motivate our decisions.  We say in our culture that one is innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately we have not only reversed that charge based upon cultural gossip but we have added to it the understanding there is more int he world to be afraid of than there is to embrace.

We are a culture of suspicion and distrust; and we project those feelings upon everyone and every situation.  There is always an alternative reason why, and a theory to be proved.  More often than not our culture believes the very worst in people.

The community of faithful people who follow Jesus are called to see God's providence and work in the world around us. We are to believe the very best in people. We are to see the opportunities before us as opportunities and blessings to embrace rather than fears of evil intentions to be exposed.  The Christian community is called into being on the sermon on the mount as a counter culture of belief in the very best of humanity.  When we follow Jesus we choose to accept our falleness, yet to believe through the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit that each person has within them goodness, compassion, and the light of Christ.

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..."

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..."

Friday, February 11, 2011

6th Sunday after the Epiphany - Ordinary Time

"The Law is instructive in showing us just how imperfect we are, how much we are in need of God’s abiding grace, and how we ought to live into the law of love. Is this what Jesus is doing when Jesus makes the stakes even higher than the Hebrew Law?
"Cut it Out," Carol Howard Merritt, The Hardest Question, 2011.


Matthew 5:21-37
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. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. 31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.


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

One to download then struggle and wrestle with:

"Jesus' Sermon on the Mount instructs us to not return violence for violence; instead we should be like God, who offers boundless, gratuitous love to all. But in the same Gospel Jesus tells eight parables in which God deals violently with evildoers. Which of the divine ways are we to imitate?"
"Matthew's Nonviolent Jesus and Violent Parables," Barbara E. Reid, O.P., (other resources at) "Parables," Christian Reflection, The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, 2006.
Prayer
As we come to offer our gift at your altar, make us eager in seeking reconciliation, so that e may live the gospel of your kingdom with single-hearted devotion, our every thought filled with respect for one another an our every deed with reverence.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some thoughts...

This part of the Gospel has a number of sections.  Our reading today has four of these "antithetical" style teachings. "You have heard that it was said, but I say to you," are the introduction for each one.  In each Jesus recalls a teaching and then presses his followers to go deeper. 

We might remember that in the previous introduction to Jesus' teaching on the mountain he reminds us that he is the one to fulfill the law and not to abolish the law.  I quick read of Daniel J. Harrington's thoughts on the idea of law can help us better place this teaching in context. (Matthew, Sacra Pagina, 91)

The English term "Law" can distort the Jewish understanding of Torah.  The word "Torah" derives from the Hebrew verb "instruct" (yrh) and refers to the teaching or instruction presented in the Scriptures, especially the Pentateuch.  For Jews the Torah was (and is) the revelation of God's will, a kind of divine blueprint for action.  It is a gift and privilege given to Israel, not a burden.  Acting upon the Torah is the privileged way of responding to the Creator God who has entered into covenant relationship with Israel.  It presupposes the prior manifestation of God's love.  The Greek translation of Torah (nomos) is not incorrect since the Torah is concrete and demands action.  But the theological context of covenant can never be forgotten if distortion is to be avoided.
If we begin then with this understanding we can read these antithesis in a very different way.  If we think of the prerequisite of God's love and covenant, then the baptismal affirmation of that covenant, we arrive at these understanding that these then are a manner of Christian life.  When we work on these higher ways of being we engage in the fulfilment of the covenant relationship we have with God. When we do not we turn our backs on the covenant relationship God wishes to have with us.

In the first antithesis Jesus teaches us that when we live and dwell in anger, when we use anger, and lash out or treat others out of our anger we are destroying the creatures of God.  Anger leads to death.  The higher way of following Jesus is to acknowledge this death and to seek reconciliation. Both illustrations make clear that not only is anger a destructive force in the life of Christian community but that it is an unacceptable manner of leadership.  One cannot offer gifts and talents at God's altar unless one is reconciled with ones enemies. 

Somehow in our culture we have decided it is okay to be angry and to treat others (service providers and enemies) with scorn, discontent, and hostility.  Jesus teaches us we destroy the creatures of God and one another when we do this.  Yes, we live in a country where we honor a person's right to free speech. That does not mean that such manners of speech build up our country or the communities in which we live. However, Jesus teaches us another way.  Jesus teaches us (and many of his followers need to hear this clearly) that such behavior is unacceptable, destructive, and we are held accountable to a higher standard. 

Our bodies and person reflect the glory of God and in his second teaching Jesus explains that lust destroys the higher purpose of our flesh.  Christianity and the Episcopal Church is uniquely a very incarnational faith.  We understand that the beauty of God is reflected in all creation and in one another.  When we look on one another with the eyes of Jesus Christ we cannot help but see God's glory revealed.  Jesus calls us to this higher understanding and tells us that lust leads to adultery.  These are two charged words.  But if we remember the understanding of the Torah above we have a better and much more clear understanding of the teaching here.  Certainly what he says is true. However, there is a higher code being offered here.  Lust is a form of viewing individuals as objects of desire.  It turns the flesh from being a revelation of God and God's creative and covnenantal acts to something that can be possessed by another human being.  In this teaching we see the role of dominance and power abusing the creatures of God.  Bodies and people are works of Godly art when we treat them otherwise we change them.  When  we use sex to sell something or when we abuse people sexually we are defaming God's handiwork -- that which he called very good. 

In our culture we use lust, sex, and images of humans as commodities to be bought and sold for the purpose of individual enrichment or for power gain.  Not unlike free speech, our country provides an environment where this is seen as normative. However, for the Christian we must as individuals live a higher standard.  Lust destroys that upon which it fixes its gaze.  It will also eventually destroy the person who lives a life fed by it.

I would add that divorce enters into the picture here because it is the death of the covenant relationship illustrated in the man and woman's brokenness.  While Jesus speaks of lust leading to adultery, we live in world where divorce happens for many different reasons.  Jesus I believe though is clear about what happens in divorce and how it is rooted in brokenness.  When humans have so destroyed the image of the union of God with humanity that in their relationship they can no longer see the love God has for them the relationship is itself broken.  When they cannot see the beauty they reflect or the goodness out of which God created them -- the relationship is over. The Episcopal Church has responded by allowing for divorce and for remarriage. It has done this as a pastoral and caring approach to members of the community who find themselves in this very sad place.  The church has more that it can do to help people shoulder the pain of divorce; regardless of its cause.  An individual who lives with the false belief that they are no longer good, somehow failed, or that God does not love them can be an incredible mill stone around an individual spiritual life.

The last of the antithetical styled teachings in this Sunday's lesson is about oaths.  Here Jesus offers the very simply reminder that yes and no are perfectly good answers.  The Torah permits oaths in every day speech as long as they are neither irreverent or false (Allison/Davies, Matthew, vol 1, p. 532).  Again, one must be careful in speech to not do damage to that which is God's.  I am struck here by thoughts provided by the Anglican theologian John Milbank offers in a number of his texts that our words have meaning and they have being. They have substance.  We believe in a God who created with the and through the Word.  We believe in the Word which becomes flesh, the living Word of God.  Not unlike how feelings change the world in Jesus' teaching about anger.  Not unlike how we look and treat people changes the world.  How we speak, for Christians, makes meaning and being in the world.  Our words are powerful and we are accountable for them.

These are three very difficult teachings. These teachings are tough no matter who you are, but especially if you claim to follow Jesus.  All too often the Christian point the world and calls for transformation.  More often than not it is the Christian, me included, who needs to do the transformative work of listening to Jesus' words.

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…”

Thursday, February 3, 2011

5th Sunday after the Epiphany, Ordinary Time, Year A

"God is light. Jesus is light. And, says Matthew's Jesus, so are you! But not as an elite, as a group of privileged people, be it Israel or Christians, who once, perhaps, were good salt, but as people living the kind of life called for in the challenge of the beatitudes."

"First Thoughts on Year A Gospel Passages in the Lectionary: Epiphany 5," William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia



Matthew 5:13-2013“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.


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"

Chris Haslam's technical notes and clippings for all the readings

Working Preacher thoughts on each lesson appointed for today

And a two other pieces by Fred Craddock:

"You, Therefore, Must Be Perfect," commentary by Fred B. Craddock in The Christian Century, 1990. At Religion Online.

"Two Areas for Faithfulness," commentary by Fred B. Craddock in The Christian Century, 1990. At Religion Online.

PrayerRemove from our midst all false accusation and malicious speech, that our words may season the world with the flavor of the gospel. Let the light of your own justice so shine in our lives, that all may see our good works and give you the praise and glory.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some thoughts...
We continue with the second part of the introduction to the sermon on the mount; expanding on the themes of who God is and who we are to be in light of God's mission. Last week we had the "blessings" this week we continue with images of salt and light. I want only to mention briefly how important it is here to help those reading these texts in bite size pieces to understand that we are reading a whole piece of narrative from the Gospel of Matthew and consequently a whole piece of Jesus' teaching.

This is important in part because the theme of being salt and light are connected with the theme of blessings. 

Jesus first offers the image of being salt in the world.  Salt gives flavor and is connected with the act of making temple sacrifices.  Salt purifies and preserves as in Leviticus 2:13 and Ezekiel 43:24 (Daniel Harrington, Matthew, Sacra Pagina, p 80).  We are to be salt.  If we remember the idea that we are blessed by the mission of working with God as God's family then we can easily see that the challenge of being salt in the world is an important metaphor. How often have we allow the world around us to add flavor to our mission and ministry as opposed to adding flavor to the world around us.  What would it look like if the congregations of the Episcopal Church were known for adding flavor to the community in which we find our congregations and institutions? 

Recently I was having a conversation with an individual who is a self-proclaimed agnostic. As we had a delightful conversation I became painfully aware that he did not believe that the church added any value to the community in which it finds itself.  We as Anglicans and Episcopalians have always believed we are in particular and contextual ministries.  We have always claimed that we added flavor to the community life around us.  Is that true for you as an individual?  Is it true for the community in which you worship?  Can we with pride say that we are adding flavor and value within our missionary context?

Jesus continues with the image that we are the light of the world. This image is linked to Isaiah 2:2-5.  Daniel Harrington writes, "The light image is part of the invitation to Israel: 'O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.'...Israel's vocation is to be a 'light to the nations.'  Paul picked up this theme of Israel's vocation in Romans 2:19 ('a light to those who are in darkness').  The light imagery is developed in the saying in 5:15-16 in which Jesus' followers are challenged to active engagement in their 'good works.' (Matthew, p 80)

This is the vision of the new Israel that Jesus is about the work of recreating.  This is how we will know we are in the midst of the new reign of God.  The nations shall see a great light.  We will be adding flavor to life and the world around us. 

Jesus himself speaks of how this message of blessing and the image of being a nation upon a mountaintop are connected to the Torah. As I mentioned last week.  The Matthean theme is one which sees Jesus and the kingdom of Heaven proclaimed in this Gospel as a continuation of the righteous law of the prophets. Jesus is the fulfilment.  Our new way of living as salt and light are the next pieces of the Torah narrative. 

For Matthew this language of Torah, blessedness, and righteousness do not mean "law" they refer to the purpose of the people of God.  Matthew understood Jesus to be continuing to build upon sacred foundations formed in the desert journey of Israel.  Jesus' teaching on the mount is the renewed teaching of Moses at Sinai.  The followers of Jesus like the whole hosts of Abrahamic relatives have been created and are given the particular and unique work of building the kingdom of God through mercy, justice, and kindness. 

The Matthean scholars Davies and Allison write the following reflection on the two parables of salt and light:
The summary descriptionof the disciples as salt and light, a description which fits those who live as 5.21-7.12 will detail, has the while world (the cosmos) as its backdrop.  This implies that the Gentile mission is presupposed.  The followers of Jesus are alt and light for all, for Jew and Gentile the world over.  So Matthew's unversalism is once more apparent.  No less apparent is the evangelist's exalted estimation of the ecclesia's role in the religious life of humanity.  If the church does in fact consist of those who are 'the salt of the earth' and 'the light of the cosmos', then the church must be the primary locus of God's activity in and for all people.  'What the soul is in a body, this the Christians are in the world.' (Diognetus, Ep. 6.1)

The Lambeth Bible Study Method

This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.


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…”