“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses” – Feb 16, 2014

Title:“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses” – Feb 16, 2014

  Sunday, February 16, 2014  (full size gallery)

This was a week of snow – 8 inches or snow. It was easy to curse the snow if you had somewhere to go, like work. Of course, most businesses (and schools) were closed both Thursday and Friday. With telecommunicating from home and remote access snow days are minimized. It was a good time to also see the beauty, stillness of snow as it made ripples through the land and to watch the sun gleaming over it.

Ladies Night Out on Sat. Feb. 15,  is best described here Although some key people were not able to be there, the snow didn’t stop anyone. Food was exceptionally good and plentiful. The Jeopardy! game kept people’s attention and elicited some hidden talents – Jim Heinbach and Alex on the men’s side and Nancy on the women’s side. Although Joe Betchy had flow in from the other coast at 2am on Saturday, he didn’t skip a beat as the moderator/judge.

We had 33 people in church on a gorgeous day. McKenna had a 4 year old bithday for the Godly Play children after church.  We wished Howard a happy birthday on today his birthday. 

Lenten services were announced today, including Ash Wednesday on May 5 and a Lenten study series on  "Frog and Toad" for March 12, 19, 26. 

Also Catherine announced an invitiation from Christ Episcopal in Spotsylvania to join that congregation when they go to Shrine  Mont in May. More details to follow

The sermon was based on the Old Testament reading in Deuteronomy as the Israelites were ready to enter the promised land and Jesus extension of the Sermon on the Mount. Specificially it was on obeying laws

In this text Jesus provides his teaching on three of the Ten Commandments (plus divorce):

1. You shall not commit murder.

2. You shall not commit adultery and divorce

3. You shall not bear false witness.

In each case it was not just obeying the law but fulfilling the intent of the law and the importance of building and nurturing relationships.

In the case of murder Jesus extends this law to include propensities to kill: nursing anger, calling someone good for nothing (as the Greek says) or a “fool” (v. 22).

In the case of adultery it is extended to consider people as objects. God expects purity of thought and desire as well as of action

With regard to the third contrast, there was no command about divorce, but it is implied in the instructions of Deut 24:1-4, which prohibited remarrying someone you had divorced. Divorce became a problem especially when Judaism began to move away from polygamy.

Because Jesus consistently shifted the focus from just act to attitude of mind we are able to embrace what also the wisdom about human relations has taught us, namely that usually adultery is usually a symptom of something else as well, so that things may have gone badly wrong, even irretrievably so, long before an act of adultery has taken place, indeed even when it has not taken place. Reconciliation and healing mean dealing with these complexities of the mind and attitude towards which the gospel also points us.

The sermon stated it this way – "Jesus says that especially in marriage, respecting the full humanity of our spouse is essential if the marriage, or as far as that goes, any relationship, is to be fulfilling."

The sermon used the metaphor of fortune cookies to approach the "shall nots" in this passage. At the end there was an exercise of receiving and acting on a fortune cookie.

"Pretend you’ve just eaten a delicious Chinese meal, and you open your fortune cookie at the end and find this fortune.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

"Now pause for a minute. Think of someone you love, someone who makes your life wonderful and fulfilling. As we pause, thank God for that person.  

"And now, pause, and think of someone important to you who you truly do not love, someone who rubs you the wrong way, has upset you, or is making your life miserable. Pause—pray for that person and your relationship with that person and then offer up that relationship to God for healing. Pray about some ways in which you could help move toward more love and greater health in your relationship with that person. 


Both Old Testament and Gospel readings reflect people going through change of circumstances.

In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are on plains of Moab, as the Israelites prepare to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. The book states that Moses is the speaker, but the laws given in Chapters 12-28 are updated versions of those in earlier books.Times have changed since Sinai: the people were semi-nomads then; now they are farmers and shepherds. It is a time of religious revival, of new commitment to God. V. 6 puts the Law in a new light: God will “circumcise your heart” – he will work changes within the people so love becomes the driving force. Note also v. 20: “loving the Lord your God …”. They will keep the Law because they love God.

In Matthew, the new community is comprised of those around the teachings of Jesus. The old law is valid but Jesus has come to fulfill to complete and in some cases expand the interpretation. The section is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. Having announced the good news and the kingdom of heaven having broken in (4:23-24), Jesus proclaims the guiding precepts of that kingdom in the Beatitudes (5:1-12). Note that in both "love" is the abiding and connecting force.

Jesus gives the disciples a new way of life, not rejecting the tradition, but building upon it, explaining what they really meant . It is a way of life that demands more and promises more. He identifies the divine ideal behind the law. God requires righteousness (right living) and it has to be better than what he alleges many Jewish leaders of his time achieved (5:20).

In that it is all about relationships. And so Jesus speaks the radical message of the complete law, calling us not just to ensure that we uphold the letter of the legal code, but that we uphold the dignity and humanity of our companions in this world. The New Community is not a "new and improved" old community. Rather, it is a reconciled and beloved community in which all people are treated with dignity, not with contempt , and with affirmation, not deprecation

For example, no longer do the teachings on murder and adultery apply strictly to acts of murder and adultery. Instead, they become doorways into the examination of many internal dynamics as well as external behaviors of one’s life: anger, derision, slander, false generosity, litigiousness, arrogance, lust, temptation, alienation, divorce, and religious speech.

Jesus advises that one discard, promptly and decisively, anything in one’s life that tempts one to turn away from God. Then follow six instances in which Jesus announces new interpretations of the law–indeed, some would say, changes the law. He will teach in regard to anger, sexuality, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and hatred of enemies.

In this text Jesus provides his teaching on three of the Ten Commandments (plus divorce): 1. You shall not commit murder. 2. You shall not commit adultery and divorce 3. You shall not bear false witness.  

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