Epiphany 6, Year A

Title:Epiphany 6, Year A

 Epiphany 6, Year A, Feb. 16, 2020 (full size gallery)

This Sunday continued the mild weather this winter with clear skies and temperatures in the 50’s.

Genesis christian ed turned to Chapter 18 today. This is one passage in the lectionary when Abraham encounters 3 strangers and Sarah finds out she will give birth. This is a lesson in hospitality and welcome – providing food and rest for the strangers.

We had 40 at 11am with extended members of one family. The offertory featured Mary and Denise in “No Greater Love” which is in the videos for this Sunday.

This Sunday’s readings particularly the Old Testament and Gospel readings are linked around the older community in Deuteronomy. (The setting is the plains of Moab, as the Israelites prepare to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land) and the new community in Matthew (Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount).

The readings call the question – “How do we get along in community?”

The bulletin cover this week shows two men stand with their hands outstretched towards each other. They are close to embracing, but not quite close enough. Still, it’s the gesture here that counts. Because in that gesture, in those outstretched hands, is the recognition of the other’s humanity. Sculptor Maurice Harron was born and educated in Derry, a city severely affected by Northern Ireland’s Troubles. But Hands Across the Divide celebrates reconciliation. It was unveiled in 1992, to mark the twentieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972, when a civil rights demonstration on the streets of Derry ended with the shooting dead of thirteen civilians by the British Army. But in that reaching out of hands is hope, and the promise of a new beginning.

The sermon put it this way. “Why can’t we all just get along? Have you ever asked yourself that question?
I’m betting that God also asks, ‘Why can’t they just get along? Human beings are the most cantankerous part of creation!’

“Paul understands that growing into love for God and for one another is the work of a lifetime, the accumulation of choices made over and over through life. Choosing life repeatedly leads to life. Choosing death repeatedly ends in death. Choosing love repeatedly makes loving one another easier as we mature. Choosing quarreling and discord over and over leads only to more of the same”

“In today’s gospel, part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus holds up a mirror for us to look into—and the view is pretty dim.

“So Jesus says that we are to seek out opportunities for reconciliation– To walk the road of reconciliation rather than to avoid the other, or to hate the other, or to misuse our power to bend others to our will and desire.

“Being reconciled to one another draws us closer to God in love.
Reconciliation is a two way street. Both parties have to want to return to a life giving relationship.”

Today’s gospel come from the section called “the six antitheses” (5:21-48), so named from the repeated phrase “it was said…but I say.” Fundamentally, the antitheses are a statement about who Jesus is and what authority he bears (Matthew 7:28-29). They also illustrate how Jesus fulfills the law (5:17). He does not pit his teaching against the law, but against the rabbinic interpretations and traditions.

Jesus reveals the spirit of the law in a new standard of righteousness. These antitheses reach back past the Mosaic law to the original or “creation will” of God. This means that in some cases (murder, adultery, love of enemy) the law has been strengthened. As sermon says "The words of the law are no longer just in our heads, but also dwell in our hearts."

 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). "When our passions turn into hatred, we want to seek revenge and to conquer the people who are our enemies. But Jesus tells us, the disciples, that we are to love our enemies. " He doesn’t say we have to agree with our enemies, like them but we must love them –  deal with them in a civil manner and not destroy.

From the sermon -"Jesus used his own passions, not for anger, lust, or hatred, but to plant seeds of love in the people—by teaching, by healing, by loving his enemies, even when his enemies put him to death.

"And resurrection life is a life of reconciliation with one another, made possible by our desire to love God, to obey God and to hold fast to God, so that we can nurture and protect our relationships with one another, knowing and loving one another as fellow beloved human beings instead of objects to be possessed or vanquished,

We are God’s field, and God has sown the seeds of love."

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.

Challenging? Yes! Jesus knows that what he asks may be humanly impossible. But he also knows the power of his death and resurrection, which enable us to surpass our limitations.