Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 12, 2023
First Reading: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Gospel: Matthew 5:21-37
O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O God, The Strength of All Who Put Their Trust in You
In our first reading of Deuteronomy, God is telling the Hebrew people that Here, I have set before you, life and prosperity, death, and adversity, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments. Then you will have life and your God will bless you in this land.
The whole point of these laws for humanity that God lays out in the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, is that, we can choose life and the way to live now.
Deuteronomy is not talking about everlasting life as we are taught in the New Testament, but it was about right now, here, with each other.
God wants to give us life and the best way to do that is, to follow His commandments. He says, “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God.”
In the Gospel of (Matthew 5:21-37) A couple of weeks ago we had the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, was giving us a list of how to live our lives in a positive way, that would benefit everyone.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Today’s scripture, can be terrifying, instead of reading a list of things that can help us choose life together, we read a list of different ways that can feel like, we can get kicked out of God’s family. I am sure every preacher hesitates in doing a sermon that deals with divorce or adultery and plucking eyes out, cutting off hands. Reminds me of some of the crime dramas we watch. 😊
In Matthew, Jesus is talking to the Jewish people that have become Christians. Jesus did not put aside the Laws, but has come to explain them. He quotes the Law and then comments on them. He quotes the commandment on murder, the commandment on adultery, the commandment of bearing witness.
It is not good enough that one does not bear false witness, just when under oath, but always a person’s word must be truthful so that no oath is ever necessary.
In Jesus, teaching, he does want his followers to expand their knowledge and not only observe the laws, but expand on them in their lives, and inwardly (what is in their hearts) as well as outward observance.
We are called as Christians to grow according to the teachings of Christ. As Paul put it in the Epistle reading, God gave the growth, “The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
Living a life in Christ, walking in love with Christ, but also let your heart be in Christ.
Our calling is to be transformed daily in the way we live inwardly and outwardly in order to show the world that we can live together.
We can make peace with our brothers and sisters if we wronged them. We can forgive those who have wronged us. Sometimes we think it is not possible to reconcile with each other when there is so much pain that stands in our way. We believe in the risen Christ who not only suffers with us in the darkest of places but leads us out of darkness into light.
We can go to the Altar and give knowing we are living as we have been taught through the old prophets and through the teaching of Jesus Christ.
We are marked and transformed a little at a time by the grace of God. And above all, we have been shown a way of living, through the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Ten Commandments, and it was made possible only through the Grace of God, who loves us, who has redeemed us from sin and who has made us Holy.
The Reverend Lola Culbreath