Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Readings for February 20, 2011

A mid-February thaw that feels really nice. Perhaps this will reduce any chance of flooding in the area and along the Red River.

Our readings for this week:

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 – This selection begins with God telling Moses to tell all the people, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” As we will see in our Gospel lesson, Jesus uses and reinterprets this line in his teaching. What does it mean for you and I to be holy? Can we ever be as holy as God? This is followed with a series of instructions about living in relationship to all neighbors: don’t harvest all fruits and grains so the poor may have something, don’t steal, don’t deal falsely, don’t lie, don’t swear falsely, don’t defraud, don’t cheat the laborers, don’t revile the deaf, don’t cause the blind to stumble, don’t be unjust, don’t be partial, don’t slander, don’t profit by your neighbor’s blood, don’t hate your kin, and don’t take vengeance or bear a grudge to any of your people. (I left out a second injunction against stealing.) At the end of all these “don’t’s” we get our only “do” and it is the 2nd greatest commandment (according to Jesus), “Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” If you live by this last instruction you will never have to worry about violating all the others.

Psalm 119:33-40 – A second week with this long acrostic poem (see last week’s comments). In this section all the lines begin with the fifth letter of the Hebrew Alefbet (the first two letters: Alef and Beit) which is Hei. These verses call on God to teach the person speaking the Psalm to teach him or her the commandments, ordinances, and ways of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 – I read 10-15 in church this past week, accidentally in Grey Eagle and on purpose in Long Prairie. The foundation of Jesus Christ has been poured in Corinth and now the people need to honor the church that they have become. They should take care not to bring that church (temple in Paul’s word) down. They should not pursue human wisdom but seek to allow God’s wisdom to grow in them by becoming fools for Christ. Finally, it is not about which leader they follow (Paul, Appollos, Peter, or Gary); it is all about Christ to whom they belong.

Matthew 5:38-48 – We are still reading portions of the Sermon on the Mount and this week we have two more reinterpretations of the law. In Jesus’ words, “You have heard it said . . . but I say to you . . .” The first one is one of the most famous, but not in the formula but in what living out that interpretation looks like: turning the other cheek, giving the shirt with the coat, and walking a second mile. The law Jesus quotes, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, is all about stopping the escalation of violence. Jesus’ reinterpretation, “do not resist the evildoer”, is all about ending violence. The second one is similar: instead of loving neighbors (Leviticus above) and hating enemies Jesus says to love our enemies. In the past 10 years we have heard a lot about “evildoers” and “enemies” but have we lived up to Jesus’ standards for loving and not resisting? Some would say that Jesus was talking about personal relationships and not national actions. Why shouldn’t Jesus’ standards be applied to our nation?

I pray that the words of Jesus and all the writers of the Bible will lift you up in love.

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