Posted on Sun, Feb 16, 2014
February 16, 2014
6th Sunday in Epiphany
Concerning Anger Matthew 5:21-37 – “Go to the Source”
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.” 22 But 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. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come 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. 26 Truly 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.” 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If 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. 30 And 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.” 32 But 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.” 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or 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. 37 Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
Today’s Gospel lesson just seems to cut everything into black and white, and we are all convicted! That is its purpose.
The season of Light, Epiphany, is the season where the light and goodness of God shines so that our darkness can be exposed and “disposed” off. Within the ‘Light of Christ’ we should be able make good decisions in such a relativistic world.
We are faced with making decisions everyday. And we often wrestle if we will have enough time or the “life wisdom” to make the proper decisions. As we grow older, if we open ourselves to faith, we will grow in wisdom, but that doesn’t make some of our decisions any easier. We also cannot know the outcome of the decisions we make at the time we actually make our decisions, and this may cause consternation or even despair. All we can do is PRAY FOR THE GIFT OF DISCERNMENT and that we have been able to see and hear God through the faith God has given us. Then, the best we can do, is make a leap of faith, and decide.
[Moses said to the people:] 15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 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, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. (Deuteronomy 30:15-16)
God says, “I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.”
Moses lays it out very clearly, before us, God has given us two choices, According to Moses’ thinking, there is no going on the same path, there are always decisions to make, there is always a ‘T’ intersection, going straight is not an option.
He was talking to the people of Israel just as they were finally about to enter into Canaan without him, and whether they were going to follow God and the Commandments as they have witnessed God being faithful to them all through their journey through the wilderness, or not. God promised them the land and all of it’s bounty, the question is whether they will make the promise to follow God or not… their track record in following God’s guidance through the scriptures indicates that they have not always been so good at making good decisions to follow or not…
The story is complex and sometimes very confusing, let’s be honest, the choice is not as easy as just entering a land filled with milk and honey, Safeways, and Whole Foods; God is giving them a land that is already inhabited with tons of their enemies. Their enemies might not be happy about “God’s Plan.” To really ‘Follow God’ never means the journey will be easy, but it is a journey that will require faith… and as we follow God, our faith and strength will grow.
But on a personal level, for some of us, each and everyday we face a world with many “toils and snares” and each day we must make some very difficult decisions. Moses’ message to his people, is also for us today.
But the central message of the Old Testament WE MUST REMEMBER is that the people of Israel, for the past 40 years or more, have already EXPERIENCED, God’s faithfulness all through their journey in the wilderness. They have already been through many toils and snares, but God has never left them!
So, the message for today is not just about the sin of holding grudges, anger, divorce and the like. The message is about God’s faithfulness to God’s people and the truth that God will be with you even in the most difficult of human experiences. The issue is and always was, will we listen and follow the source of all our hope and life? … Because our Savior is not going anywhere!
Which means, we begin this convicting “Gospel” from the point of view of ABUNDANCE OF MERCY AND GRACE, not fear and dread!
In the Gospel text, Jesus is preaching law and talking about the results of our choices in a very graphic way. In fact, Jesus is preaching the law more strictly than any priest in the temple. He is turning up the volume on the severity of the law that Moses only eludes too. He is amplifying the law so that we can see how lost we truly are without God. The purpose of Jesus’ teaching is to force us all to pray to understand that no matter what, ‘as broken human beings,’ each and everyone of us are convicted of going against the Will and Law of God. We are forced to wonder in our lost humanness, “Unto Whom Shall We Go?”
And the answer is always, The Cross of Jesus.
Concerning “Anger:” Jesus is telling us that before we have the audacity to arrive in God’s House to offer our prayers and worship, we better make sure all our relationships with brothers and sister, friends and family are in order. How can you ask God to forgive us our sins if we need to forgive or be forgiven by a brother or sister? Through the Cross of Christ GOD HAS FIRST FOGIVEN YOU! You need to humble yourself and use the Promise of your own forgiveness to reconcile your relationships with those you have hurt or have hurt you.
Concerning “Adultery and divorce” Jesus is standing with women, and helping us reconcile ALL of our relationships. In those days, women, children and dogs oftentimes were given the same value before the male in the house… A marriage ceremony was little more than the public announcement that the head of one clan or tribe, had agreed to give some of his wealth, like his daughter, to the head of another clan or tribe, and there was always a price... However, if the wife was not found to be “suitable” to the man, all he needed to do was write a deed announcing that he was “letting her go,” and that she was no longer a part of his house… This would leave her without a family to protect her, or any source of subsistence. The Creation story tells us that God created woman not above or below a man, but the two shall work as one body. Jesus, as usual, is standing up for the rights of women, and the joy of being blessed with a helper, and that means family.
We have choices to make, and sometimes we make the wrong choices. There is not a person in this church, or anywhere else that has always made the right choices! Everyone in this church knows the pain of making the wrong choices. Many of us also know the pain when we or someone else, has made the wrong choice and that choice has turned life upside down. There are very good reasons why we have Stephen Ministers who care for those who just need to know that according to God, they are important.
We can choose life or death, we can choose to forgive or hold back forgiveness, we can choose to cherish relationships or abuse them, we can choose to take care of ourselves or not… we can choose to take care of our environment or not. We can choose to prepare for the future or not… but it only requires a tiny, mustard seed size bit of discernment that if we do not choose according to God’s Truth, Wisdom, Light, Love, Mercy, Forgiveness and Guiding, the results may not be that pleasant.
The point of the lesson however, is all through this journey, you need to know that whatever decisions we make, which ever path we choose to travel, we are the object of God’s love and One who promises to be with us forever.
When we wake up in the morning and realize we have a difficult day ahead, Go to the source of our faith, and hear God’s words of steadfast love, be at peace and follow.
“And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
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