Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   33 comments

Above:  Moses (Russian Orthodox Icon)

Repeating the Commandment to Obey God

FEBRUARY 16, 2014

FEBRUARY 12, 2017

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Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 15:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

If you choose, you can keep the commandments,

to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.

He has placed before you fire and water;

stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.

Before each person are life and death,

and whichever one chooses will be given.

For great is the wisdom of the Lord;

he is mighty in power and sees everything;

his eyes are on those who fear him,

and he knows every human action.

He has not commanded anyone to be wicked,

and has not given anyone permission to sin.

OR

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses said to all Israel the words which the Lord commanded him,

See, I have set before you today 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, 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. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

THEN

Psalm 119:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Happy are those whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD.

Happy are those who keep his decrees,

who seek him with their whole heart,

who also do no wrong,

but walk in his ways.

You have commanded your precepts

to be kept diligently.

O that my ways may be steadfast

in keeping your statutes!

Then I shall not be put to shame,

having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

I will praise you with an upright heart,

when I learn your righteous ordinances.

I will observe your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

THEN

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says,

I belong to Paul,

and another,

I belong to Apollos,

are you not merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

THEN

Matthew 5:21-37 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.” 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. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 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. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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. 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.

It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” 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.

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.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

The Collect:

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.

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The readings for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, continue a thread running though those for the Fourth and Fifth Sundays.  Repetition has certain advantages, such as emphasizing the importance of a topic.  Also, some people do not pay attention easily, and this practice increases the possibility of reaching them.

Everything I have written with regard to the previous two Sundays applies here.  With that out of the way, I provide other remarks.

The laws of God, as recorded in the Bible, come with two elements:  the letter and the spirit.  The letter of the law depends on the time, place, and cultural conditions of the time the law originated.  Thus the letter of the law can become irrelevant.  Consider the Law of Moses.  When was the last time any of you removed the blended garments from your closet? (Leviticus 19:19)

The spirit of the law, however, animates the letter thereof.  What was the reason for the admonition against wearing blends?  It related to the principle of keeping unlike things separate, of being holy.  Think of this as kosher clothing.  Sometimes the spirit of the law remains.  I do not keep kosher, in food or clothing, because I am Christian.  I make no such distinctions; all things are ritually clean for me.

Some of the commandments Jesus mentioned and handed down depended on culture, also.  Yet their spirit transcends their letter.  We humans have received mandates not to objectify or exploit each other, and not to seek creative ways to skirt timeless spirits of the law while seeming to live by the letter thereof.  In making these points, the text from Matthew engages in hyperbole, for eyes and limbs do not cause sin.  Jesus did not advocate self-mutilation, although history says that Origen (c.185-c.254), the influential theologian probably took the text literally and castrated himself.  If this story is true Origen missed the point; he should have contented himself with turning away from sin.  A cold bath or shower would have been a better idea than the option he chose.

May we love one another actively.  This principle summarizes righteousness in a social context.

KRT

Written on June 16, 2010

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33 responses to “Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

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