January 7, 2014

Genesis 18-19; Matthew 6:1-18

God has a sense of humor.  After Sarah laughed to herself when she heard God (she probably did not know it was God) say that she will have a son (18:12), when the son is eventually born, he’ll be named Isaac, which means ‘he laughs’ or ‘laughter.’  It’s worth noticing that when God visits Abraham and Sarah, three people arrive together.   God is a Community.

The sin of Sodom lies especially in their extreme lack of hospitality, which they show by trying to abuse the men (angels?) staying with Lot, Abraham’s nephew.  Here is what Ezekiel says about Sodom’s sin: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.  They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it” (Ezekiel 16:49-50).  This text is also, however, a text of terror (Phyllis Trible’s term) for women: in order to protect the two men/angels to whom he had offered hospitality, Lot offered to give his daughters to the violent mob.

 

Here are some more difficult passages from the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus is calling us to a different kind of life, a life where one turns the other cheek, and loves and prays for one’s enemies.  Jesus also warns us about being “religious” just to impress others.  Faith is a matter of the heart, and we do not need to flaunt our faith in God before others.  That does not mean, of course, that we need to hide our faith.  We can share it, but simply, honestly, and without putting ourselves above others.

In 6:7-15, Jesus teaches the people what we now call the Lord’s Prayer.  It really is a model for prayer.  We begin with praising God, and asking that God’s kingdom come on earth as it already is in heaven.  We ask God for our bread for today, and we ask for forgiveness (the prayer assumes that we are also forgiving others!).  Finally, we pray that God saves us from the time of trial and evil.

Do you fast?  Jesus seems to assume that we do: “Whenever you fast…”  Fasting is going for a time without food, and spending extra time in prayer.  I need to fast more regularly.  How about you?

In the face of our everyday worries about the economy and our financial lives, Jesus has a word to say to us: Do not worry.  Do not let money be your treasure.  Strive first and foremost for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.  Do not worry about tomorrow.  Live today for others.

More of Christ’s vision for our lives: do not be judgmental; lift up your concerns to God in prayer; follow the Golden Rule.

 

Jesus clears the Temple in all 4 gospels, but it only appears in the lectionary once – John 2:13-22. Stirring up trouble is not encouraged.  This is troubling.  It’s a major chapter in Jesus’ ministry, and deserves to be heard more often.  Why don’t we have Clearing the Moneychangers Sunday each year?

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