Introduction to the readings for the seventh Sunday in the season of Epiphany, February 19, 2017.
Our first reading this morning comes to us from the book of Leviticus originally composed for the community’s religious leaders. We could think of it as kind of ‘how to' manual for living out God’s law in corporate relationship or we might say ‘in community’. Listen to how these very specific rules for respectful relationship might help our ancient forebears keep their focus on God’s presence within and between members of the exiled community. In the same way, how might such clarity around relationship in community help us to do the same here and now?
Reading from the Hebrew Bible, a selection of verses from the book of Leviticus, Chapter 19 “Living the holy life”
The reading is introduced with verses 1-2
“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”
Continuing on with verses 9-18:
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest.”
You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.
You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another.
And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.
You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.
You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
Here ends our first reading this morning from the ancient texts.
As we anticipate picking up with Jesus’ sermon on the mount and his re-interpretation of what it means to live the holy life, let us stand and sing together from VU#702 “When a Poor One.”
In our gospel reading this morning, we come upon Jesus as he continues teaching all who have ears to listen gathered together on the mountainside, the deaf, the lame, the demoniacs, the hungry, the lonely, the shamed, and the lost, ones long used to living on the edge of community. Once again, Jesus offers a provocative understanding of the living out of God’s goal for humanity with these ones as his first followers. Listen with care to what resonates for you in this passage, for what seems understandable, and what seems impossible or even unwise.
Reading from the gospel according to the author of Matthew, Chapter 5, verses 38-48 “Turn the other cheek, give your cloak”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.
But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;
And if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;
And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.
Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?
Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Thanks be to God