Splinters, Logs, and Laws 4th Sunday After Epiphany, Year A

Matthew 7:1-6; Galatians 6:1-10

The Elves skip Matthew’s version of Jesus’ sarcastic comment about getting the log out of your own eye before suggesting your neighbor might have a sliver in his.  They cover this saying with Luke’s version on the 8th Sunday in Epiphany, Year C, and pair it with 1 Corinthians 15:51-58.  Of course, whether Christian liturgists and preachers read and deal with those passages depends upon having enough Sundays in Year C before Ash Wednesday.  Galatians 6:1-10 is paired in Proper 9, Year C with Luke’s version of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples as they were sent out into the countryside to announce his impending visit.  With the publication of The Authentic Letters of Paul and its revelatory contemporary translation, such traditional pairings of portions of Paul’s letters with snippets from the Gospel have become even less useful.…

Piety or Program? Third Sunday of Epiphany

Matthew 6

The scholars of the Westar Institute suggest that of the words attributed to Jesus by Matthew in this 6th chapter, only the following can be assumed to have likely been said by him at one time or another:

6:3:  When you give to charity, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

6:9-12:   Our Father, your name be revered.  Impose your imperial rule.  Provide us with the bread we need for the day.  Forgive our debts to the extent that we have forgiven those in debt to us.

6:24-30:  No one can be a slave to two masters . . . You can’t be enslaved to both God and a bank account!  That’s why I tell you: Don’t fret about your life   what you’re going to eat and drink   or about your body what you’re going to wear . . . won’t God care for you even more, you who don’t take anything for granted?

Tucson: 2nd Sunday in Epiphany

Matthew 5 (Luke 6:20); Luke 15:8-9; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, 3:18-21a

Congratulations, you poor!  God’s domain belongs to you.
Congratulations, you hungry!  You will have a feast.
Congratulations, you who weep now!  You will laugh.

If salt loses its zing, how will it be made salty?  It then has no further use than to be thrown out and stomped on.

A city sitting on top of a mountain can’t be concealed.

Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket but on a lampstand, where it sheds light for everyone in the house.

Don’t react violently against the one who is evil: when someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other as well.  When someone wants to sue you for our shirt, let that person have our coat along with it.  Further, when anyone conscripts you for one mile, go an extra mile.  Give to the one who begs from you.

Love your enemies.

These sayings, collected into one discourse by Matthew and very likely said by Jesus at some point, are the heart of Christianity – or should be.  Considered on their own, without Matthew’s interpretive additions, they are at once simple and radical.  What happens if they are lifted out of their 1st century context, and transplanted directly into the poisoned political environment that is the United States in 2011?…

Stones for Bread; Fishers of Men: Epiphany Sunday, Year A

Matthew 4; Deuteronomy 6:1-16; Isaiah 9:1-2; Romans 5:12-19

Immediately after his baptism by John, Matthew’s Jesus goes into the wilderness for a 40-day fast.  This action suggests monastic discernment of call into a community dedicated to the work.  Scholars generally agree that Jesus probably did spend some time among the Essenes or with the followers of John the Baptist.  However, there is controversy over whether, when, or why Jesus later left John’s apocalyptic message behind.

The Jesus Seminar scholars are of the opinion that Jesus’ understanding of time did not distinguish between present and future.  In other words, the present and the future were intertwined, or simultaneous in Jesus’ mind.  This kind of subtlety was lost on Jesus’ followers, “many of whom started as disciples of John the Baptist, and are represented in the gospels as understanding Jesus poorly” The Five Gospels p. 137.  The Apostle Paul, who was the first known interpreter of Jesus’ message, also was an apocalypticist.  Given this, and the confusion or inability to understand what Jesus was talking about when he announced the arrival of the Kingdom, it is no wonder that Christianity today, with its emphasis on life after death (not to mention the Rapture) is dismissed as irrelevant to post-modern realities.…