Epiphany 5A

204: February 5, 2017

49: February 9, 2014

Matthew 5:13-20 Salt of the earth

Initial Thoughts

  • Inseparable from the Beatitudes - would be good to put this reading in context
  • Expands on the call to discipleship

Bible Study

  • Following Jesus means living in contrast to the status quo of the world
  • Declarations:
    • You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.
    • No precondition
    • Salt cannot lose its saltiness nor can a light be put under a bushel without being snuffed out- perhaps this is a threat or perhaps this is, like the Beatitudes, stating the way the world is the poor are blessed, you are light light of the world.
  • Salt
    • To lose flavor,morainocan also mean to be made fools (Rob Myallis)
    • Think 1 Corinthians 1:20 and the last Beatitude - perhaps we are not meant to “preserve” the status quo like salt, but to be foolish for the sake of the Gospel
  • Lamp on a stand
    • The only person who “shines” in Matthew is Jesus during the transfiguration, perhaps indicating we can only shine when we allow the light of Christ to shine through us (Rob Myallis)
  • Law
    • Law is no longer the requirement to live in the Kingdom of Heaven
    • Those who do not follow the law will enter the Kingdom of Heaven
    • Some who follow the law will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven
  • Righteousness
    • True righteousness is not following the letter of the law, but the Spirit of the law
    • Not to abolish for the Kingdom of Heaven is rooted in the Law, but to fulfill is to interpret the law for contemporary practice ("You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times ... but I say to you."E. Powery, WorkingPreacher.com)

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Salt cannot lose its saltiness nor light its shine without devolving into something else. If we are to be disciples of Christ we either season the world with love and illuminate it with grace or we cease to be a disciple of Christ.
  • Salt is a preservative- Jesus is not interested in preserving but in sharing the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, perhaps we should lose our taste for the status quo and be scattered and trampled for the sake of the Gospel (“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you”). Jesus’ other commands - to be a city on a hill and a light to the world are about reaching out beyond oneself - like being scattered.
  • According to Psychological studied children need to hear 10 affirmations for every negative comment.
    • David Lose (workingpreacher.com)“Children, to put it another way, become what they are named. Call a child bad long enough, and he or she will believe you and act bad. Call a child (or teen or adult for that matter) worthless or unlovable or shameful, and eventually he or she -- all of us! -- will live into the name we've been assigned. In the same way, call us good or useful, dependable, helpful, or worthwhile, and we will grow into that identity and behavior as well.”

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 112:1-10 Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Isaiah 58:1-12 What kind of fast does God like?

Initial Thoughts

  • If you don’t use this now, file it away for Ash Wednesday. In fact, it along with the Joel text is an option for Ash Wednesday in the Revised Common Lectionary. The United Methodist Lectionary only offers Joel 2:1-2, 12-17.

  • Second week in a row where a rhetorical question about what God wants is asked.

Bible Study

  • Context
    • Deutero Isaiah, Post-exilic. Some would consider it Trito-Isaiah, describing the return from exile.
      • Some scholars call ch 56 the beginning of Third Isaiah. Brian Seitz, the author of the New Interpreter’s Bible on Isaiah 40-66 argues against Third
      • Isaiah.
      • Of course, we’ve talked about before how difficult clean divisions are in this. There was no single moment of exile, and the return from exile also came in waves.
      • V. 12 implies that this comes in the midst of devastation and ruins.
  • V. 1-5 God speaking about the people. God is responding to the people’s cries. God is listening, just not responsive.
    • “They act like a nation that acted righteously, that didn’t abandon their God.”
      • “You act like nothing happened, and think we can just move on.
      • From the Prophet Gloria: “And so you're back. From outer space.
        • I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face
        • I should have changed that stupid lock,
        • I should have made you leave your key
        • If I'd known for just one second you'd be back to bother me”
    • Real anger is reserved for verse 4 when God calls out violence of their actions toward each other while seeking mercy from God.
    • God sees through the ritual of fasting, prayer, self-affliction, putting on mourning clothes.
  • V. 6-9 God tells the people how to fast properly. Reminiscent of last week’s “I have told you, O Mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require?”
    • The Fast of God is:
      • Releasing wicked restraints
      • Untying the ropes of a yoke.
      • Setting free the mistreated.
      • Sharing bread with the hungry
      • Bringing the homeless into your house.
      • Covering the naked when you see them.
      • Not hiding from your own family.
    • “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and God will say, ‘I am here.’”
  • V. 10-12 Consequences of living justly
    • Your light will shine in the darkness
    • Your gloom will be like noon.
    • The Lord will guide you continually.
    • The Lord will provide, even in parched places.
    • God will rescue your bones.
    • You will be like a watered garden.
    • “They will rebuild ancient ruins on your account; the foundations of generations past you will restore You will be called Mender of Broken Walls, Restorer of Livable Streets.”

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • “Why do we fast and you don’t see; why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?” This is the question posed by the people. Here, God’s punishment is simply ignoring them. Sometimes, being ignored is the worst kind of punishment. “Silent Treatment” is often seen as a childish response, but ignoring someone is a cruel way to treat them.
    • Remember as a kid when you wanted Mom to look as you did something ‘remarkable,’ but she was on the phone or paying bills, or doing dishes, and she said, “Yeah, I see,” but you knew she didn’t really see. That was so frustrating.
    • Here, the people feel like they are doing something remarkable. They are fasting. They are praying. They are sincere in trying to get God to notice, but God’s response is silence. So the question remains, “Why the silence?” God provides the answer.
    • “The scriptures are clear on the point that people who are anxious to raise holy hands but slow to extend a helping hand to their neighbors in need will not enjoy God’s favor. Many church worship bulletins have a double heading that appears on opposite sides of the page; enter to worship – depart to serve. Isaiah 58 is a warning against allowing those two tasks to be separated. We do not enter to worship as an end in itself. Instead, our worship should equip us, and empower us, and convince us of the service we must offer in pursuit of a just and equitable society.” (Marvin McMickle, African American Lectionary)

 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 - Wisdom

Bible Study

  • Human wisdom vs power of the Spirit
    • Two thoughts:
      1. weakness, fear and trembling is the appropriate demeanor of a Cross-shaped ministry (J.R. Daniel Kirk), it allows the Spirit of God to break through
      2. It is not Paul’s great preaching (he is weak and fearful) so if you came to faith by his preaching- it wasn’t his wisdom- it was the Holy Spirit
        • in other words- since he clearly isn’t fearful/trembling/weak, the Spirit must has worked through him
    • Faith is a gift of the spirit
      • not the result of good rhetoric or a well reasoned philosophy
      • Preachers can promote or inhibit the work of the Spirit
  • Response to the divisions within the church
    • instead of focusing on the divides and the actions of the different sects, Paul focuses on God’s work in all of them which is the foundation and overshadows their differences
  • Anti-intellectual?
    • No - use your brain, but don’t lose your faith
    • Allow God to work through your intellect- as a tool for the Spirit
  • Vulnerability
    • Does the Christian message require us to be vulnerable?
    • We live in a culture that abhors vulnerability
    • How might we learn to embrace weakness, fear and trembling?
  • vv.6-16 - Two kinds of Wisdom
    • Wisdom of God
    • Wisdom of the World
    • “In fact, throughout 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 Paul places God's wisdom and the world's wisdom in sharpest antithesis. The special wisdom to which Paul claims access (a) is God's wisdom, that (b) leads God's people to glory, and (c) is knowable only by the Spirit. This stands in stark contrast (a) to the world's and the world's leaders' wisdom, that (b) is the product of people doomed for destruction, and (c) lacks the sight to apprehend the saving wisdom of God. The cross is at the center of this dichotomy. The rulers of this age put their worldly "wisdom" on display when they crucified "the Lord of glory" (2:8).”(J.R. Daniel Kirk)
    • v.9 citation- unclear where it comes from...maybe a lost Greek trans of Isaiah 64:4

Preaching Thoughts and Questions:

  • In preaching do we come like experts or do we come only with Jesus Christ crucified? Are we inviting people into the conversation and relationship with Christ? Are we trying to “sell them on Christ”? Are we honest about a Christ crucified?
  • God has prepared something for us that we cannot comprehend. This is often interpreted to mean heaven- perhaps it means torture and death on a cross. Isn’t that equally incomprehensible?
  • Do we celebrate worldly wisdom (budgets, attendance numbers, resolutions) or Christ crucified?
  • Do we invite people to be happy, meet people, find good programming or be crucified?

Thank you listeners and get in touch!

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas(“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and The Steel Wheels for our transition music(“Nola’s First Dance” from their album Lay Down, Lay Low) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).