TO THOSE persons seeking discussion for Sundays coming forth in the lectionary, we offer a listing according to the three-year calendar.
On the right-hand column of this page, please find the past corresponding year for lectionary years A, B, or C.
And then search the appropriate month in each for a discussion concerning the gospel reading.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wanted - Dead and Alive!

AS PEOPLE of God made saints in the kingdom through our baptism, today we read that which was taught to the early Church. We delve wonderfully into the Sermon on the Mount as told in the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. In this commonly quoted reading, we hope to discern what was specific to Matthew’s faith community… so that we may carry from the text a few messages for our own time…

 Seeing the crowds, he (Jesus) went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him.
 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 
 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. 
                                                                                            (Matthew 5:1-12)

Antioch and Burbs
We study a well-known biblical text from Matthew today. Many in a needlepoint club have sewn these words colorfully so that they decorate the walls of homes. The Sermon on the Mount, likely having common source to the Sermon on the Plain as found in Luke's gospel, magnificently delivered reality and Christian prophecy to listeners. Recorded here by the gospel and preserved by their community, the text delivered eternal truth to our Lord’s growing Church. For those who seek a comparative study of Luke and comments related to that gospel (Luke 6:12,20-23), please know that the study of that text in Luke may be found in last year’s study. Here today, however, we concentrate on that message specifically spoken to Matthew’s community. For example, in comparing the two readings, we note a difference immediately in the first blessing. We find that the witness of Matthew contains the words, “in spirit”; where Luke did not use these. Since we do not have the source text and do not know which is the original, we can only theorize, We first ask ourselves, “Was Matthew addressing Jewish Christians who felt shaky about breaking away from the large, established and moneyed synagogue?” Along the same path, "Was it that Matthew may not have wanted to offend wealthier members of the community adherents, knowing that financial resources were to be needed for future ministries?" In our own day, how many leaders of a modern church community soft-pedal a particular issue based on societal influences?

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 I consider that this same softness may be present here in Matthew, due to the influence of stronger Pharisaic forces that afflicted the Antioch-centered church. This soft perspective may indeed have been true since the gospel from Antioch in Syria displays more Jewish historical connections, such as exhibited by its first chapter.., for the introduction includes the genealogy of Jesus.
 Therefore a rather Pharisaic “Follow the Money” mentality of retaining power may have been a philosophy put to work in the comfortable parent synagogue. It could be that Matthew tempered the issue a bit... and told only of our Lord’s comforting those who are the "poor in spirit", rather than blanket stating them as the "poor". Also, consider that a heavy spiritual burden likely did exist. My opinion is based on the fact that Matthew remained tied to matters spiritual as the second blessing is pronounced. We note a differing of subject order in listing those who are “blessed”. Where Luke addressed hunger, Matthew next listed mourning. I ask therefore, "Was this next subject given higher precedence as Matthew's community went through great spiritual torment and spiritual mourning? Did this mourning for the familiar result deliberately or incidentally in the reordering of the original "Q" sayings source document, subsequently forming a differing sequence from the Lukan witness? Was Matthew ministering to those persons fevered by their recent separation from the main synagogue?"
 As these blessings progress in the reading, we realize a repeated bent away from the earthly... focusing rather on the spiritual. Matthew seemingly favored an expression of spiritual strengthening. Rather than just physical hunger, a spiritual hungering for righteousness is found. This stress toward the spiritual portion of personhood, leaves the Hebraic thought patterns, promoting the Greek dividing of individuals into the three-facet body, mind and spirit view. Subsequently, rather than further mention of the poor, as in Luke.., Matthew stated those who were pure in heart. Finally, those who were scorched in spirit by the ashes of peacemaking efforts in the synagogue were encouraged.


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By Jonathan Cahn


Finally and Eternally…
Lastly, we see a shift in the emphasis from what was present at the time of the Matthean writing, to that which was to come. Matthew echoed our Lord’s prophetic words, and thus highlighted the present and prospective growing persecutions that lay ahead for his Christian community. Consequently Matthew was  prophetic, and he invited the people of God into the prophetic task. Herein we have great agreement with Luke's account, as found with his timeless pronouncement of the final blessed outcome. The result was that from the latter decades of the first century came the words… “great is your reward in heaven.”
 We need pay special attention here to this final similarity in the gospel accounts, for the prophecy that was present back then... still applies to us. We live in a very active and interactive world. Even while the Internet carries this lesson which you now read, we see a modern fact unfolding. That which is spiritual quickly affects and reforms that which is temporal. Our spiritual faith that provides us with the salvation message by the Spirit, through Jesus Christ, given to us by God through grace and expressed in the world… first reforms us, takes root in us, and very fast becomes challenged by the Satanic.

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  However, the gospel message strengthens us as we speak and learn. We modern Christians who continue to encounter the mayhem of this world’s values, shall surely see tensions rise and fall. Consequently, during the earthquakes of demonic power struggles, by the power of the Holy Spirit those who deem themselves as rich or poor, earthy or spiritual, urban or diasporadic, though we may be seen as a large or small in faith community… find certainty and agreement through Holy Scripture rightly interpreted. In this finality we are kept certain.
  Indeed! Baptized Christians who take up the cross and the task of evangelical pursuit shall certainly be oppressed by doing so… as told by both Matthew and Luke. But, just as we were promised.., that which we do today shall not go into poverty tomorrow. Blessed are the poor in spirit who are wrongly impoverished by this world’s greed, and blessed are the poor in spirit who wait for the advent of God’s kingdom. We shall find that GREAT is the reward! So it is written, and so it shall be.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Slave or Servant?

FOR REFORMATION SUNDAY we find that our reading comes from the Gospel According to Saint John. In the lesson for this day, we see that the scripture reveals us as persons who are often enslaved by our own religiosities. These are ritual things that we must put in their proper places.
 From John we read…

Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 
 They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, 'You will be made free'?" 
 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 
                                                                                                          (John 8:31-36)

Challenging Human Authority!
Our gospel writer tells of a terse conversation held in the temple of Jerusalem. During the time of the confrontation, people had gathered for the feast of Tabernacles and Jesus taught the crowds with authority. However, it was his teaching with authority that brought him in conflict with some persons who claimed religious leadership. These leaders had grown vested interests within the political realms of the temple, and harbored hopes of not attracting too much attention from the Roman government. They listened to Jesus closely. For them, great trouble was seen on the horizon. The leaders had previously dealt with the unrest caused by his teachings. At that time, they claimed that he was not in his right mind. Together, they claimed that Jesus was insanely beside himself. They asked trying to trap him, by what authority he taught the people. He answered…

I have much to say about you and much to judge; but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him." 
 They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him." 
                                                                                                    (John 8:26-29)

Therefore with this answer spoken, those with vested interests in the temple's culture and offerings feared losing authoritative control. Tensions grew amid the temple leadership. These bubbled in a pot of political intrigue.
 You see, the leaders who thought themselves in control, reacted adversely. Normally considered as adversaries among themselves on any theological or political bent, many Jewish leaders turned to plot together for dealing with our Lord. Some began by claiming that Jesus words challenged their traditional heritage. Having much meat invested in the temple’s financial stew, opponents knew that revenues made from various sin offerings were being threatened. Jesus’ bold words shook their moneyed foundations. Jesus challenged dubious sacrificial motives and methods before witnesses. Subsequently, years before the Gospel According to Saint John was written, St Paul, who was a Jew himself, wrote…

 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all; for I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive.”
                                                                                                        (Romans 3:9-13)

 Indeed, Paul stressed that all people are under the penalty of the Law. Each of us fails again and again to live up to the standards of God’s commands. What is worse for us, Luther later echoed rightly that we as sinners cannot see clearly enough to even find our way into God’s presence. We often find ourselves trying to justify ourselves to God through our sacrificial offerings made, and thus we fall prey to harmful cultic practices.

 To clarify our path, we need think of this! As sinners needing redemption in order to be reconciled with our Creator, we must ask ourselves , “What can we give to God, that God needs?” Nothing! What can we give that does not already belong to God? Again.., nothing. Because of this, Luther wrote that we are not really free, but are enslaved in this sinful, downward cycle, unable to hold anything up great enough to offer for our salvation. In this condition we too often fall prey to false religions.
 You see, as sinful humans we are blind and lost. We wrongly place our faith in our own ability to “work” our way into God’s heavenly graces. We give offerings and seek indulgences in temples and churches to justify ourselves. But by doing so, the very act of trying to claim justification by any of our works or deeds simply deepens our error. Our efforts worsen our sinful condition because we insult the majesty of God, since we believe him swayed by these paltry, worldly offerings. Jesus thus warned those Jews who followed him. We cannot earn our way to heaven.
 But, even as our Lord spoke, many were falling away from him because of the challenges of temple authorities. He called these persons to task in the temple courtyard.… speaking to those who had once claimed to be disciples. Likely they wondered, "How then can our sin be paid for...? They wilted in the blast of convicted sin even as he spoke. How is our sinful soul to be scoured brightly unto heavenly glory? Jesus answered those that stayed true. Remember the conversation spoken just before our Lord's crucifixion...

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”  (John 14:5-6)

 According to the witness of this gospel, it is clearly said that we are saved by God’s grace alone, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone. If anyone cannot accept this, they buy a ride on a Satanic mule… going down a path that travels to devastation.
 Be not deceived by anyone! Jesus is God’s only begotten Son. He paid the sin offering for us. He was the sacrificial Lamb of God who went to the cross to save us. He made the perfect sacrifice. Do not turn away... his payment in our stead sets us free!

Faith Gives Freedom…
Through faith in Jesus... his teaching, his works... his death and Resurrection... this alternative offered to us frees us unto eternal life. As Luther wrote through the Spirit’s witness, Jesus provided us with the opportunity to be gently ridden by our proper Master. If we accept the words and deeds of Jesus and claim no deeds of our own… we are forgiven our sin even as we confess.
  Certainly, through the Spirit we are provided with faith as a gift. If you want to have faith in Christ, just ask for it! If you've already asked for it, it is granted. If you worship and walk in that faith you are given in Christ, your faith shall grow. Therefore we find by that faith given to us, and not through any deeds of our own... we are justified through Christ. We can stand in awe before our blessed Creator. Believing in the salvation provided by Jesus crucifixion and his Resurrection, we can clearly see we are made free to serve God in Christ without ultimate burden… a blessed exchange indeed!
 Once we've accepted this free gift of salvation, we can be provided with the power to properly serve God. As sinners, without fearing condemnation under the Law, we can move rightfully forward in ministry. Clinging to this Truth, we can be reformed into right ministry for the Church. We can contend with evil powers working in this world. From this holy place of faith, we can challenge false authorities in both Church and state.

 How is this task done? Simply point beyond ourselves to that which is clearly written in scripture! We may show through the witness of the Word, our lives and the love of Jesus poured out, that indeed persons are only justified by grace alone, by faith alone, through Christ alone. I ask that we join together and allow ourselves to be reformed again… as a people firmly established in the kingdom by the grace of God.
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Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life!