The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany; Year A (2/9/2014)

Texts:Isaiah 58:1-9a [9b-12] Psalm 112:1-9 [10] (4) 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 [13-16] St. Matthew 5:13-20

Prayer of the Day: Lord God, with endless mercy you receive the prayers of all who call upon you.  By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do, and give us the grace and power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

5:13 [Jesus said,] “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

St. Matthew 5:13-20, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Let Your Light So Shine

This past Sunday we prayed the Prayer of the Day together as we always do. It was the prayer appointed for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany by our lectionary. This prayer is a helpful introduction to the Sermon on the Mount (an address attributed to Jesus by St. Matthew that is recorded in chapters 5-7). I encourage you to pray it each day this week, as we make ourselves ready for this coming Sunday’s worship, and the chance to reflect on the second section of Jesus’ most famous sermon:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart. Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace, that in our words and deeds the world may see the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

As the prayer indicates, The Sermon on the Mount “confounds the world’s wisdom.” Beginning with the Beatitudes, it upends much that we have come to believe and practice based on the wisdom of this world. Jesus teaches us that deep blessing from God touches people in the most difficult times of their lives, and that the ideals our culture calls us to embrace are not always the ideals that our faith calls us to embrace.

Much of the Sermon on the Mount has to do with what we, as Christians, “should do.” This week we hear that we should be like salt and that we should let our light shine. As Jesus continues this theme throughout the sermon, he emphasizes the importance of making sure that we live within a certain ethical framework. “Our righteousness” Jesus says, must, “exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees” — some of the most faithful and diligent (albeit misguided) believers in the first century.

Yet this is not piety for piety’s sake. It is implied throughout the sermon, and made explicit here, that our our ethical commitment is a witness to the world of our God and our faith. As the prayer says: “in our words and deeds… [the] world may see the life of your Son.” By not treating a sibling with anger, by reconciling with a friend before placing our offering at the altar, by honoring marriage vows, by not using oaths, by loving enemies and praying for those who persecute us, we distinguish ourselves from the culture in which we live, and make known the Lord of our lives. We indicate that we march to the beat of a different drum. We let our light shine, and by doing so, provide others with a glimpse of what it means to live with Christ at the center of our lives.

After all, no one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house, right? Let your light so shine, before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What was surprising about Jesus and his message to the first-century faithful?
  2. What must his disciples be thinking, as they gather around him that day?
  3. How do their lives “shine light” on their faith and their God?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Where do the movements of my culture contrast with the movements of my faith?
  2. How would I describe the life I believe God is calling me to live?
  3. How might that be a witness to someone who doesn’t yet know Christ?