The light of life

2 March 2014
Last Sunday after Epiphany
Last Epiphany A (RCL)
Exodus 24:12-18
Psalm 2
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9

Dating the Second Letter of Peter is no easy task, but most scholars agree in placing the earliest possible date for the letter around the year 90. That’s around the time Matthew’s Gospel was written. I would be inclined to place its composition sometime after Matthew’s Gospel, since the author seems to cite the Gospel as authoritative. In any event, the author could not have been an eyewitness to the transfiguration.

In fact, it seems that the crisis precipitating the composition of the epistle is the death of the “first generation” Christians (among whom would have been any eyewitnesses), and the delay of the parousia. Continue reading “The light of life”

Be holy as I AM holy

23 February 2014
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 7A (RCL)
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
Psalm 119:33-40
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
Matthew 5:38-48

It’s been a busy week, so this will be a short post.

When we think of holiness (at least when I do) we tend to think of a religious and personal quality. Someone who prays all the time is holy. The passage from Leviticus challenges that conception of holiness. We are challenged to be holy as YHWH is holy, but then given instructions about not gleaning our field to the edge, but leaving gleanings for the poor, and not picking all our grapes, and leaving the windfall to the poor. We are instructed not to keep the wages of a laborer overnight, because otherwise, he might be able to feed his family this evening. We are not to be partial to the poor or the great. Holiness is not so much a quality of piety, but of our way of living in the world. And it is apparently a quality of the community: it is as much about justice and keeping the marginal from falling off the edge as anything.

Matthew seems to be familiar with Leviticus as he organizes his sermon on the mount Continue reading “Be holy as I AM holy”

Stricter righteousness?

16 February 2014
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 6A (RCL)
Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 119:1-8
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Matthew 5:21-37

“If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than for you whole body to go into hell.” As a CPE chaplain at the Massachusetts General Hospital, I visited patients in the rehab wing of the hospital. One of the patients was a young man whose right hand had been surgically reconstructed. He was maybe 16 years old. He had committed that most adolescent male unoriginal of sins, and then took this passage to heart. He had laid his right hand (the offending hand) on a railroad track in front of a passing freight. I wish I could remember what I said to him about this passage, or whether I had any real effect on him. I do remember that I made sure the psych department came to see him. Deep in my pastoral soul, I can’t believe this is what Matthew’s Jesus meant.

But if not that, then what? Continue reading “Stricter righteousness?”

A city on a hill

9 February 2014
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 5A (RCL)
Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 112
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
Matthew 5:13-20

I’m not a fan of dramatic liturgical reading. I prefer a moderate intonation; enough to keep my interest, but not to interpret the passage for me. However, at the Church I attended in Boston, there was an African-American woman, a school teacher, who served as a lector. Whenever she was given a reading from the prophets, she would read dramatically, voice rising and falling in beautiful cadence. One could just imagine the prophet’s thundering speech as she read. This passage from Isaiah begs for such a reading.

The situation is the return from Exile. The people Continue reading “A city on a hill”