Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

February 20, 2011: Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; Psalm 119:33-40; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11,16-23; Matthew 5:38-48

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18: “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God.

11 You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. 12 And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD. 13 You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.

14 You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling-block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. 15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.

16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD. 17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. “

Matthew 5:38-48: “You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany Comment: “You shall be holy.” What makes us holy?

The law given in Lev. 19:9-10 is the ‘food stamp’ program of its day. I think of the Biblical story of the two widows Naomi and Ruth and how this provision prevented their starvation. This law from in Lev. 19:9-10 is rationally appealing and even stirs positive emotions in us. But following this we are again confronted with the ‘thou shalt nots’.

In last week’s comment I stated that it is out of a perfect love and for our absolute good God says, “Thou shalt not.” I believe that with this mindset instead of resisting God’s commands we can rest in them. In that place of mental rest perhaps we can see that real life is about orderly relationship. In a world where evil is exhibited through political, economic and social systems resulting in physical and spiritual poverty, following the ‘thou shalt nots’ is the only way to restore harmony and balance in relationship with God, each other and our world.

Jesus still preaching his “Sermon on the Mount,” teaches what makes us holy. In its literal sense, holy means “separated from.” Through perfect love, we are separated from the old self-centered mindset that demands justice, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” We are called to a new command of ‘thou shalt’ love your neighbor as yourself, even at the sacrifice of personal comfort or gain. This love is so great we can turn the offended cheek to offer the cheek for the same ill treatment. We can gift wrap our best coat to give away and praise God in the process.

Let us continue to rejoice in the light of Epiphany,
Rev. Julia
©March 18, 2010

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