Bryan Jaster, Winchester, VA
What’s something that has happened in your life that has made you feel afraid or uncertain?
Love is Greater
The end of January has been pretty intense for the United States and likely for neighbors around the world. The transition from one president to another is normally a time of leadership upheaval and of fulfilling promises made during presidential candidacies. In addition, at this time high levels uncertainty, fear, and anxiety have taken root for many. Relationships with our neighbors in Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Mexico, and other communities around the country are stretched and strained. Tension is high in the Congress.
A recent executive order fulfilled the promise our new president made when he said, “We’re going to build a wall.” This new wall is designed to keep America separate from Mexico so that fewer people come into America. Regardless of whether this will be an effective strategy to stem immigration, building the wall would keep people apart. See http://www.npr.org/2017/01/25/511619026/donald-trumps-moving-forward-with-his-wall-is-it-really-going-to-happen) for the story. The president’s press secretary reported that Mexico will be forced to pay for this wall.
Many scientists are feeling the weight of fear and uncertainty. Recently employees of the EPA and departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and the Interior have received notices to remove web pages and limit communication to the public. See (http://www.businessinsider.com/nasa-scientists-are-launch-rogue-twitter-account-to-defy-trump-2017-1). These scientists and government employees have been ordered to post only public safety information and to avoid anything that might influence political or national policy.
In response, many of these agencies have setup “rogue” Twitter accounts where anonymous government employees or scientists post to respond to censorship. They provide a space where scientific facts about climate change, information about swearing-in day attendance, immigration stories, and civil rights advocacy can be shared. Persons post anonymously for fear of being disciplined or fired.
- Have you ever been a leader of a group, a sports team, or a school assignment? What made leading difficult? What did you learn from it?
- Why would being the president of the US be difficult? Would you want to be president?
- Do you agree with the orders recently made? Why or why not?
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
Matthew’s Jesus says you are given the fires of hell for being angry with someone?…that you should rip out your right eye and throw it away if it offends?…or cut off your right hand if it causes you to sin?
What? Jesus, are you serious? Jesus was all about cuddling sheep and blessing children, right?
Let’s take another look at this story.
There are four sayings in our reading and each one refers to another biblical story. Four times Jesus says, “You have heard it was said…” The stories referenced are from the Ten Commandments in Exodus. See Exodus 20: 13, 14 and 7 to see what commands Jesus is talking about. When Jesus talks about divorce he quotes from Deuteronomy 24:1-4.
These commands to which Jesus refers are central to what is often called “the Law of Moses”. The Law is designed to keep good order and relationships between people in the world. The prohibitions against murder, adultery (having sexual relations with someone you are not married to), and swearing falsely are given to ensure the health of relationships, as was the demand that a certificate of divorce be provided.
Back now to the fires of hell and the ripping and cutting off of body parts….Scholars think that rather than being interested in people becoming physically maimed, Jesus is caring deeply and passionately about our relationships. Jesus uses hyperbole to emphasize that God loves us so much that God cares about how we treat each other. God’s love is greater than our anger, our lust, our fractured marriages, and the words we use to hurt.
Think about murder. Jesus wants more than the killing to stop. He wants us to treat one another as God’s beloved and to not speak hate.
Think about adultery. Avoiding the physical, sexual act isn’t enough. We also do not make other people objects by lusting after them.
Think about divorce. People aren’t like trash to be discarded with a certificate; instead we provide for and protect the most innocent and vulnerable.
Think about swearing falsely or lying. Jesus urges us always to speak and act truthfully so that we don’t need to make oaths at all.
Jesus says these things because God’s love for us is greater than all the things that might rip us apart.
- Why do you think Jesus reinterprets Moses’ law? Wasn’t it good enough the first time around?
- What is the impact on people of murder? Of divorce? Of married people having sex with others? Of lying to one another?
- Give an example of where staying connected in a relationship overcame something negative like hate, hurt, or deception? Is love really greater?
LOVE IS GREATER DAY. Today is February 12th. Tuesday is February 14th. Let’s turn Valentine’s Day into “Love is greater day.” (See oldlutheran.com for tshirts, mugs and bumper stickers to spread the word). Maybe sharing God’s love with the world is great than all that rips us apart!
In pairs or as a small group come up with some actions you can do to share God’s love. Some examples to get you started:
- Support Refugees and Immigrants around the world who need help. http://blog.lirs.org/5-ways-to-support-lirs-in-new-year/
- Visit your local police department and thank an officer.
- Get to know someone who has angered you. Who would that be?
- Pay someone’s bill at a restaurant.
- Write a letter or encourage a public servant like your congressman or representative.
- Talk to someone in person who disagrees with you about an issue of science, immigration or religion.
God who loves us so deeply. Help us to NOT murder, hate, divorce, commit adultery, lust or speak falsely but instead to love, honor, serve and support all people. Help us to hold onto your love which is greater than everything else. Amen!