February 2, 2014 – Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
1 Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?
2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart;
3 who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
5who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.
Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. 3 “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! 4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.”
6 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The texts for February 2, 2014 are ethical exhortations.
The psalmist gives the relational recipe for an upright life:
• Do what is right.
• Speak the truth.
• Do not slander.
• Respect your friends.
• Respect your neighbors.
• Be upset at wickedness.
• Stand up for goodness.
• Respect faith.
• Stand by your word.
• Do not charge interest.
• Do not take a bribe.
The prophet Micah boils it down to:
• Remember the faith story.
• Do justice.
• Love kindness.
• Walk humbly with God.
The well-known beatitudes of Matthew 5 list the characteristics of being blessed by God. As a contrast I paired the beatitude with a cultural value often seen as positive:
• Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the confident achievers.
• Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the self-fulfilled.
• Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the assertive and powerful.
• Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Blessed are the pragmatists.
• Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are those who follow the letter of the law.
• Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are those who wear masks.
• Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are the warriors.
• Blessed are the persecuted. Blessed are those who avoid risks.
The Apostle Paul declares the crucifixion of Christ as the ultimate ethical action that revealed God’s wisdom. What is the wisdom of the cross?
• Capital punishment exposes the true nature of those who carry it out. Retribution is the goal, not restoration or reconciliation. Those in control are not interested in holistic resolution.
• Capital punishment creates great injustice. The innocent are put to death. The guilty can never repent.
• The crucifixion of Christ was a nonviolent response on the part of Jesus. It serves as a model for Christians in how we go about participating in God’s reconciling work in the world. We do not take up arms and attempt to bring about peace with God through coercive or violent means. The salvation of humankind will not come about by justified violence, but rather by a willingness to endure suffering and trials.