Readings for 13th Sunday after Pentecost, 9/7/14:
Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20
- God describes to Moses and Aaron the Passover, which is the festival that centers Jesus’ meal with his disciples – this reading also appropriately shows up for Maundy Thursday.
- “this is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly.” Ready to go. Ready to move. Prepared. Imagine if this was always the way we were, in terms of readiness to respond to God’s call.
- The Passover is a hard one to stomach (no pun intended). It is hard to imagine a plague of killing firstborns all through the land, isn’t it? But it is a festival, a ‘remembrance’ that becomes so crucial in the identity of Judaism, and even in the events that shape Christ’s last days. Death, blood, lamb, sacrifice. The ways the symbolism of the Old Testament and New Testament events overlap and tie in here is important.
- Verses 1-3 talk about the juncture of praise and music. I’ve been blessed with musical abilities, and they certainly are tools I value very much in leading worship. But if music isn’t your thing, other gifts also can be used to worship – how do you use your gifts to worship our Maker?
- “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people.” I like this sentiment a lot – do you believe it? God takes pleasure in you individually and in all of us as a people.
- “Let them sing for joy on their couches.” That’s a funny image! Praise from couch potatoes…
- V. 6 – Let the praises of God be in your mouth at the same time you are getting ready to kill some of those people that God takes pleasure in – nice sentiment, eh?
- “Owe no one anything.” Sigh. I wish someone would negotiate a deal for me with my student loan lender…
- But we do owe one another love. I like that way of phrasing it – love is what is due from us to our neighbors. Have we paid up?
- “The commandments . . . are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Plain enough, right?
Love fulfills the law. In this, Paul shows that the law is not abolished but fulfilled in Jesus’ teachings, just as Jesus said.
- “you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.” There is such urgency in this statement and in this passage. I dislike our obsession, in Paul’s time and today, with the end times. But i do like a sense of urgency. What are we waiting for to get going with doing God’s work? We know what time it is: time for peace. time for justice. time for grace. Now is the moment to wake and work.
- “make no provisions for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” No provision? Poor Paul – so black and white sometimes in his thinking – body or spirit instead of body and spirit.
- “salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” – this is a good verse to plug John Wesley’s idea of sanctifying grace – grace that grows in us as we become disciples. A time of conversion (justification) when we first come to ‘be believers,’ however we might define that, is not the end and all of our relationship with God.
- What a passage with great potential for preaching in a congregation, eh? This passage talks about how to settle disputes in the community of faith. Do we ever put it into practice? Check out the policies in our Book of Discipline. Do our church trials follow the format Jesus suggests?
- “whatever you bind” – note that these words are the same Jesus says to Peter after Peter proclaims him as Messiah in Matthew 16. Here, the authority is expanded to the whole group of disciples.
- “if two of you agree,” and “two or three” – Jesus is talking about the power of working together for the same godly purposes.