The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany; Year A (2/12/2017)

Texts:Deuteronomy 30:15-20 or Sirach 15:15-20 Psalm 119:1-8 (1) 1st Corinthians 3:1-9 St. Matthew 5:21-37

Prayer of the Day
: O God, strength of all who hope in you, because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing good without you. Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do, and give us grace and power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

5:21 [Jesus said,] “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And 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 your whole body to go into hell.

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

St. Matthew 5:21-37 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

But I say to you…

This weekend Saint Peter Lutheran Church, like many Lutheran Churches, will assemble for it’s “Annual Congregation Meeting.” Members and supporters will reflect on the ministry that God accomplished among us in the past year, and look forward to what lies ahead for us in the coming year. We’ll talk about congregational priorities, approve a spending plan for 2017, elect a leader or two, and give thanks to God for the privilege of living together as the body of Christ in Greenwood Village (and its surrounding neighborhoods).

Honestly: these kinds of meetings can be a little dry. This will be the 34th one I have attended, and some of them have been richer experiences than others. But I still look forward to participating each year, and imagining what sort of ministries God will make possible  through the vision we embrace, the decisions we make, and the commitments we take on.

This year we are shifting how we talk about ministry a bit. Instead of budgets and spending limits and comparisons with previous years, we are talking about ministries, and priorities, and the stories we believe God is seeking to tell the world through Saint Peter Lutheran Church. There is is the story of how God is forgiving us, renewing us, calling us and granting us new life through Word and Sacrament. There is the story of how God is making a difference in the world through our love and compassion. We’ll consider the story of how God is expanding our knowledge, deepening our trust, and strengthening our resolve to live as followers of Jesus. And the story of how God’s presence becomes real through the love and care we share with each other. And finally, the story of how God is drawing others into an experience of grace through the witness of our lives, so that they too might be graced by the presence and power and promise of our God. These are stories told about us; stories told through us. But mostly, they are stories told by God, inviting the entire world to experience the faith that sustains us.

In the Sermon on the Mount, a portion of which we read this Sunday for our Gospel lesson, Jesus has a grand vision for his followers. They will not simply be people who refrain from murder or adultery or false oaths. They will be, instead, people who stretch themselves, and demonstrate their faithfulness to God as they treat each other with love, respect and dignity; as they honor and celebrate the marriage bonds that ground their lives together; as they show themselves to be people whose word is their bond, and can be trusted.

Jesus has high hopes for his listeners, and he has high hopes for us. How will we rise above the minimum standards of what is expected of a faith community? How will our stewardship of ministries and congregational resources proclaim our deep passion for the ways God has blessed our lives? How will the world see the love we have for God, and the love God has for us, by the way we do ministry together? It’s going to be a great meeting! See you on Sunday.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What are the minimum standards of obedience for a faithful person?
  2. How is Jesus stretching this, and calling his followers to a richer witness?
  3. How did the disciples do at living up to these expectations?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What are the minimum standards of faithfulness for a Christian (or a Lutheran!)?
  2. How do I plan to rise above this in the coming year?
  3. How do I hope my congregation rises above this in the coming year?