Monday, February 11, 2019

Epiphany 6C Readings & Commentaries

Our Gospel reading is the beginning of “The Sermon on the Plain” (as opposed to the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew).

1st Reading:  Jeremiah 17:5-10
These words from Jeremiah are somewhat unique in the tradition of his book as they are more wisdom-like than prophetic.  The parallels to Psalm 1—itself in the wisdom tradition—are clear.  As is normal for wisdom literature, a simple choice is offered between the way of life with God or death trusting in one’s own strength.  Here the metaphors of a shrub in the desert and a tree flourishing by the water make the choice clear.

17:5 Thus says the Lord:  Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. 6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. 9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it? 10 I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

Psalm 1
Psalm 1 is about the (idealistic) contrasting fate of the righteous and the wicked.  As such it serves as a kind of preamble to the entire psalter, proclaiming one of the most basic themes of the psalms, that this is a moral universe that cannot be disregarded.

1     Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of
                            the wicked, *
            nor lingered in the way of sinners,
            nor sat in the seats of the scornful.
2     Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
            and they meditate on his law day and night.
3     They are like trees planted by streams of water,
       bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
            everything they do shall prosper.
4     It is not so with the wicked; *
            they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
5     Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when
                            judgment comes, *
            nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
6     For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, *
            but the way of the wicked is doomed.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Paul’s argument for the truth of the resurrection of the dead continues.  His argument is simple (even if his syntax is not).  We cannot proclaim Christ’s resurrection without also proclaiming the general resurrection.  The “first fruits” is an ancient biblical notion.  We bring always our first fruits (i.e., not what is left over) to God (see, for example, Exodus 23).  Here Paul is saying that the risen life is Christ’s offering of “first fruits,” on behalf of all humankind.

15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

Gospel Reading: Luke 6:17-26
Our Gospel reading is the beginning of “The Sermon on the Plain” (as opposed to the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew).  Matthew’s sermon is 99 verses long; Luke’s only 37, with some of the material from Matthew moved to other settings.  Both start with beatitudes, but Luke’s are quite different.  They are more direct, not as spiritualized.  And they include “woes.” Both blessings and woes very much continue the theme of the Great Reversal from this Gospel.

6:17 Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. 20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 24 But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, , copyright © 2018.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study, with attribution. Bulletin inserts are available. Got to our website for more details.

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