Monday, February 3, 2020

Called to Extraordinary Righteousness

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Lectionary reading: Matthew 5:13-20 (NRSV)

Salt is not only flavorful but really
pretty if we stop to look.
As we see this week's reading, I think we often do it an injustice if we don't read the Beatitudes prior.  What does it mean to be salt - to season and preserve - without the previous passage?  You could argue for all kinds of interpretations but Jesus has already laid it out for us.

In the same sense, what does it mean for us to be light?  Should we even attempt to define it outside of being merciful, pure in heart and peacemaking?

Finally, we get to the argument over inerrancy  of scripture in the last portion of this reading.  There have been many Christians who claim to take the Bible literally that point toward the words of Jesus stating that he hasn't come to abolish the law and the prophets.  But it is important to understand that Jesus is speaking from his own rabbinic school of thought.  It was quite common in that day for rabbis to argue points of scripture with one another.  Some scriptures were seen as taking priority over others.

So when Jesus claims that whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, he is not speaking of the entirety of the law and the prophets, but rather he is talking about the Beatitudes.

If we don't follow them all, it doesn't mean that we'll be kicked out of the kingdom of heaven but rather that we'll not hold a place of priority there (and we must also see that we are talking about a kingdom or empire that is an earthly alternative to that of Rome).  We won't understand it as well because we haven't lived it.  These blessings that Jesus gives are much more of a journey to faith than simple commandments of what to do and not do.

So when Jesus states that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, it would be clearly known in that time that the scribes and Pharisees would be much more interested in a kind of literalism - keeping every iota of the law - regardless of who gets left aside.  The Beatitudes are much more interested in bringing others along with us.  Jesus calls us to behavior of the blessed.  In this way, we salt the earth and light the world.  It is difficult work to bring others along with us.  We must be meek in our approach and willing to give others the benefit of the doubt.  But this may be the true righteousness that Jesus asks of his disciples.

We'll continue to explore this on Sunday in Edmond and Guthrie as well as online!

In Christ,


Photo by Kevin Dooley via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

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