my miscellany

Epiphany 7, 2017 — 19 Feb 17

Epiphany 7, 2017

RCL A Epiphany 7
Leviticus 19:1-2 and 9-18, Psalm 119:33-40, 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 and 16-23, Saint Matthew 5:38-48

The road we Christians travel appears to be rising with the Lessons we are given today. That road’s grade is rising as we work our way through the Sermon on the Mount. The road steepens and steepens as Jesus gives his signature teaching and preaching about the Kingdom of God.

In the First Lesson, the Lord tells Moses to tell the Israelites, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”[1] That’s a pretty high bar. The First Lesson today may be found in the Holiness Code, Leviticus Chapter 17 through Chapter 26, in which the Lord enjoins the Israelites over and over again to be holy. And, just as often, the Lord gives concrete examples of how they may be holy. In today’s lesson, harvesters are told not to harvest every gleaning. They are to cut their profits by leaving gleanings to be gathered by the poor and the alien.

In the Gospel today, Jesus enjoins his disciples to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”[2] Being perfect is not easy to do. But Saint Matthew records the word perfect. It is worth noting that in the only parallel to this passage in the Gospels, in Saint Luke, the word is not perfect: the word is merciful.

We can be perfect, as Jesus says, by loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. If that makes us perfect, perfection is reachable. We can love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. Those things are within the human compass. They are not easy. We may prefer to do them not. But we are able to do them.

If you are like me, you begin to see how unrelenting Jesus is. He sets a standard within the human compass, and he expects us to meet the standard. I think we shall have to wait a very long time if rather than do what he commands we wait for him to give us a pass. The pass, I believe, will not be forthcoming.

He may not ever let us off the hook we have selected for ourselves. He may let us stay on that hook, whatever it is, for a very long time. His counsel to be perfect shows how very much he wants us to follow him off of that hook.

The good news, of course, is that Jesus asks us to do nothing that we cannot do. He asks us to do nothing that he was not willing to do or that he did not do himself. Lying within each one of us are the freedom and the power to be what he wants us to be, to be the best that we humanly can be. All we have to do is to take up our cross, and follow him.

[1] Leviticus 19:1.

[2] Saint Matthew 5:48.

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