The book of Deuteronomy is a combination of narrative and law-giving. The narrative chapters cover the last part of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, up to the time that they will enter the Promised Land. In other chapters of this book, Moses restates the Ten Commandments, and proceeds to give them many detailed laws. These laws will become the framework around which the Jews will live their lives. These laws define and set them apart from their neighbors.
In today’s reading, Moses is concluding the giving of the law, and calling for the people to choose. He is telling them to choose the Lord God Yahweh by abiding by these laws, or choose a whatever god.
- Moses lays down a simple choice- follow God or don’t. One way is life and blessings, the other way is death. (vv. 15-18)
- Now, the choice is cranked up a notch. This choice will become a covenant between God and His people. The heaven and earth are called to be witnesses to this covenant act. (v. 19a)
- Moses urges them to choose God, reminding them of God’s promise to Abraham and Isaac of the Promised Land. (vv. 19b-20)
With Jesus’ dying on the cross and the coming of the Holy Spirit, I know that God chose me long before I was aware of it. But I also believe that we need to make a commitment to serve the Lord. It is a life and death decision. Following Jesus by obeying his commandments doesn’t win me any heavenly brownie points. But it does light the way of love that Jesus would have me follow.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
In our everyday lives, we probably have the opportunity to choose “God or other” perhaps a couple of dozen times each day. While Jesus’s death on the cross has erased the threat of death, we still have a choice to make. Let’s be more aware of the little choices we make each day, to ensure that they always reflect our faith-walk.
1 CORINTHIANS 3:1-9
Today’s second reading is a continuation of last week’s reading.
Oh, those Corinthians! Three or four years have passed since Paul first brought the Good News to this city. By now, they should be mature Christians. But they are still focusing on petty things that divide them. They are still behaving like babies. In Corinth, there appears to be a competition going on between the “Church of Paul” and the “Church of Apollos”. If you want to learn a little more about Apollos, turn to Acts 18:24-28. He wasn’t a bad guy.
- Paul states that when he was there three or four years ago, they were Christian “newborns”. He preached to them in simple terms. Now, it appears that they have not matured enough to be spoken to in any other way. This is obvious, because of the way they’re behaving. (vv. 1-4)
- He tells them that both he and Apollos are God’s servants. That their spiritual growth comes from God (the Holy Spirit), not this preacher or that preacher. They are both God’s servants. (vv. 5-9a)
- The important thing is that we are God’s creation, not the product of one particular preacher. (v. 9b)
I have been blessed by having been taught by many good preachers. Each one has “watered” and “sown” in their own unique way. I feel sorry for people who jump from one church to the next, trying to find the right preacher who will preach to them the message they want to hear. It is important for us to remember that it is about God, not the preacher. Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who does the work, and nobody else.
Today’s gospel lesson is a continuation of the Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. If today’s lesson makes you a little uneasy, that’s OK. I think Jesus intended for people to become a little uncomfortable at this teaching. He is preaching on the Law of Moses, but he cranks everything up in intensity.
- He starts with the commandment “Thou shalt not murder”. (We translate it “kill”, but it really says murder.) Jesus states that even if you insult someone, it’s the same as murder! We should settle our differences, and love one another. (vv. 21-26)
- Then, he shifts to adultery, saying that even looking at someone lustfully is adultery! Furthermore, we should take drastic measures such as amputation, to avoid sinning. This is getting harder. (vv. 27-30)
- He then shifts to divorce. There were two schools of thought on this in Jesus’s time. One school went so far as to say that if a man’s wife was a lousy cook, he could send her back to her father! Jesus takes the strict road, only allowing for divorce in the case of infidelity. (vv. 31-32)
- Finally, he talks about oaths. It is good to know here that back then, written contracts were unheard of. Contractual agreements were all verbal. In order to emphasize the sincerity of commitment to the agreement, it was common to amplify the oath, by swearing on the heavens, or relatives, or whatever. Jesus says don’t do this. We should all be so trustworthy that if you agree to something, a simple yes should suffice. (Vv. 33-37)
Jesus makes it clear that the Ten Commandments and other Laws of Moses are far more complicated and difficult than they appear. It really boils down to love and trust. We should love one another and trust one another so well, that these sins all disappear.
Jesus’s teaching accomplishes two things.
1. It explains to us God’s true intent for us. This is how He would like us to live our lives.
2. It shows me just how sinful I really am. I am hopelessly lost and unable to save myself.
It is impossible for us to save ourselves. The Good News is that’s why God sent His son.
God saves us. Thanks be to God!