His body the temple

File:Giotto di Bondone - No. 27 Scenes from the Life of Christ - 11. Expulsion of the Money-changers from the Temple (detail) - WGA09210.jpg

Watching for the Morning of March 4, 2018

Year B

The Third Sunday of Lent

We start with the Ten Commandments on Sunday, though the reason is not the commandments themselves, but the covenant they represent. We have heard, during this season, of God’s covenant with Noah and with Abraham. We will yet hear the promise of a new covenant. God is a god who keeps covenant. Who makes promises. Who binds himself in relationship to the world, to Abraham, to Israel. The commands God gives are the shape of that relationship. Those bound to God will share God’s hopes and dreams and fundamental commitments, just as those bound in any other relationship. And who is this God? One who shows fidelity – and so should we – to God, to neighbor. So I won’t trouble another’s family life. I won’t neglect the elderly. I won’t kill or steal. I won’t lust after the things of my neighbor. Such things rend relationships and this is a god who builds them. We are a faithful people because we have a faithful God.

After these words of the faithful God, we will take up the psalmists words that sing of the wondrous order of creation and God’s wondrous ordering of life revealed in God’s law/torah/teaching: “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” There is a good order to the universe, a noble pattern, a beautiful harmony – the work of a faithful God.

Then Paul will speak to us about the word of the cross. The shape of faithfulness is outstretched arms, pierced yet open to embrace. The cross shows the terrible face of a world that has embraced power over others rather than faithfulness to them. But the crucified one remained faithful. In him, love triumphed over power.

File:Giotto - Scrovegni - -27- - Expulsion of the Money-changers from the Temple.jpgWe come, then, to Jesus, with a whip of cords in his hands, driving the sellers and moneychangers from the temple, setting free the animals destined for sacrifice. He is not cleansing a temple practice; he is overthrowing it. Fidelity to God does not consist in ritual sacrifice, but in faithfulness. And Jesus’ faithfulness will be the sign, his body the temple where God encounters us, where grace pours out, where life is given.

With these texts we march on toward the three days, towards the great mystery of death and resurrection, to our passage through the sea from death into life.

This Sunday we continue our Lenten series on Baptism. “Through the Watersoffers an introduction to the Lenten theme. Daily Bible verses and reflections are posted at Holy Seasons as well as the first two sermons in the series: “A great and terrifying promise,” and “Taking hold of the promise.”

The Prayer for March 4, 2018

Almighty God, Holy and Eternal,
who bound yourself to Israel by a promise
and revealed to them your holy will,
cleanse our hearts and lives by your favor
and make us a holy temple of your Spirit;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

The Texts for March 4, 2018

First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” – God gives the Ten Commandments to Israel at Sinai.

Psalmody: Psalm 19
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” – A majestic hymn celebrating God’s good ordering of the world.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
– The Word which comes from the cross is a power that casts down and raises up, foolish in human eyes, but the power of God to set us in a right relationship to Him who is eternal.

Gospel John 2:13-22
“In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their table.” – Jesus engages in a prophetic action declaring God’s coming judgment upon the temple system, and proclaims his death and resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

+   +   +

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AGiotto_di_Bondone_-_No._27_Scenes_from_the_Life_of_Christ_-_11._Expulsion_of_the_Money-changers_from_the_Temple_(detail)_-_WGA09210.jpg Giotto di Bondone [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AGiotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-27-_-_Expulsion_of_the_Money-changers_from_the_Temple.jpg Giotto di Bondone [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Doorways

File:Sur le chemin cotier a cancale - panoramio (4).jpg

Watching for the Morning of December 3, 2017

Year B

The First Sunday of Advent

I had a profound dream many years ago that involved the discovery of a door. I was living (in the dream) in a small one room mountain cabin that seemed very much like a suburb with paved streets, an ordinary driveway and garbage pick up at the curb. But in the dream I realized there was a door behind the refrigerator which, when I succeeded in moving the refrigerator, opened into a large room with giant picture windows looking down over a sweeping vista of a clear blue mountain lake, surrounded with virgin forest.

Doorways are about discovery. Lucy Pevensie, in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe discovers a doorway into the wondrous world of Narnia in the back of a wardrobe. Daniel Jackson figures out how to open the stargate. Mary opens the door to The Secret Garden. In The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins counsels his nephew saying “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” And, of course, the women discover angels at the door of the empty tomb. It sweeps the world off its feet.

A doorway to a new world. Advent looks through the doorway into the reign of God to come when the lion lies down with the lamb – and through that doorway Christ comes to us at the consummation of human history, in the present time of our lives, and in the child of Bethlehem.

So Sunday we begin our Advent journey. The sanctuary will be decorated with images of light and the blue of hope, of the night sky turning to day. And there will be photographs of doors waiting to be opened – and opened already that we might find our way to the hope, peace, joy and light that never ends.

On this first Sunday of the new church year we will hear the prophet Isaiah’s plea for God to open the heavens and come down to save. We will sing with the prophet of the everlasting joy of God’s redeeming work. We will hear Paul remind us that “are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And we will listen as Jesus warns us to be awake and aware, like servants waiting to greet their Lord.

Behold I stand at the door and knock,” says Jesus. Open it and life will never be the same.

The Prayer for December 3, 2017

Eternal God, Breath of Life,
Font of Hope, and our Eternal Joy;
Open the doors of our hearts,
and the gates of your mercy
to come into our world and our lives,
and bring us to that day
when all the earth is redeemed by your presence.

The Texts for December 3, 2017

First Reading: Isaiah 64:1-9
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.” – The prophet speaks the lament of the people in the years after the return from exile, when life is hard and the former glory of the nation is absent. He calls upon God to relent and forgive their sins.

Psalmody: Isaiah 51:4-11 (appointed: Psalm 80.1-7, 17-19)
“The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads, sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
Our parish departs from the appointed psalm to sing this song of salvation from the prophet Isaiah.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1.3-9
“You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” –
Paul opens his letter to the believers in Corinth referring to the matter of spiritual gifts that has divided the community, setting them in their proper context as gifts of God to the whole body as they prepare for the consummation of God’s dawning reign.

Gospel: Mark 13.24-37
“Keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come.” – Having spoken of the destruction of the temple and what is to come for the community of believers, Jesus affirms that the Son of Man will come to gather his elect. For that day they should be awake, doing the work that they master of the house has entrusted to them.

During Advent our parish departs from the appointed psalms and sings Isaiah 51:4-11, the Benedictus, the Magnificat, and Isaiah 12 on the four Sundays. We also adjust the readings between the Sundays to allow for the celebration of a children’s Christmas program during worship in Advent. This occurs on the second Sunday of Advent this year.

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASur_le_chemin_cotier_a_cancale_-_panoramio_(4).jpg chisloup [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Where ladies are dressed

File:Maler der Grabkammer des Zeserkerêsonb 001.jpg

Thursday

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

27“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”

Paul is not confirming the power of ignorance. It is not a diatribe against learning. Paul, himself, is well schooled and knowledgeable. This is a challenge of the “wisdom of the world”: the everyday realities accepted by all as “the way things are” – and the way God wants them. These are the realities of the ancient world where a few elite families hold positions of power and prestige granted by the emperor or passed down through the ages by a noble family line. Inherited wealth. Inherited power. Inherited privilege. The “wisdom of the world” is the world of Downton Abbey where ladies are dressed by maids and servants stand at attention while the family dines and the upper class doctor is believed over the village physician. This is the world where Rome rules by decree and those granted Roman citizenship are subject to a different law than the rest (so Peter is brutally crucified but Paul, the citizen, is granted a quick and clean beheading). This is the world that has always been and the gods confirm.

But this strange God of Abraham and Isaac chose Jacob, the younger, over Esau the elder. This strange God summoned the murderer, Moses, at the burning bush and chose a people in bondage. And when the time came, God didn’t choose the palace but the peasant home. God didn’t choose finery but a manger. God didn’t choose the priestly cast but the construction trade. God didn’t choose the literate students of the city rulers but fishermen and a tax collector.

It looks like folly to the privileged – but this is not about rejecting knowledge. It is about the nature of God’s kingdom where honor doesn’t go to the fine houses at the top of the hill by the temple, but to those poor and meek who live the justice and mercy God desires.

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” asks Nathanael when he is urgently summoned by Philip. “Of course not,” we all know. But, surprise, what is honored in God’s sight is not happening in Jerusalem; it is happening in Nazareth and Capernaum Sychar and wherever bread is shared and outcasts welcomed and tears shed for the world to be made new.

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMaler_der_Grabkammer_des_Zeserker%C3%AAsonb_001.jpg By Maler der Grabkammer des Zeserkerêsonb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What does the LORD require?

File:Volunteers of America Soup Kitchen in Washington, D.C..gif

Watching for the Morning of January 29, 2017

The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Sunday takes us to the Sermon on the Mount and the familiar words of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are the meek…Blessed are the merciful.” They are great and powerful declarations about what is honored in God’s sight.

We sometimes miss the meaning of these potent declarations. They sound gentle and kind to us – at least until we get to the one about persecutions – but these are thunderclaps, imperial proclamations reversing the values of all the kingdoms that have come before.

Words like ‘meek’ and ‘blessed’ convey something different in a modern western society than in the ancient Mediterranean. Jesus is not talking about those who are fortunate in life, but those who are honored in God’s sight. Honor belongs to those at the bottom of the heap, not those who have climbed to the top. Honor belongs to those who embody God’s mercy and faithfulness, not those who lead the parade. Those working in the soup kitchens of the District of Columbia this last week are the nobility of God’s kingdom, not those ushered about in limousines.

So Sunday we listen as the prophet Micah utters those famous words: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” And the psalmist will sing that those who are welcome in God’s presence are not the ritually clean but those who live faithfully towards their fellow human beings. And Paul sets out his opening gambit in the first letter to the Corinthians talking about the folly of “the wisdom of the world” versus the wisdom of the folly of God.

And then we will hear the beatitudes. They are not the “be-happy-attitudes”; they are the broad sweeping scythe that cuts down all that is exalted in the empires of this world and raises up those of generous heart and kind spirit, who weep at the walls and weapons we build, who hunger for a world of mercy and peace. Their prayers will be answered. Their prayers are being answered, even now, as Jesus speaks.

The Prayer for January 29, 2017

Lord of Life,
by your word and deed you overturn the values of our world,
declaring honorable what is often despised:
the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers.
Help us to hear your Word,
and in hearing to trust,
and in trusting to live as you call us to live;
through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Texts for January 29, 2017

First Reading: Micah 6:1-8
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Through the prophet, God brings charges against his people, summoning the surrounding hills to hear God’s case and render judgment. God has done great things for this people and asked for justice and mercy, but the people have been faithless.

Psalmody: Psalm 15
“O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?” – The poet describes the one who is worthy to enter the temple precinct in terms of faithfulness to others rather than ritual purity. Where we expect to her about ‘clean hands’, we hear instead about justice and mercy.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” –
The values of ‘the world’, the things honored and treasured by a humanity that has lost its harmony with God, are shown to be foolish and empty by God’s revelation of himself in Christ crucified.

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – The beatitudes begin Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the first of five blocks of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus speaks of what is honorable in God’s sight and declares God’s favor.

The comments from this and previous years on this Sunday of the church year can be found under the list of Sundays or by clicking here.

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AVolunteers_of_America_Soup_Kitchen_in_Washington%2C_D.C..gif By Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Where heaven touches earth

Watching for the Morning of March 8, 2015

The Third Sunday of Lent

File:Christ banish tradesmen from Temple (Monreale).jpg

Mosaic in Monreale Cathedral

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Jesus’ prediction of his death and resurrection takes an entirely different form in John’s Gospel than we read last week in Mark, but once again the Gospel points us towards Jerusalem (and towards our keeping of the Paschal Triduum, the three day observance of the cross and resurrection). The one who transformed water into wine, turning tears to joy and bringing the joy of the wedding feast to come, is the true temple where heaven touches earth.

In the background stands God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai: the stunning encounter wherein the people pledge their loyalty to the one who brought them out of slavery – and God proclaims his loyalty to them: “I will be your God and you will be my people.”

But being the people of God requires fidelity to the character and values of this God who delivers the oppressed. And so we have the “ten words”, numbered differently by different faith communities, but expressing the fundamental obligations of a people freed from slavery lest they enslaves themselves again – or enslave others.

The psalmist sings his praise of the ordering work of God, shown in creation and in God’s law/teaching.

It is that broken covenant that jeopardizes the temple. Instead of becoming a refuge for all nations it has become a “marketplace”, a commercial center for the exploitation of pilgrims. It no longer proclaims justice and mercy. It no longer bears witness to light and life. It no longer is a place of encounter with the mercy of heaven. Now all this is found in Jesus, destroyed and raised up, crucified and risen.

Paul knows that the message that encounters us from the cross is power, power to save, power to cast down and raise up, power to kill and make alive, power that carries us into the new creation. It is judgment against all human sin – and the stunning proclamation that God has dismissed our debt to him, opening the path to new life.

(For our daily Lent devotion from Los Altos Lutheran church, and for sermons and other information on Lent see our Lent site.)

Our theme this Lent is Renewal, and for Lent 3: Renewing Families

The Prayer for March 8, 2015

In the temple, O God, Jesus cried out
against what was unholy and untrue
Watch over us,
renewing our lives and our families
that, cleansed of all selfishness,
our love may be deepened,
and we prove faithful to you and to all.;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever

The Texts for March 8, 2015

First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” – God gives the Ten Commandments to Israel at Sinai.

Psalmody: Psalm 19
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” – A majestic hymn celebrating God’s good ordering of the world.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
– The Word which comes from the cross is a power that casts down and raises up, foolish in human eyes, but the power of God to set us in a right relationship to Him who is eternal.

Gospel John 2:13-22
“In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their table.” – Jesus engages in a prophetic action declaring God’s coming judgment upon the temple system, and proclaims his death and resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

 

Photo: By Sibeaster (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The word of the cross

Thursday

1 Corinthians 1

File:Cross Charriez Christ side.JPG

Cross in Chariez (Franche-Comté) on the village square. Photo by Ginette Mathis

18 The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

I don’t like the translator’s choice. Is it a word concerning the cross or is it the message of the cross? Is it a fact being transmitted or is it the cross being proclaimed?

The word translated ‘message’ can certainly mean message. But it is that wonderful word ‘word’ – logos – as in “the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” As in “if you abide in my word you are truly my disciples.” It may mean message or teaching, it may refer to content, but it is never just message; it is that living word that is like rain watering the earth. That word from God described in Isaiah 55 is a power that accomplishes something, that lifts up and casts down nations, that wipes away sins, that makes the scarlet white as snow – since that word of the cross is “the power of God” it shouldn’t be allowed to be thought of as a mere ‘message’.

This is a word like the word of a judge that sets a man free or binds him over into prison. This is a word like “I do” that creates a lifelong union. This is a word like “I love you” that draws two lives together in ever deeper bonds of affection. It is a word of power. A word that does not return empty. A word that creates, that effects something, that changes everything.

This word of the cross, this message from the cross, is a power. It casts down and lifts up. It crucifies and raises. It declares that blood is on our hands and wipes them clean.

Blood is on our hands.  We are crucifiers. We are rebels against heaven. We slay the holy. We defy eternity. We are haters of perfect goodness. This message from the cross, this word the cross speaks, this word reveals the human heart. My human heart. It makes me see the hammer I hold.

There is a hammer in my hands. And suddenly every curt word, every taunt, every hidden hate, every overt rage, every greed and lust and fault of character is revealed to me. The word of the cross slays my pride, my inturned self.

And then the cross speaks mercy. Speaks forgiveness. Speaks of eternity’s boundless love. My sin is carried away. My sin atoned. My life redeemed. My self reborn.

The word of the cross is power. Power to heal and renew and resurrect. Power to free us from every bondage.

This word the cross speaks is power to those being saved, being healed, being made whole, being brought home to our eternal father.

But for those for whom it is folly… Is there any other word but ‘perishing’ for the heart that thinks any declaration of love or compassion or forgiveness is mere folly?

An icon of grace

Watching for the morning of September 14

Year A

Holy Cross Day:
(Proper 19 / Lectionary 24)

File:Codex Bodmer 127 053v Detail.jpg

Saint Helena finds the Holy Cross: Inuentio sanctae Crucis, Illumination from the Passionary of Weissenau (Weißenauer Passionale); Fondation Bodmer, Coligny, Switzerland; Cod. Bodmer 127, fol. 53v

An image of judgment becomes an icon of grace. The cross was a brutal instrument of Roman power. It was used to make clear the cost and futility of resisting imperial rule. But bearing the body of Jesus it becomes a sign of redemption and the means for our healing.

We don’t get to talk much about the crucifixion apart from the season of Lent and Holy Week. But in CE 326 Saint Helena, the mother of emperor Constantine the Great, while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, found what she believed was the true cross of Christ and on that site they began the construction of the church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was dedicated on September 14, 335 and became a feast day of the church.

It is for us an opportunity to remember and reflect on this central reality of Christian faith: God took an instrument of imperial power and made it a sign of the reign of God. God used a tool of oppression and torture to reveal the poverty of violence and the wealth of his redemptive love.

So this Sunday we read about the bronze serpent impaled upon a gibbet that the Gospel of John uses as an image of Jesus lifted up upon the cross. And we hear Paul declare that this cross that seems so unthinkable to us as a revelation of the divine is in fact the power and wisdom of God.

But in our celebration of the cross of Christ, we cannot skip the appointed Gospel for this Sunday (proper 19/lectionary 24) where Jesus answers Peter’s question about the limits of forgiveness – for the answer to that question takes us to the priceless sacrifice and grace without end worked upon the cross.

The Prayer for Holy Cross Day, September 14, 2014

Gracious God,
who by the mystery of the wood of the manger and the wood of the cross
brought redemption to all,
keep us ever mindful of your boundless compassion,
that with love and mercy
we may be faithful sons and daughters of your reign of grace and life;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

The Texts for Holy Cross Day, September 14, 2014

First Reading: Numbers 21:4-9
“The Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” – God overcame the army of Pharaoh and led the people out from bondage in Egypt, but the people rebelled in fear when faced with the challenge of taking the land of Canaan. Sent back towards Egypt to approach the promised land from another way, their poisonous speech towards God comes back upon themselves in the form of poisonous snakes. But God uses the image of a serpent on a pole as a means for their healing. An image of judgment becomes an icon of grace.

Psalmody: Psalm 98:1-4
“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.” – A song of praise to God who has delivered the people and reigns among them as Lord.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-24
“The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
– writing to his troubled congregation at Corinth to call them back to a life shaped by the grace of God revealed in Christ Jesus, Paul begins his letter by focusing their attention on the cross of Christ. God’s unexpected work in the cross defies our human expectations of the divine, but in the cross is made known the grace and power of God.

Gospel: John 3:13-17
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” – In conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus uses the image from our first lesson to anticipate the cross: those who “see” (see with understanding) Jesus on the cross will be “saved” (a word that also means healed) as those who gazed upon the serpent were made whole.

Sermon text: Matthew 18:21-35
“How often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” – Having taught reconciliation rather than “getting even” as the fundamental principle of life in the Christian community, Jesus is asked about the limits of forgiveness.

Blessed

Watching for the morning of February 2

Year A

The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

File:Domus Galilaeae Hebrew Sermon on the Mount.jpg

By Itai (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This Sunday we hear Jesus speak.  We have heard Matthew tell us of Jesus’ honored lineage.  We have heard the witness of scripture to this child of Bethlehem and seen wise men from the East kneel before him.  Angels have appeared to protect him from Herod’s murderous envy and to return him to the land of Israel.  The Voice of God has testified of him at his baptism in the Jordan and he has withstood all the challenges of the evil one in the wilderness.  Then, last Sunday, we saw him arise and summon us to follow him, to join his movement to right the world, and heard him declare the reign of God is dawning.  Now we hear him speak.

His voice echoes with the sounds of the prophets like Micah describing the faithfulness and mercy God desires from us.  His voice echoes with the sound of the psalmist describing the character of true righteousness.  His message begins with the sweet notes of the Beatitudes: it is the poor, the grieving, the merciful, the peacemakers who are honored in God’s sight.  These are the one who reflect the character of God’s kingdom.  These are the ones who live the way of God.  And these are the ones who shall receive the promised inheritance of a world transformed by the Spirit of God.

The Prayer for February 2, 2014

Lord of Life,
by your word and deed you overturn the values of our world,
declaring honorable what is often despised:
the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers.
Help us to hear your Word,
and in hearing to trust,
and in trusting to live as you call us to live.

The Texts for February 2, 2014

First Reading: Micah 6:1-8
8He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Through the prophet God brings charges against his people, summoning the surrounding hills to hear God’s case and render judgment.  God has done great things for this people and asked for justice and mercy, but the people have been faithless.

Psalmody: Psalm 15
“O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?” – The poet describes the one who is worthy to enter the temple precinct in terms of faithfulness to others rather than ritual purity.  Where we expect to her about ‘clean hands’, we hear instead about justice and mercy.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” –
The values of ‘the world’, the things honored and treasured by a humanity that has lost its harmony with God, are shown to be foolish and empty by God’s revelation of himself in Christ crucified.

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – The beatitudes begin Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ first of five blocks of teaching in Matthew’s Gospel.  Jesus declares what is honorable in God’s sight and promises God’s favor.