First Thoughts From The Rev. Canon David Smith: 

Most weeks Fr. David sends out an e-mail with his first thoughts on the upcoming Sunday readings. These reflections are designed to encourage people to consider the readings before they come to worship which we hope will enrich Sunday worship. People are invited to respond to David with their own thoughts and sometimes interesting ideas and conversations occur that end up in the sermon. If you would like to receive these weekly e-mails e-mail David at dsmith@ontario.anglican.ca  . 

Walk Humbly With God...

Posted by Emily Sanderson on Friday, January 31, 2014
Readings Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31, Matthew 5:1- 12

Thanks to: Feasting On The Word Year A Volume 1 pgs. 290- 313

A strong theme in the readings for this week is our moral  behavior as we
seek to do God's will. For example the Psalm declares that the people who do
not slander, do not to do evil to their friends, do not take bribes against
the innocent and stand by their oaths even till it hurts are the ones who
may and will abide in the Lord's tent.  How we live is a very worthy subject
to be considered and God's call on Micah to do justice, love, kindness and to
walk humbly with God is one of the most inspiring passages of Scripture. If
only we all lived this out completely. And a great sermon would explore what
this would look like. Imagine such a world.

But St. Paul in the epistle reading from 1 Corinthians gives us a corrective
perspective, if we are tempted to see Christianity as simply living a good
life often expressed in phrases like "I do not need to go to church I am a
good person". Paul says, "But we proclaim Christ crucified..., let the one
who boasts boast in the Lord" In other words  the heart of Christianity is
not our behaviour but God's power in the cross of Christ. And yet the way we
live our lives is inseparably connected to God's work of salvation, God's
kingdom coming . Along this line perhaps the Beatitudes from the Sermon on
the Mount ( our Gospel reading for Sunday), are not really prescriptive
moral commands , that is telling us how to behave but rather descriptive,
telling us what behaviour is like in God's kingdom or at least desirable now
because God's Kingdom is coming. If that makes any sense. There are many
ways to understand the Sermon on the Mount. One way  is to say , I cannot
possibly live up to this standard on my own and thus we turn to Christ's
grace , mercy and forgiveness and that is why we boast in the Lord and not
ourselves. I am not sure this is the best way to read our Lord's sermon but
I think there is some truth to it.

I have also been thinking that there is a connection between our Epistle and
Gospel reading because they both seem to praise the scandalous. St. Paul
says that the cross of Christ seems utterly foolish particularly to the
wisdom of the world. In a world that rewards powerful speech , powerful
finances, powerful politics etc a man dying on a cross seems foolish and yet
the cross, and I think Paul, means here the resurrection as well, is the power
behind God's work of redemption. It is God's wisdom and the wisdom we live
by. When you think about this, the Beatitudes also seem foolish , what is so
blessed about being poor in spirit, being mournful, being persecuted. They
sound very Christ like and a sermon might try to explore if indeed there is
a connection between the Epistle and Gospel, the cross and the beatitudes. A
good sermon might also take just one beatitude and flesh out what it means.
What do you think some of the beatitudes mean ?

I remember as a teenager being so moved and impressed by The Sermon on The
Mount. In fact even today when I hear them read out loud I shiver and there
seems to be an internal  witness  to the truth and power of its teaching. In
a very real  way these wonderful yet also strange and difficult words of
Christ helped me grow in my faith. I am fond of the story of the soldiers
sent to arrest Jesus and when they came back empty handed their only excuse
was " we have never heard someone speak like this before" And when I was
younger hearing this sermon I said much the same thing" I have never heard
anyone speak like this" Maybe that could be a motto for our parish " we have
never heard or seen people act like this before"

I think this week it would be helpful in understanding the O.T and Gospel
reading to look at the creative  literary setting the Biblical authors
display. At least I found it very interesting. I wish I had taken English
Literature in University because I think it would make me a better preacher.

The reading from Micah is like a mini drama from a  court of law. Micah is
the narrator, God is the injured plaintive, Israel is the defendant and the
judges are the mountains , hills and foundations of the earth. God speaks
about how He has been faithful to Israel and yet they have seem to have
abandoned him. The people offer up possible payments for their failings. The
great twist is that Micah tells the courtroom that God is not interested in
these or any punitive offerings but rather what can only be described as a
wonderful call to action in their lives, to do justice, love kindness and to
walk humbly before God. ( Thanks to Sibley Towner for pointing out the
courtroom scene, Feasting on The Word)

I need to get going so I will not go into detail but just to say Matthew
seems to be portraying Jesus as the new Moses. The mountain is the new
Sinai, his sermon is like the giving of the law, and very interesting is
that Matthew's Gospel begins much like the story of the exodus; both stories
have a slaughter of the infants, the return of the hero, ( Jesus was a
refugee in Egypt), passing through water( our Lord's baptism), temptation in
the wilderness, and the law giving from the mountain. ( thanks to Edwin Van
Driel for this insight Feasting on The Word)

The folks at St. Philip's will have to tell me what Dorothy said about the
readings. What would you say? Do the beatitudes inspire you or make you
think, what could Jesus have been talking about? What are your thoughts
about the cross of Christ? Are you like me and find our Lord's teaching so
inspiring?

Hope this helps you worship Sunday.


Tags: god's tent  walk humbly  psalm  micah  corinthians  matthew  beatitudes  sermon on the mount  feasting on the word year  st paul