Keyword Search

  • Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company
    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

Epiphany 5 | Ordinary Time 5, Cycle A

Within three of the four texts appointed for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany in Series A, the central, unifying theme is “the righteousness of the People of God.” Throughout the acrostic Psalm 112 the righteousness of God’s People is described and defined. In a similar manner, righteousness is the quality that the Lord God desires in the People of God in Isaiah 58. Finally, in the Matthew 5:13-20 account the righteousness of the new community of followers of Jesus is the primary subject for consideration. Only 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 stands outside this theme.

In these three texts the People of God are righteous because of the “right relationships” they have with God, with other people, and with the world. They are righteous because of their responsible behavior and attitudes. This is appropriate for the People of God.

It should be noted that the Apostle Paul used the concept of righteousness in a somewhat different sense in his letter to the Romans. For Paul, the People of God who are followers of Jesus cannot be righteous by their own efforts. They are righteous only when God graciously declares them to be righteous even when they are sinners and are not righteous by their own efforts. They are urged by Paul to accept this imputed righteousness as a gift from God, by the grace of God, to be received by faith. Those who selected the texts for this coming weekend apparently chose not to mix Paul’s use of the concept with the Psalm 112, Isaiah 58, and Matthew 5 usages, since they did not select a “righteousness” text from Paul’s letter to the Romans to be read with the other three selections.

Let us look more closely at the ways in which the righteousness of the People of God is depicted, described, and contrasted with other behavior in Psalm 112, Isaiah 58, and Matthew 5. We shall then examine 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 separately from the theme of righteousness.

Psalm 112:1-9 (10)
In this psalm the righteousness of the person described is clearly a righteousness of right relationships. The relationship that this person has with the Lord God is to fear (respect) the Lord and to delight in the commandments of the Lord. This person trusts in the Lord above all things. The relationship that this person has with other persons is to contribute generously to the poor and oppressed, to lend money and other resources to those who need them, and to be fair and honest in all business matters, gracious and merciful to everyone. As a result of this kind of behavior, the descendants of this righteous person will be highly respected in the land and blessed with riches of all kinds. This person’s right relationships will endure for all times. So enthusiastic is the writer of this psalm that there is no mention of the other side of the picture: even those who have right relationships suffer adversity, as we see in other psalms, in the Job document, and in our own lives. Instead, here the person who maintains right relationships is contrasted with the wicked person who is jealous of the righteous and is burning with anger and wrath.

Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)
According to this text, right relationships, particularly with regard to justice for the oppressed, is what the Lord God wants, not ostentatious fasting. The right relationships involve loosing the bonds of wickedness, breaking every yoke of oppression, letting the oppressed people be free, sharing bread with the hungry, bringing the destitute into your home, and covering those who are naked. Then morning shall dawn for you, your light shall go forth, your right relationships will go out before you, and the glory of the Lord will follow you. When you call, the Lord will answer immediately, “Here I am!”

Matthew 5:13-20
In Matthew 5:13-20, excellent “right relationships” appear to be a prerequisite for participation in the kingdom of heaven. The new followers of Jesus are to relate to others by being the salt to flavor the earth. If they cease to relate to the world in this way, they have lost their flavor and are to be trampled on as useless by others. They are expected to relate to other people also by being the light of the world, so that other people will see what they are doing and will give glory to God. They are to relate to the Torah and to the Prophets (the canonical Bible of that time for most Jews and for most of the followers of Jesus) by maintaining them and by teaching them. Their right relationships to God and to all people are to be superior to the right relationships of their Jewish counterparts who have not joined with them. If their right relationships are not superior to the right relationships of their Jewish counterparts, those followers of Jesus wrote they will by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.

We should note that the Matthew 5:13-20 text does not say that the scribes and the Pharisees will not enter into the kingdom of heaven, even though most Christians have understood the Matthew 5:13-20 text in that way. The ultimate destiny of the scribes and Pharisees is not the issue here. The issue here is, “What will happen to the followers of Jesus?”

1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16)
As we move outside this text, back to 1 Corinthians 1:30, two verses preceding the beginning of this text, to the text in this pericope series for the previous weekend, we find the Apostle Paul describing Jesus Christ as “our righteousness,” our wisdom and sanctification and redemption. In the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus, the secret and hidden wisdom of God has been made known in a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. The Roman government officials (the rulers of this age) did not know this, but Paul implies that in the future they shall know this, and shall know that Christ Jesus (not Caesar) is Lord when Christ Jesus returns in glory.

Leave a Reply

  • Get Your FREE 30-day Trial Subscription to SermonSuite NOW!
    Chris Keating
    The Double-Dog Dare Days of August
    August’s lazy, hazy dog days quickly became a deadly double-dog dare contest between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of North Korea. Both nations have been at odds with each other for nearly 70 years. During his working golf vacation in New Jersey last week, President Trump responded to North Korea’s rhetorical sword-rattling by launching a verbal preemptive strike of his own.
         Call it the Bedminster bombast, or the putt that rocked Pyongyang. But the duel between the two countries is more than fodder for late-night comedians. It’s a deadly standoff with history-changing repercussions.
         There is no vacation from matters of national security, or the orations of war. Indeed, much of the war of words between Washington and North Korea seems to confirm Jesus’ counsel in Matthew: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” The contrasts between these barbed exchanges and the biblical understanding of peacemaking offers an intriguing opportunity to hear Jesus’ words in a world filled with double-dog (and even triple-dog) dares....more
    Feeding The 5,000
    The assigned Gospel text for this week skips over a couple of sections in Matthew's story. Matthew 14:34-36 cites Jesus' journey to Gennesaret. The crowds of people recognized him immediately and all of the sick came to him for healing. Just a touch of Jesus' garment brought healing to many. The crowd in Gennesaret recognized Jesus. They came to him in their need....more
    Wayne Brouwer
    Religious balkanization
    One dimension of religious life we have in common across faith traditions and denominational lines is the incessant divisiveness that split our seemingly monolithic communities into dozens of similar yet tenaciously varied subgroups. A Jewish professor of psychology said of his tradition, "If there are ten Jewish males in a city we create a synagogue. If there are eleven Jewish males we start thinking about creating a competing synagogue."...more
    C. David McKirachan
    Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy
    Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
    I had a parishioner who would walk out of the sanctuary if he saw a djembe (African drum) out in front to be used in worship.  I asked him about it, in a wonderfully pastoral manner, and he told me that things like that didn’t belong in worship.  I said that it was in the bible to praise God with pipes and drums (I think it is).  He told me he didn’t care what the Bible said, he knew where that thing came from and he wouldn’t have it.  I asked him why things from Africa would bother him.  He told me that he knew I was liberal but that didn’t mean he had to be.  I agreed with him but cautioned him that racism was probably one of the worst examples of evil in our world and I thought he should consider what Christ would think of that.  He asked me who paid my salary, Christ or good Americans....more
    Janice Scott
    No Strings Attached
    In today's gospel reading, Jesus seemed reluctant to heal the Canaanite woman's daughter. He told her that he wasn't sent to help foreigners, but only his own people, the Chosen Race. The words sound unnecessarily harsh, but perhaps this is an interpretation unique to Matthew, for this story only appears in Matthew's gospel, which was written for Jews....more
    Arley K. Fadness
    Great Faith
    Object: Hula Hoop or circle made out of ribbon, twine or rope
    What an amazing morning to come to church today. I am so glad to see you and talk to you about a wonderful story from the bible. Let me begin by showing you this circle. Now let's get into this circle. (Physically, all move into the circle) It's fun for us all to be together in this circle. We don't want anyone to be left out. To be left out is to be sad. To be kept out is even more sad and painful....more

Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen