Do the Next Right ThingEpiphany Sunday
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January 6 – 11, 2020
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Read – 1 Kings 21:1-16, Micah 2:1-2
Notice – The prophet Micah would have had a lot to say to King Ahab. The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible points out that family land was seen as their piece of God’s covenant with Israel. Your home wasn’t just where you lived, it was a tangible gift from God. Ahab and Jezebel lie, cheat, and steal, but for what? Have you ever been tempted to treat someone like Ahab and Jezebel treat Naboth? What tempted you and why? Have you ever been treated like Naboth? How did it make you feel? What is it, within us, that creates this kind of unnecessary conflict and strife? Micah writes that these actions don’t simply have economic implications, but spiritual ones too. How do you understand the spiritual and emotional implications of sin?
Pray – God, no matter how little, or how much, power I have, teach me to use it to bless others and never exploit them. Amen.
Read – Exodus 20:16, Exodus 23:1-3
Notice – The commandment to not lie, or give a ‘false witness’ seems so obvious that we could wonder why it made the 10 commandments. No one would ever give a false testimony or bend the truth. Of course not. Unless…There are likely countless justifications that you can think of where something, technically, false serves a good purpose. Don’t beat yourself up too much though. The ten commandments were initially limited to legal proceedings, as ancient forensic evidence. To what extent do you agree with ancient Israel, that the absolute truth should only be reserved for courtroom proceedings? When is a lie a good thing? When is a lie a bad thing? Who gets to decide?
Pray – God of truth, I often hear myself and others tell “white lies.” Help me to make truth my default behavior. Amen.
Read – Romans 2:17-23
Notice – In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul lays out his argument that builds to what he writes in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of God’s Glory.” In Chapter 1 of Romans, Paul writes about moral failings in the Gentile (non-Jewish) world, and then in Chapter 2, he writes of the sins of his own people and himself. Later, in Romans 13:9, Paul sums up the law like this, ““The commandments, Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t desire what others have, and any other commandments, are all summed up in one word: You must love your neighbor as yourself” Often we don’t commit adultery, murder, or steal, but we can wonder how close to these sins can we get. Instead of asking yourself what you can get away with, ask yourself, “Would I want someone else to act this way with me?” What kind of community could we create if we loved our neighbors as we love ourselves, instead of trying to figure out what we could get away with?
Pray – Jesus, if there’s any place where I’ve been stealing, lying, cheating, or sinning, in little or big ways, give me the courage to stop and make amends. Teach me how to more fully love my neighbor as myself. Amen.
Read – Matthew 5:21-24
Notice – What do you think makes it often feel satisfying to express contempt for people who disagree with you or are different, and tear down their reputation? Scholar William Barclay said in Matthew 5 Jesus rebuked, first, “the anger over which a person broods, and which he will not allow to die;” then the Aramaic raca, which is “almost untranslatable, because it describes a tone …the whole accent of contempt;” and finally the Greek mōros: “To call a man mōros was not to criticize his mental ability; it was to cast aspersions on his moral character; to take his name and reputation.”* Do you believe Jesus’ teaching applies to the heated speech we hear (and sometimes join in) people flinging at each other today?
Pray – God, help me in all my dealings with others to focus more on what connects us than on what divides us. Help me exercise discernment, but in a generous, unifying spirit. Amen.
William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew—Volume 1, Chapters 1–10 (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, pp. 139-140.
Read – Jeremiah 7:4-11
Notice – Jeremiah was blunt in verse 11: “Ultimately the people were treating the temple, the house of God, as robbers do their dens. It was a temporary refuge till they sallied forth on another foray.”* Centuries later, Jesus quoted Jeremiah, telling priests ripping off pilgrims that they’d turned the Temple into “a hideout for crooks” (Mark 11:15-18). There are times to flip tables, just like Jesus did in the Gospels, but there are also times to heal relationships and bring people back together, just like Jesus did. How do you balance safety, accountability, justice and reconciliation in your life?
Pray – God, help me to trust in your strength and security. May I find peace in you today and always. Amen.
Charles L. Feinberg comment on Jeremiah 7:4 in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged: Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994, p. 1173.
Read – Romans 12:9, Romans 13:9-10
Notice – While dedicating a new chapel, Methodism’s founder John Wesley urged, “Let our hearts be joined herein; let us unite our wishes and prayers; let our whole soul pant after a general revival of pure religion and undefiled, the restoration of the image of God, pure love, in every child of man! …let us, with all diligence, diffuse the religion of love among all.” In another setting, John Wesley urged Methodists, “Let us provoke all men, not to enmity and contention, but to love and good works; always remembering those deep words… ‘God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him!’” In what ways has following Christ made you and your relationships more loving? How has following Jesus helped you to rise above our human propensity to mess things up, as we talked about last Sunday in worship?
Pray – God, please help me to take in, and then live out your love. I want to live in love, to live in you and to have you live in me. Amen.