Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (A)

Harmony BibleOur Gospel reading today is from Mt 5:1-12 found in Sections 54a, b1.  Jesus explains during the first lesson on the “Sermon on the Mount” his wisdom, virtues and values he wishes to instill in those who would be his disciples. Even more in this message Jesus is passing on an anointing helping his recently appointed Apostles 2 who are to become like him. The beatitudes confound the braggart but comfort the biddable; they build up the disciple but bewilder the dissident. While Matthew eloquently includes nine statements of blessing, Luke offers just four and includes also the certain warnings – but both evangelists hope to help their readers re-frame their thinking to realize the Kingdom of God within their soul and society itself.


The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Parsing the Collect, by Fr. Rob Eaton, Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Hemet, CA


Section 54a | Setting of the Sermon (Sermon on the Mount)

Matthew 5:1-2
1 Seeing the multitudes, he went up onto the mountain.3  When he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 He opened his mouth and taught them, saying,
Luke 6:17-19
17 He came down with them, and stood on a level place, with a crowd of his disciples, and a great number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases;4 18 as well as those who were troubled by unclean spirits, and they were being healed. 19 All the multitude sought to touch him, for power came out of him and healed them all.

Section 54b | Blessings of those who Inherit the Kingdom and Woes to those who do not

Matthew 5:3-12
3 “Blessed are5 the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.6 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.7  5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.8 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.9 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.10 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Luke 6:20-26
20 He lifted up his eyes to his disciples, and said, “Blessed are you who are poor, God’s Kingdom is yours. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.

 

 

 

23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for their fathers did the same thing to the prophets.11 24 “But woe to you who are rich! For you have received your consolation.12  25 Woe to you, you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now,13 for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe, when men speak well of you,14 for their fathers did the same thing to the false prophets.


RCL Readings: Micah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12; Psalm 15


Group Dialog:

  1. What parallels do you see in today’s other assigned readings?
  2. If you are in a role of leadership, what lessons, values and virtues would you want to pass on to those who would help you expand your ministry?
  3. Do you think it is possible to be merciful without first experiencing mercy yourself? Why or why not?
  4. Describe how it feels to have an appetite for righteousness. What can we do to stimulate this kind of insatiable appetite for godliness?
  5. Do you have any pretensions that you can get by in life on your own power and possessions?
  6. Do you think you could enter heaven on your own merit or only by the grace of God provided you by Jesus justification.

Study Notes:

  1. Listen to our podcast on this lesson. The Revised Common Lectionary befittingly assigns this same Gospel reading in Year A on All Saints’ Day, November 1, 2017.
  2. See Section 53, and the Index to see the overall sequence of Phase 5a.
  3. The setting is most likely on the ‘Horns of Hattin’ – an extinct volcano which as any mountain has its share of ups and downs. See the Harmony Bible Map. While his ‘sermon’ went on for days, this first teaching was provided to his disciples (Sections 28, 41, 47a, 53) and the crowds who followed him there interested in what he had to say as well as those who had hopes that he might heal them (See Jesus the Healer and his Miracles).
  4. There had been no less than 7 individual events of healing, plus two records of mass healing and two miracles prior to this day (See Jesus the Healer and his Miracles).  Its no doubt then that people from all around came to listen, receive, and see what more might be done.
  5. As you will see in the cross references these blessings parallel a number Old Testament blessings. In an Hebraic understanding Blessedness is a present reality, a way of being within one’s relationship with God – and in such intimacy, experience, emotion and behavior are inseparable. In these lessons then those who are feeling unhappy will discover Jesus’ wisdom and path to true happiness, joy, contentment and satisfaction.
  6. What is it to be poor in spirit, perhaps look at the opposite – pompous, self-reliance, spiritual arrogance, self-sufficiency. Such characteristics would not be fitting the apostles, nor us. Not only would they repel people but such a person would not be compelled to surrender themselves to God nor likely to lead others to submit to God. CR Isa 61:1, 66:2; Chron 7:14; Lk 18:14; Jms 2:5, 4:7-10; Mic 6:8; Ecl 7:24
  7. Mourning over the condition of their soul, the folly of their way – penitent. To “be comforted” is passive in form – a present hope of this future promise is provided not by our own capacity but by an outside agent – God.
  8. CR Isa 30:18.
  9. Matthew includes five beatitudes which Luke did not record: gentle, merciful, pure, peacemakers, persecuted.
  10. CR Rom 4:6-9; Ps 119:1-2; Lk 11:28.
  11. CR: Jms 1:12
  12. Not condemning wealth but the behavior of those who safeguard their wealth rather than maintain an attitude of a steward, with concern for that which concerns the heart of God.
  13. Not that laughter is wrong, but that one’s priority should not be for folly and good times – but doing the will of God.
  14. Finally not that people should speak poorly of you, but we should not be so concerned with the attitudes of others rather with the opinion of God.