A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Upcoming Sunday Scripture Commentary - September 28

Note: The scripture readings for this Sunday through October 26 will not be based on the appointed lectionary readings. We will be using other selected readings as part of our "Living Generously" church-wide focus.

Sermon (September 28) - "Living Generously: First & Best"

Leviticus 22:17-20

This passage helps us to see that Priests are to receive the people's gifts in proper ways. Lay persons are not to eat of the food given for the priests.

Gifts are to be given without any physical blemish.

These meticulous commands regarding the offering of sacrifices relate to the concept of holiness which is what helps God's people to be set apart and unique in their vocation of being God's covenant people.

This scripture passage invites us to think about the gifts that we offer to God and the church. Are we offering our very best gifts or do we give to God our leftovers? The Book of Leviticus also refers to the tithe which is 10% of one's harvest. See Leviticus 27:30. This is the minimum expectation of what one is to give to the Lord.

Matthew 22:34-40

Jesus responds to a question about which of all the many commandments is the greatest. Jesus replies with the Shema, a prayer that would have been recited daily by the people of Jesus' day. It speaks of loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Jesus adds a second commandment which is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Even though Jesus gave a traditional answer by referring to the Shema, we are left with the question as to how we can obey this commandment. The word, "all" appears several times int he Shema. How can we offer God our very best (see our Leviticus passage) each day?

To answer that question, we need to think about the bigger question and how it's through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, that we are empowered to live as God's people. We can't do this on our own strength. We needed Jesus not just to give us the right answer but to live this commandment out fully, even to the point where he offered his life on a cross to bring salvation to the world.

Scot McKnight, a Christian author and blogger has a book entitled Jesus Creed which invites us to recite the Great Commandment as people would have done in Jesus' day. By reciting it, we not only continue a tradition that has been established over several centuries, we also become more aware of living out this commandment in our day to day living.

We are in the beginning of a five-week congregational focus on the theme, "Living Generously." Both our scriptures for this Sunday remind us that to live generously, we are called to offer God our very best gifts.

[Note: The resources used for these scripture reading commentaries are based on the Everyone series by NT Wright, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, The Wesley Study Bible, and the “Montreal-Anglican”lectionary commentaries.]

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