Signpost for Sunday 5 February 2023: Isa 58:1-9a,(9b-12); Ps 112:1-9 (10); 1 Cor 2:1-12, (13-16); Matt 5:13-20.
The floods in Auckland have been the big news in New Zealand since last Friday. Such events would once have been called an act of God. Some people might still think they are. Most of us, though, now recognise the causes are a combination of climate change and lack of investment in essential infrastructure.
This week’s readings from Lectionary highlighted or me that there’s nothing new about the confusion that can arise between what to believe and what to do.
In the reading from Isaiah the people believe they need to pray and fast, but they don’t really understand what prayer and fasting requires them to do. It’s not about going without food for a few hours or days in the hope of pleasing YHWH. Isaiah 58:6-8 spells out that a better definition of fasting is to refrain from doing things that harm or constrain others and to actively provide them with the things they go without.
Paul’s letter to the ‘new Judaeans’ in Corinth contains the famous phrase, For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:3). In the 20th and 21st centuries that sentence is one those that can cause division. There are many who think that it prescribes an absolute and literal belief in the resurrection of Yeshua on the third day after he was put to death. Maybe it does, and maybe it is also an invitation for us to examine what Yeshua said and did when he was alive. It was after all, what he did and said when he was alive that led directly to his execution.
The reading from Matthew gives us Yeshua talking about how to go about live on earth rather than worrying about what happened to him after the crucifixion. Although it does gets a bit confusing when he goes on to talk about the law and the prophets. But I think there’s an explanation for that, as I wrote a couple of years ago.
The what to believe and what to do debate is also about why we do either. I came across this thought from Bruce Epperly that I tend to agree with:
Heaven-oriented religion – and the quest to chart the Second Coming of Jesus – draws us away from the pain of the Earth. What happens to Right Whales, endangered by human artifices, off Cape Cod and the state of polar ice caps is of no consequence if heaven is our destination or at the last trump God will return in destructive force. Yet, though such religious viewpoints scorn conservation and Earth care, they seem to revel in drilling and dumping and money making.