Signpost for Sunday 25 June 2017 (12th Ordinary Sunday): Gen 21; 8-21; Ps 86; 1-10,16-17: Rom 6; 1b-11: Matt 10; 24-39.
Our Signpost writer, Paul, gave us a really good reading of the Genesis story three years ago, so all I can do here is suggest that this is really about the politics of the “Middle East”. (I have put that in quotes because it is a very Eurocentric description of the Mesopotamia/Egypt region – we might better call it “the Arab World”.) And the heart of the Old Testament is really about tribal politics up the Exile.
I am puzzled by the Psalm selection. I applaud the custom in the New Zealand Prayer Book of omitting the horrible verses such as Psalm 137, verses 7 – 9. So I don’t understand why verses 11-15 are omitted in favour of verse 17b.
As I get older, I am more and more puzzled by the emphasis on sin in the writings of Paul. He was brought up in a much more rigorous legalism than most of us are today. Anyone preaching with that heavy emphasis would be suspected of taking the mickey. Nowadays we see that Paul’s other theme of love is much more central to the Gospel, so the best part of this lection has to do with connecting with God, living with and in God. Can we say that if we are totally loving in all our relationships under God, we do not come near to ‘sin’?
The Gospel reading is simply a collection of sayings. They may well have all been attributed to Jesus by the time Matthew included them, but they do not connect up at all. There is no background, no context. I suppose that emphasis on rewards is better than emphasis on the results of sin, but I cannot help feeling that such are older rabbinical sayings than is suggested here.
We only get to see these particular readings because Easter was a little earlier than it is most years. They are no less difficult to tackle than last week’s (Trinity, anyone?), so I won’t miss not having to preach.