The 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 29, 2023
Lectionary Readings: Zeph. 2:3, 3:12-13; Ps. 145:7-10; 1 Cor. 1:26-31; Mt. 5:1-12
Theme: WANTED: Low-Life’s
In recent months, my husband and I have had “the talk” with three different young men, all seeking our blessing to marry three of our daughters. One married in Arizona this December; one recently went wedding dress shopping in Seattle; and the third surprised us with her engagement announcement just minutes before church last Sunday. We feel incredibly blessed by the young men our daughters are marrying, and are eagerly (albeit tearfully!) embracing this new season of family life. Our approval of our new sons-in-law-to-be hasn’t stopped our joking, however, about searching for their faces among the WANTED posters hanging at the local post office. (We didn’t find any of them there!) So with WANTED posters on my mind, imagine my surprise when this week’s readings could easily be interpreted as the LORD’s own WANTED posters:
“WANTED: Low-life’s: All foolish, weak, low-class, low-life’s welcome (1 Cor. 1:27-28 CEB). Humble, powerless people sought (Zeph.3.12). Special consideration given to the hopeless, grieving, harassed, insulted, slandered, pure-hearted and peacemakers who show mercy (Mt. 5:3-11). Righteousness- and humility-seekers who practice justice qualify (Zeph. 2:3).”
If someone came across those WANTED posters, they might reasonably ask, “Who wants those people?!” And to that, we hear the LORD’s response echoing throughout scripture: first spoken to Moses (Ex.34:6-7) and repeated again and again, including in this week’s psalm. Who is this One who seeks the broken, discarded, lost low-life’s? None other than the LORD whose primary aspects are justice and mercy (Levine, 10); He is “merciful and compassionate, very patient, and full of faithful love. The LORD is good to everyone and everything; God’s compassion extends to all his handiwork!” (Ps, 145:8-9).
This is the same God who, compelled by his love, stepped into his creation. “He became what we are that we might become what he is,” Athanasius explained. Jesus was born into a humble village, to weak, low-class parents, and experienced the very realities of those He seeks – harassment, insults, slander, and powerlessness. And to those who might scoff at the WANTED posters, this humble Savior declares, “Happy (blessed) are they!” (Mt, 5:3ff). And yet, Jesus’ teaching is not new; it carries forward the refrain and themes found throughout Jewish literature (Levine, 9), of a God seeking a remnant (Berlin & Brettler, 1238); a God seeking a people who long to live, and to become, like He is – merciful, just, and compassionate.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Which aspect of the WANTED poster applies to you? Which aspect is God inviting you into this year? 2. How did Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount teaching reflect God’s character and primary aspects? 3. Where do you see the idea of a remnant reflected in the New Testament?
Bibliography: Berlin, A. and M.Z. Brettler. The Jewish Study Bible (New York: 1999). Levine, A.J., et al. The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York: 2011).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Rev. Dr. Kristen Bennett Marble, USA, Bat Kol Alumna: 2013
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