The Lessons for Sunday are bracketed by high expectations
The Old Testament lesson begins: Lev. 19:1: “The Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, you shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”
The Gospel lesson (Matt. 5:38-48) ends with Jesus, the Lord, saying: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Such high expectations may well lead to high anxiety. How are we, the congregation of the people of God, to attain the holiness of perfection/the perfection of holiness?”
High anxiety may result if we only view the Lord’s statements in Leviticus and the Sermon on the Mount as demands to achieve a certain level sinless saintliness.
The good news comes in the epistle lesson, I Corinthians 3:10-23. “Don’t you not know that you are God’s temple?” “And you Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” “All things are yours…the world or life or death or the present or the future-all are yours.”
We are already holy, because the holy God acted to his people at the Red Sea and at the cross. We are already perfect because we are perfected in Christ. In Christ, we already belong to God. We are already his people. We are already built into a temple of God for no temple has ever built itself. We are the blessed of the Father.
The thrust of the lessons is to put our holiness into action, not to achieve holiness, but to demonstrate what it means to be holy by loving our neighbor as yourself. We therefore are called to love our enemies for we were once enemies of God, who reconciled us to himself. We are called to turn the cheek, for our Lord turned his cheek to the smiters. We look out for the poor and the stranger among us for they are our neighbors and we were once among the poor and have been given the riches of God’s grace in Christ.
Prayer of the Day: Holy God of compassion, you invite us into your way of forgiveness and peace. Lead us to love our enemies, and transforms our words and deeds to be like his through whom we pray, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.