God is the for us to follow.
Not some other set of values.
We are not to follow the shepherd of the materialistic society around us.
We are not to be shepherded by the innundation of advertizing that pushes us this way and that.
We are not to be misled by the words of those who would have us follow their values that are not in harmony with God’s ways.
Last Sunday we started hearing the Easter account from the Gospel of John. The accounts vary a little bit in detail from Gospel to Gospel, but this year, given the choice between Matthew and John, I happened to choose John.
Today we heard part of the story from Genesis about Adam and Eve. First off, let’s be clear: I am not approaching this text as history, but as theology. It was not meant to tell us a chronological series of events, but it was written to tell us about God. And, in the reading today, it was written to tell us about: us.
I’ve said it before, but let me repeat: Life in Galilee was pretty harsh in Jesus’ day.
Just to begin: The Roman soldiers had a lot of power. Frequently they would randomly point to someone - maybe you. “Hey, you,” they would bark, “It’s your turn to give a hand. Here’s my pack.... you’re going to carry it. One mile. Now.” And that was would you would do. Because that was the law. And then they would tell someone else to carry it, and on it went.
So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
Life in the Corinthian congregation certainly had its good points.
And its bad points.
I’ve already talked a bit about it in past weeks, but want to look a little deeper.
If I were to do a session with our scripture readers on how to read scripture, today’s reading from Isaiah is one that I would love to choose as an exercise. Normally, when people read scripture, they try to read clearly, not too fast.... And so the Isaiah reading would be thus:
Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.
God takes us to court
In the reading from Micah, God takes the believer to court. And the believer - which is us - answers (The Message):
6 How can I stand up before God and show proper respect to the high God? Should I bring an armload of offerings topped off with yearling calves? 7 Would God be impressed with thousands of rams, with buckets and barrels of olive oil? Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child, my precious baby, to cancel my sin?
This morning we heard another part of Paul’s first letter to the congregation in Corinth.
There are two reasons that I like this passage.
The first is that we can see Paul as a real person.
We can lose track of that when reading the Epistles. Paul comes across like a university lecturer, writing sentences that go on for ever... if not a lecturer, then surely a lawyer. Erudite. Learned. Taking care with each phrase, subclauses upon subclauses, constructed to support his arguement.
The year is AD 57, about 25 years after Jesus ministry.
Paul is probably in Ephesus - on the west coast of present-day Turkey. And he is thinking about one of the congregations he founded - the congregation in Corinth, 300km by sea from Ephesus. Corinth is an important city with inhabitants that come from all over. And some of those people have become Christians and joined that fledgling congregation.