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Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Jesus insisted that word and deed corroborate each other. Disciples are credible witnesses when their loving actions mirror their words. Religious leaders have authority when their teaching takes form in their love toward God and neighbor. Disciples are called to be partners in service, learning and growing together as they love God and neighbour. Matthew 23:1–12 In this text, the scribes and Pharisees claim Moses as the authority for their teaching. In Jesus’ time, scribes served as religious lawyers, scholars, and teachers. The Pharisees were influential Jewish religious leaders who focused their lives on learning scripture and following religious practices. After the Jerusalem temple was destroyed in 70 CE, the Pharisees exhorted the community – who included the first readers of the gospel of Matthew – to live as God’s holy people, distinct from the surrounding Roman society. This account of Jesus’ teaching speaks to how Matthew’s community experienced the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus noted the lack of congruence between the teaching and the practice of certain scribes and Pharisees. Their teaching was acceptable as it was grounded in the Law of Moses. Jesus was not critical of God’s law. However, the regulations about what would mark the Jews as “holy” or “separate” had become more than ordinary people could bear. Jesus preached that God’s love invites confession and assures forgiveness. This was how the law removed guilt and debt, putting people in a right relationship with God. Jesus speaks against religious leaders who would place barriers between God and God’s people. Jesus’ teaching about the law preserved God’s grace and compassion, the essence of God’s law. Jesus enacted this teaching each day, interpreting the law with compassion (Matthew 11:28). In their zeal for a holy people and holy nation, some Pharisees preferred the benefits of power to a reputation for godly compassion, enjoying the attention their garments and religious practices attracted. Jesus observed that the outward signs (phylacteries and prayer shawls) displayed by certain leaders to mark them as God’s holy people were not supported by their actions. They were not practicing what they taught about God’s way of justice and compassion. For Matthew’s church and our church today, such use of power can mislead, corrupt the reputation of God’s law, and cause oppression. Leadership practices evolve to suit situations and communities. Moses’ leadership identified him as a charismatic, servant leader. He was both prophet and priest. As noted in Joshua 3:7–17, Joshua appointed tribal councils and priests to share the work of leading the people of Israel. With the transition to Joshua, institutional leadership replaced charismatic leadership. Moses knew God’s presence on personal basis. Joshua knew God’s presence in the Ark of the Covenant. In Psalm 107:1–7, 33–37, the psalmist declares that leaders find their authority by honouring God’s work. Paul knew that godly leadership empowers others. In 1 Thessalonians 2:9–13, Paul gives a clear account of how his use of power reveals congruence between word and deed. The Faith community – ordained leaders and laity alike – are called to learn and work together as partners in service of Christ. Honoring everyone’s contribution helps the community to grow in faith and deeds of love. To what extent does our church operate as a community of partners in service of Christ? In what ways does our church honor the contribution of each member?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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