The Lectionary readings for this week include Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Matthew 21:33-46 and Philippians 3:4b-14.
Since over the past few Sundays we have been reading through Exodus and Matthew, let’s begin with these two texts. First, the reading from Exodus provides for us the Ten Commandments. God has brought the people of Israel out of Egypt and they have reached Mount Sinai. Now it’s time to go to school. Now it’s time to learn what it means to be God’s people. So God lays out the ground rules beginning with “I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before me.” Concerning this passage, I love what Murray Andrew Pura says in his commentary in The Life With God Bible: “The important thing for us to understand [here] is the way in which grace precedes law. God first acts in grace and mercy by delivering the people, and then the people respond in gratitude and thanksgiving by obeying the commandments. Put succinctly: the crossing of the Red Sea comes before the giving of the Ten Commandments.”
In the reading from Matthew, Jesus continues to put the chief priests and elders in their place. The parable of the wicked tenants is a picture of God’s grace and love being rejected repeatedly. Through the death of God’s Son, the kingdom will break forth from its boundaries to include even those the religious authorities of the day would have never expected.
Which brings us to the reading upon which the sermon for this week will be based—the Philippians text. Here Paul claims his reason for boasting—Christ Jesus. There was a time in Paul’s life when that was not the case. There was a time when he despised the people of the Way and did everything he could to stop the gospel they proclaimed. But Paul has encountered Jesus and he will never be the same.
The Apostle Paul provides for us a host of gifts, but the one that we will consider on Sunday is the hope that he models for us in a new life made possible through our relationship with Jesus.
Here are some things to consider as we journey toward Sunday:
1. In the old life, what were Paul’s reasons for boasting?
2. In today’s world, what types of things do people generally brag about?
3. Paul uses the metaphor of running a race for his spiritual journey. How might that relate to your own story?
4. All three Lectionary texts seem to point to a new life. In Exodus, the theme is new life made possible by knowing God, and treating our neighbor as we would like to be treated. In Matthew, a new life is promised for those who have been considered outsiders. And in Philippians, new life is modeled for us in the person of Paul. Have you experienced new life? How might you describe it to others?
These have been just a few thoughts from your pastor on the journey toward Sunday (which is also World Communion Sunday). I look forward to seeing you in worship.