Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B
February 1, 2015
The good life begins in the fear of God — Do that and you’ll know the blessing of GOD. His hallelujah lasts forever! Psalm 111:10 (The Message)
Psalm 111 helps us cut right to the chase about what’s truly important in a world of multiple priorities and demands for our time, attention, and pocketbook. This ancient song encourages us to stop, take stock of the amazing attributes of the Creator of the Universe, and then align our lives to walk faithfully in respectful wonder–following, praising, and thanking God.
Yes, the world and any number of “false prophets” bearing the monikers of consumerism, humanism, commercialism, and all manner of other “-isms” seek to sell us a false sense of security, a good life promised in what we have and who we are. Conversely, the psalmist reminds us that our worth, our purpose, and our reason for being are all found in whose we are. The good life begins in total commitment to God.
And where, pray tell, do we find an avenue for cultivating and stewarding our commitment to God? Why, the church, of course! Psalm 111 reminds us that the best place to practice this stewardship of worship and witness is “. . . in the company of the upright, in the congregation.” In community we share the stories of faith, we tell of God’s gracious and merciful nature, and we learn to practice discipleship.
Our discipleship deepens as we worship, as we study God’s ways, as we develop relationships with one another, as we serve both within the beloved community and beyond it, as we respond to God’s goodness with glad and generous hearts, and as we cover everything in fervent prayer. We are the heirs of the kingdom, children of the heavenly father, and bearers of the most amazing story ever told. This reality calls for nothing short of a total commitment and faithful stewardship of all life. God provides. God redeems. God is merciful and just. God’s righteousness is forever. Enough said, but then one can never say enough about the God who loves and desires to save the world.
The gospel lesson echoes the theme of God’s greatness revealed in Jesus, who as his ministry gains steam is recognized even by demons as one who speaks with authority, as the Holy One of God. If even the demons obey the Son of Man, shouldn’t we also marvel and wonder and follow? There’s plenty in this lesson to fill and sermon or teaching opportunity. Or, if you’re thinking more about the epistle lesson from 1 Corinthians, you will also find a logical connection to Psalm 111 and stewardship in Paul’s exhortation to the church at Corinth on the subject of whether to eat food sacrificed to idols. Again, cutting to the chase, Paul says “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” It’s about priorities, about focus, and about setting our eyes on God.
Yes, myriad distractions dance like sugarplums before our eyes each day. Advertisements tell us we lack, we need, we must have this or that in order to be happy and fulfilled. Scripture tells a different story, a story that neither wavers nor changes. Praise the Lord! Thanks be to God! Want the good life? Look no further than your local faith community and the God of the Cosmos. That’s where the real good life, the life that lasts, begins.
How have you seen the power of God’s works in your congregation? In what ways do your people experience and study God’s works? This is a good day to respond to the psalm by naming these things and giving them voice. Either do this as part of a teaching sermon with time for small group dialogue or in the prayers of thanksgiving provide space for people to lift up petitions of praise and gratitude for what God has done and is doing in their lives.
If your youth group is older, consider taking them to see Selma. This new film provides many opportunities for rich discussion, and talking about speaking with authority and how serving a higher authority is both a blessing and sometimes a difficult path.
Building God’s house of love begins by looking for the good in all of God’s people and by not becoming hung up in details. Even children can grasp this concept. If you have an example or two from your own life be sure to share them. Maybe it’s the time your children fixed you breakfast in bed and totally destroyed the kitchen in the process. Fixating on their breaking the kitchen rules would totally destroy the building up of love that was on their hearts and in their minds. Consider giving them some examples to compare such as is it better to scold someone for forgetting to take out the trash or to praise them for going next door to help an elderly neighbor rake leaves? Is it better to scold someone for giving away their coat or to celebrate the fact that he or she cared enough to help someone who didn’t have one at all? You may even be able to ask children for examples. If you have some Duplo or other large blocks you can use them as a visual to complement the examples to show that “love builds up.” End by challenging them to help turn your congregation into a house built up by love, and finish with a simple prayer for everyone to see opportunities to use love to build one another up.
Photos: Axel Buhrmann, City Temple SDA Church, and Ian Burt, Creative Commons License. Thanks!)