Sixth Sunday of Epiphany
Texts: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37
For most of us, giving and receiving gifts is a regular part of our life. Whether it’s the Christmas season, birthdays, anniversaries, special accomplishments, or expressions of appreciation, gift giving accompanies our celebrations of life and our encouragement to one another.
No doubt you’ve heard the old adage “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It may be easier, too. I hear many people say that they would much rather give gifts than receive them. I’m not surprised; it takes a lot of grace to be a recipient. The gift signifies a special quality to the relationship, and turns over the responsibility for the gift to the one who receives it.
An engagement ring, for instance, comes with a whole host of expectations for the receiver. The ring indicates the next, formal step on the road to a lifelong partnership in marriage, carrying in its deep glistening facets the commitment of a loving and hope-filled union. Of course the giver has equal stake in the commitment, but the recipient is “free” until the moment they accept the ring. Once accepted, the gift includes a constellation of agreements and commitments, some clear already and some yet to be discovered!
Today’s texts are a narrative about the receivers of a gift. They are about the gift of life from God to God’s people. They describe the response of those people to this gift.
In the Deuteronomy text the Israelites are on the verge of receiving the gift of a new life in a new land. With this new life comes a new covenant, a set of promises that will help them choose life over death after they arrive in their new homeland. The Corinthians are reminded that even though Apollos and Paul provided significant leadership for their community, the growing life in their midst is the growth that God gives. Paul tells them to keep their priorities intact and describes the community as it matures into this gift.
The author of Psalm 119 describes a blameless life lived in response to God’s gift of life. And finally in Matthew 5 and throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlines patterns of response to the invitation to life in Him.
So the God-given gift of life in Jesus Christ is indeed available to anyone ready to receive it. It is given lavishly and freely. You don’t need to pay for it.
The gift does, however, come with expectations and requires commitment. Accepting such a gift is not to be taken lightly; nor is inviting others to receive such a gift. Such a great gift may not always be seen as being Good News. But when it is, we live together in a new covenant, a new set of expectations, a new constellation of commitments, and with an enduring hope that is rooted in life.
Thank you, God, for the gift of life.
For breath and blood and tissue;
For imagination and intellect and feeling;
For work and play and rest;
For time alone and time together;
For memories and dreams;
For touch and taste and smell;
For hearing and for sight;
For passion and perseverance;
We are grateful recipients of the life you offer.
Grant us the courage to live lavishly
and the grace to live blamelessly.
We know that we will not live perfectly;
Accept our efforts to live truthfully.
Guide us in our daily living, through the power of your Word
and by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit.
In the name of the one who is your greatest gift, Jesus the Christ, we pray.
Author of life divine (tune: St. John 66.66.88) John & Charles Wesley
God of our life (tune: Sandon 10 4.10 4.10 10) Kerr/Purday