Deuteronomy 34:1-12 • Leviticus 19:1-18 • Psalm 1 • Matthew 22:34-46 • I Thessalonians 2:1-18
Our readings through the journey with Moses takes a huge leap this week as we are transported from God revealing himself to the death of Moses (it is actually a tragic leap for we are missing a lot – we will be back this way in the future to cover what we are skipping). Moses is not going into the Promised Land but God is permitting him to see into the land as he had been promised. This passage also details the legacy of Moses that has ‘never been matched’.
This passage was the basis for Martin Luther King’s final sermon which he preached the night before he was assassinated.
The book of Leviticus, in large part, is the Law which God gave to Moses so that Moses could then give it to the people. The reason we are at this passage this week is that there is a direct tie between this passage and our Matthew gospel passage (specially Leviticus 18:1-2, 15-18). This teaching becomes, to the Jewish people, the basic foundation for their belief system. This is the origin of ’Be Holy’, ‘Love God, and ‘Love your neighbor’. This becomes the most basic of the common elements of the teachings in the Jewish faith. While verses 1-2 set the tone for holiness, verses 15-18 give us a taste of what it means to ‘love your neighbor.’ As you look at this taste of ‘Love’, compare it to the atmosphere of the church, and believers in our world today, are these validated or ignored in what we see around us, are they the main factor in our own lives?
We recently had to have a huge cypress tree cut down in our front yard. I loved this tree, it was higher than any other tree on our street, possibly our neighborhood. I loved to stand at the base of the tree and look up – it felt like I was standing at the base of a redwood in Northern California. The reason we had to have the tree removed was that the roots began to tear up our driveway and were harming our neighbor’s house foundation. Then the tree guy came out he showed me the evidence of the roots not just in the vicinity of the tree but also at the back opposite corner of my back yard. The root system of the cypress were amazing but also detrimental, the fact that they were so shallow made them a menace, or threat, to everything on the surface. Ultimately, this tree that provided so much for the squirrels and birds….and me, was a negative for everything else.
Deep roots take healthy care of what is above the dirt.
There are 208 verses in the Old Testament that speak of a literal or metaphoric tree, 9 of those are in the book of Psalms which mostly refer to having deep roots or being a shelter and refuge. Interestingly, the book of Psalms takes us to a tree in the very first chapter in a way that sets us up for the message of the entire book – deep roots for strong and useful branches. Consider the waters in your life that make your roots deep and strong.
We are still with Jesus in the temple, in Jerusalem, the week of the cross, and, Jesus is still entertaining the testy questions of all the different groups of religious leaders and scholars. As Jesus had quieted every group that they could send to him, they now put a lawyer before him. The lawyer asks a very benign question, ‘What is the greatest commandment?’ Jesus answers the way that all the leaders would answer “Love God and Love all Others.’ The leaders have nothing else to ask so Jesus commandeers the conversation by asking the leaders a very difficult and tricky question which they are genuinely unable to answer. It is not a ‘trick’ question but it was a challenge to their stance in regard to accepting that Jesus was the Messiah. The leaders had nothing else to ask, they had been bested in their pursuit of tricking Jesus into saying something wrong that would turn the attitude of the crowds. They left.
I Thessalonians 2:1-8
Paul continues to write to the Thessalonians of his amazement of the work the Holy Spirit has been freed to do in the church at Thesslonica. In chapter 2 Paul expands to illuminate his own inner motive and calling in coming to them in the first place. He also shares that they are very dear to him. Chapter 2 is a continuation of the encouragement we saw in chapter 1 last week.