Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my family and those whom God loves:
These are the designated texts for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany (Revised Common Lectionary with LCMS adaptations):
† Psalm 119:1-8
† Deuteronomy 30:15-20
† 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
† Matthew 5:21-37
How might these passages be summarized?
All Scripture leads us to Christ in whom God has clearly revealed himself and his saving will for us.
In the reading from Deuteronomy (30:15-20) God promises life and blessing to all who obey His commandments “by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules” (Deut. 30:16). This sounds straightforward but…
St. Paul notes in his first letter to the Corinthians (3:1-9) that we are “people of the flesh” and “infants in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1), among whom “there is jealousy and strife” (1 Cor. 3:3). Despite ongoing instruction we still fail to sometimes see who we truly are as sinners and how deep our sin goes. We seem satisfied with baby food and a life led by our sinful selves and the world we live in.
This is why Christ has to instruct his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount about the depth of their sinful nature, using examples about anger, adultery, divorce and false witness (Matt. 5:21–37). We obey God’s law on the surface, but it is our sinful predisposition that attempts to cover over our sin with our own good works. Any and all infractions against God commands is a breaking of the fist commandment and as a result we “shall surely perish” as Moses said (Deut. 30:18). Who will save us from this path to death?
On the cross, Christ died to forgive our sins and to free us from the ways of curse and death that sin brings upon us. It is Jesus Christ who is our “life and length of days” (Deut. 30:20) and through faith in what he has done for us through his life, death and resurrection that we have the assurance of forgiveness, life and salvation.
It is as this seed of faith in what Christ has done for us is watered and grown that we can then be reconciled to our brothers and sisters, live in chastity and marital faithfulness, and speak with the honesty of love. It is Christ who ultimately gives us this life-giving growth in faith as he serves us from His cross, showering us with his baptismal mercy and offering His gift of reconciliation as we come to his altar where he speaks: “This is my body, which is for you….This cup is the new covenant in my blood” for you. It is from the altar that we are then sent out to be at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are as St. Paul writes, “God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9).
God sets life before us in Christ so that we can walk in the way that leads to life.
† Issues Etc: Looking Forward to Sunday Morning (3 Year Lectionary): Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany – Dr. Carl Fickenscher, 2/13/20 (Archived)
Grace be with you,