The coming Fourth Sunday in Lent is always the “Rejoice” Sunday. Each year the gospel lesson is a beloved passage about the gracious saving work of Christ: “God so loved the world…” “This brother of yours…was lost and has been found.” And this year: “Once I was blind, but now I see.”
How does the joy of the new life in Christ affect our lifestyle in the redeemed community? Did you notice the two Matthew readings this week (Tuesday and Wednesday)? They are the final Matthew lessons for this season: In Matthew 18, we who have been forgiven are called to forgive others. In Matthew 5 Jesus emphasizes that the ethics of the church are not an abandonment of God’s earlier words to the Children of Israel. Instead our focus must be on the heart meaning of the commandments with all their deep and broad applications.
“…until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” Some of you might remember the old translation: “…not one jot or tittle…” It’s an Aramaic expression about how the Hebrew letters are drawn; it refers to the smallest strokes that the pen or stylus makes. A modern version of the imagery would be “You will not be done with the laws of God until you have crossed every “t” and dotted every “i.”
We will return this summer to a continuous reading of Matthew. Then we will see more fully what this gospel is getting at regarding ethics in the church community. There were voices in the first century that distorted the gospel message in such a way as to be careless about obedience and discipline, as if our freedom in Christ somehow means no attention to rules and morality. Matthew’s approach to the move from Old to New Testament/Covenant is to emphasize the points of continuity, that God always intended the redeemed community to be a disciplined and obedient community. As in today’s reading from Jeremiah: “This command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.’”
Consider Jesus, with his face aimed obediently and steadfastly toward Jerusalem, inviting us to come along.
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: