Old Testament: Micah (6:1-8)
Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.” “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
The Response: Psalm 15
1 Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle? *
who may abide upon your holy hill?
2 Whoever leads a blameless life and
does what is right, *
who speaks the truth from his heart.
3 There is no guile upon his tongue;
he does no evil to his friend; *
he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.
4 In his sight the wicked is rejected, *
but he honors those who fear the Lord.
5 He has sworn to do no wrong *
and does not take back his word.
6 He does not give his money in hope of gain, *
nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
7 Whoever does these things *
shall never be overthrown.
The Epistle: 1 Corinthians (1:18-31)
The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
The Gospel: Matthew (5:1-12)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
With the gospel reading that we just heard, we begin four Sundays of excerpts from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In beginning Jesus’ inaugural address, Matthew portrays him as another Moses: going up a mountain, sitting down, and gathering the people around him to hear God’s word. The teaching that Jesus gives them and us is not something totally new. Instead it consists of a further expansion on, and a deeper expression of, the word of God to Israel: the “Torah” or “Instruction.” As we will hear Jesus explain in next Sunday’s reading, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17).
One of the most frequent directives in the Torah is God’s command to welcome the alien, the foreigner, the immigrant, “The LORD spoke to Moses saying…, ‘The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.’” (Leviticus 19:1, 34). God repeatedly instructs Israel and us to welcome the stranger, the foreigner among us; for either we or our ancestors all came here from somewhere else. At one time or another, all of us were foreigners; all of us were immigrants.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth and this year’s recipient of the prestigious Templeton Prize, expands on that commandment to welcome the alien, regardless of his or her place of origin, religion, or culture. He writes (Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence, pp. 194-5): “The unity of God asks us to respect the stranger, the outsider, the alien, because even though he or she is not in our image – their ethnicity, faith or culture is not ours – nonetheless they are in God’s image.”
As we begin to reflect over the coming month on the words of the Sermon on the Mount, we have today a wonderful opportunity to apply that sermon to our own day, and to those right here in our own community who have come here in recent years and who continue to come here, seeking a new life and new opportunities for themselves and for their families. And we have a wonderful opportunity to recognize and to welcome them for who they really are: our sisters and brothers, created along with us in the very image and likeness of God.