Word, Incarnation, Cup

Malachi 1, 14 - 2, 2b, 8-10 + 1 Thessalonians 2, 7b - 9 + Matthew 23, 1-12

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We ran into Malachi earlier in this series (5th century BC), who wrote just before Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, returning from exile in Babylon, conquered by Persia, giving powerful oracles about the injustice of that city. The arrangement of this passage in the lectionary presents a harsh condemnation of religious leaders who lead people astray, who violate the commandments of God and teach others to do likewise, who condone the evil that is done in the name of the Lord, oppressing the widow, the orphan, the alien, and causing their cries to rise to heaven in a chorus of pain, sorrow, and tragedy.

Paul writes to a people who were becoming a radical new community, he applies feminine, nurturing images to himself, teaching that the Gospel is not only Word, but also Incarnation -- and the ties that bind are relationships rooted in that Word, Incarnation -- and also, Cup.

He is an effective counter-model to the images invoked by Malachi.

Jesus today is clearly in conflict with the religious leaders of his era, he speaks of religious hypocrisy, pride, and the oppression of the people by religious decree. Matthew composed his gospel during a time in which the early Church was engaged in the continuation of this struggle for religious justice. The nascent realization of the new covenanted community founded in Word, Incarnation, and Cup brought turbulence. The comfortable were greatly afflicted by this -- but the afflicted were greatly comforted. Thus, in Matthew's arrangement of this material (most of which is unique to his Gospel), we may also find an echo of early problems within the Church itself. In providing these readings today, the Church perennially reminds itself of its own need for perpetual renewal and growth in Christ.

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