Sermon Reflections for East Africa (Sunday, October 23rd)

Every Tuesday until Advent, LWR will be posting brief theological reflections on the upcoming Sunday’s Lectionary readings. This resource is intended to help pastors find touch points between Sunday preaching and the current crisis in East Africa. For more resources to engage your congregation with this famine go to where you can find a PDF of all of these sermon reflections between now and Advent.

 Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

(Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18, Psalm 11, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8, Matthew 22:34-46)

In Matthew 22, we’re presented with a story that we are more likely to associate with two different stories in Luke. First is the question about the greatest commandment, which in Luke leads directly to the follow-up question, “And who is my neighbor?” It’s the introduction to the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

But in today’s Gospel reading, we don’t get a parable at all; instead, Jesus uses the question posed by the lawyer to launch into a logical and linguistic conundrum that so astounds the crowd that “from that day [nobody] dare to ask him any more questions.”

In Matthew, the question about the greatest commandment is set in the middle of a longer section of the Gospel in which Jesus redefines righteousness, in stark contrast to the righteousness espoused by the Pharisees. For Jesus, loving God and loving one’s neighbor stand in opposition to the practice of the Scribes and Pharisees who “do all their deeds to be seen by others…” and “love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.” (which is next week’s Gospel reading). God’s righteousness is not about looking righteous, but is about transformation and love.

How do modern Christians love God and their neighbor, while avoiding the false righteousness of the Pharisees? When people half-way around the world lose their homes and their families to drought and famine, how do we respond?

To carry out a long-term response to this crisis, aimed at helping farmers recover their crops and agricultural livelihoods and reducing people’s vulnerability to future crises, LWR must raise $3 million by the end of 2011.
Your congregation can be an important part of that by taking up the Feeding 5,000 Challenge. For resources to help connect them with LWR’s emergency response in East Africa go to or call 1-800-597-5972.