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 lwr.org/eastafrica where you can find a PDF of all of these sermon reflections between now and Advent.
Sunday, October 30th, 2011
“They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger” (Matt 23:4). Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of the news we hear from East Africa is the failure of governments. Stories of militant groups confiscating aid or stopping families from reaching relief camps float to the top of media coverage and it is easy to see Jesus’ judgment upon hypocritical authority in this gospel reading. The judgment rings even more loudly in the reading from Micah to those “who cry ‘Peace’…but declare war” (v. 5). The abuse of authority isn’t only historical fact; it is present reality.
Jesus’ response is simple. You need follow only one, “the Messiah” (v. 10). Yet, the irony is that the Messiah calls for us to practice the humility the hypocrites preach, even if the hypocrites don’t practice it themselves. The difference is that the hypocrites preach humility to keep the humble down. In the reign of God, the Messiah subverts such power plays with the ultimate power play. The humble are exalted. The exalted are humbled. The Messiah’s life is the exact opposite of religious hypocrisy; it is the total fulfillment of the promise of God.
How do we exalt the humble today? More to the point, are we humble enough to exalt the humbled in our midst? Such a call to repentance bears fruit in the ways we exalt the humble through our prayers, our real presence in their lives, our sharing of treasure to meet the needs of those impacted by the famine in the Horn of Africa. It is no coincidence that these words of Jesus in Matthew follow immediately upon his discussion of the greatest commandment (22:34-40). The humble are exalted and the exalted are humbled when we love the Lord our God with all we are, and when we love our neighbors as ourselves.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 lwr.org/eastafrica or call 1-800-597-5972.