Year A: February 2, 2014
First Reading: Micah 6:1-8
Tawny Scrawny Lion by Kathryn Jackson
(Written for ages 3-7)
Comment: Micah tells the people that what matters aren’t rituals, but relationships. They don’t need sacrifices, they needs justice and mercy toward one another, and a humble walk with God, in order to live faithfully. As Sibley W. Towner writes, “Justice, kindness, and the humble walk carry the reader beyond the confines of personal piety into life-giving, reciprocal relationships with God and with God’s beloved children” (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, pg.295). In Tawny Scrawny Lion, a little rabbit moves into just such a life-giving relationship by showing kindness to an enemy. The lion has been terrorizing all the animals, and rabbit is given the task of distracting the lion—the other animals assume he’ll be eaten and thus occupy some of the lion’s time. Instead, the rabbit invites the lion to supper with his family, and over time the lion comes to prefer eating soup with all his friends, rather than chasing them! By the rabbit reaching out in kindness, a life-giving relationship begins. The people Micah speaks to have also learned that the way of justice, mercy, and a walk with God lead to life-giving relationships.
Second Reading: I Corinthians 1:18-31
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: Paul writes, “Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” He doesn’t say this to discourage the Corinthians, but to remind them that status isn’t important in the kingdom of God. “Status conscious appears to have been one of the many problems afflicting the church at Corinth” (Roger J. Gench, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, pg. 302). Instead, Paul reminds them of the fact that even if in the eyes of the world they may not be much, what matters is that God chose them, and that, to God, they are very important. In Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed, Mary is not a status-seeker, and yet has a profound impact on the world. She picks blueberries and leaves them on a neighbor’s porch. The neighbor, in turn, bakes muffins to share. Those who enjoy the muffins begin to reach out in “ordinary” ways to their friends and neighbors, and eventually ordinary Mary has started an extraordinary chain-reaction! In the same way, the people of Corinth need not be divisively seeking higher status, because God chooses what is ordinary and makes it extraordinary. As Paul writes, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong”, therefore “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:1-12
I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: The young narrator in I Like Myself! is enthusiastic about herself. She likes her hair and her toes, she likes when she runs wild and when she sits calmly, and most importantly, she likes herself, even when others don’t—when they call her names or don’t like how she looks. No matter what, she likes herself. In the same way, Jesus is expressing, in a more subdued and worldly way, the same enthusiasm of liking oneself to those listening to his mountaintop sermon. Over and over again, he reminds his followers that they are “blessed”. Every sentence of the beatitudes begins with that reality: “blessed are you”. Ronald J. Allen writes, “When the Beatitudes say that the community is blessed, they do not mean that everyone is bubbly, but that in the midst of turmoil, the congregation can live with confidence because they know they are secure” (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, pg. 311). The young girl in the story lives in confidence, because she is sure of the reality that she repeats: “I like myself!”, and so, too, Jesus’ listeners live in confidence, because of the sure reality, worth repeating, that we are “Blessed”.
The Lectionary Links this week are written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Sara Anne Berger, pastor of the Whitmire Presbyterian Church, Whitmire, SC.