For Jan. 29, 2012: 4 Epiphany, Year B

The Reading            Deuteronomy 18:15-20

The book of Deuteronomy is the last book of the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible—and it summarizes and expands on the laws laid down in the earlier books. Today’s reading contains God’s promise to give Israel a prophet like Moses, with God’s charge to those who listen and to those who prophesy.

 

The Epistle            1 Corinthians 8:1-13

The first letter to the Corinthians addresses a number of issues that caused deep divisions between the Jews and the Gentiles in the church community. In the matter of food that has been offered to idols, Paul explains that we are free to eat it—unless doing so will pose a danger for other members of the community, in which case we are to err on the side of behaving tenderly toward others’ sensibilities.

 

Further thoughts

Who is credible? This is a vital question in our communities and states during the primary-election process. It is equally vital in the life of God’s people, especially as a church searches for a new rector: how can we discern that a prophet—which is to say a preacher—really is speaking for God?

The four aspects of credibility in media studies are expertise, verifiability, timeliness, and trustworthiness.

The true expert in a field quotes sources but can speak or act without them. Jesus’ words and deeds in today’s gospel are authoritative: he and his Father wrote the Book, so to speak, and it shows. For the rest of us, Deuteronomy says that true prophets speak only God’s word and only on God’s authority. But how do we know when the prophet is speaking God’s word? “Thus says the Lord” and quotations alone are not enough.

As to verifiability, Deuteronomy 18:22 tells us that what a real prophet says comes true. Jesus’ words about himself came to pass. When a human prophet lacks a track record with us, however, the picture is much more cloudy, so by itself verifiability is a test that is often best applied in hindsight.

Timeliness figures into how well a message resonates with its hearers’ times and lives. Jesus’ words hit home, whether hearers were won over like Nathanael or offended like the Pharisees. The range of responses serves to remind us not to insist that every word, whether of the Bible or from a preacher, apply to us every minute—and not to dismiss those words that we would rather not hear.

Trustworthiness is, I think, what Paul intends by “love” in the epistle: trusting someone to look after our best interest is a kind of love, and so is being trustworthy by consistently working for another’s best interest. As Paul says, if I misuse my liberation from sin in ways that endanger someone else, I am not showing love—whether by acting when it would be more loving to be still or by holding back when it would be more loving to stand firm.

As we choose leaders—and as we ourselves lead in our various ways—let us choose to walk in love. That is the most credible witness of God’s love in our lives.

Advertisements

0 Responses to “For Jan. 29, 2012: 4 Epiphany, Year B”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s





%d bloggers like this: