The messages are based on the lectionary text for each Sunday. Brother Hermann Weinlick, retired Moravian pastor and former director of the Interprovincial Board of Communication (that distributes the bulletins), continues to manage the process of collecting and publishing the writings of Moravian pastors and lay people for the bulletins. In addition, these weekly messages are available on www.moravian.org.
In this and upcoming issues of the Moravian, we will be sharing an upcoming message, along with ones written in earlier years to go with this lectionary text, as inspiration and education on Bible texts.
For more information on the IBOC’s bulletin service, contact Jill Bruckart (email@example.com) or call 1.800.732.0591, ext. 38.
In this issue, we share writings based on Matthew 23:1-12. This Bible text is for “Proper 22” in Lectionary Cycle A of the Revised Common Lectionary used by the Moravian Church.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 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 to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They 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. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Wanda Veldman, pastor, Veedum Moravian Church, Pittsville, Wisconsin
November 5, 2017
“All who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12). Humility isn’t cool these days. And we might wonder if it was a trait folks respected in Jesus’ day.
Not so long ago, speaking of someone’s humble attitude could be considered a compliment. But then there were also times when an abused or oppressed person was held back from reaching their potential, with an admonition to be humble like Jesus. In those cases, it definitely was not helpful.
These days, in our efforts to raise up generations that are more confident in their abilities and essential worth, we seem to have reached a place where we accept an excess of pride and even arrogance as something people respect and honor. Public figures who often make ridiculous amounts of money are lifted up in our esteem as we watch them proudly announce that they see no reason for anyone to hold them to any kind of standard of behavior. They are not role models. And we have to agree—many of them surely aren’t what we want our children to emulate.
Yet each of us is a role model. Whether we live a hugely public lifestyle or a have a much smaller sphere of influence, we impact the lives of others with the way we choose to live.
Being proud and being humble don’t have to be opposed to each other. As Christians we know we are children of God and recognize the inherent worth and value of each human being. The problem is when any sense of humility is lost and our pride takes us to a state of egotism that leads us to think we are better than others.
So, let’s consider this: WWJS? (What would Jesus say?).
Virginia Goodman, retired pastor, Queens, New York • November 3, 2002
Multitudes followed Jesus around for various reasons. Some were not very happy with the leadership of the scribes and Pharisees and sought change. Some needed desperately to be healed of their diseases, while others followed because they were impressed with Jesus’ kind of preaching and teaching. Many, however, followed hoping to trap him in some way.
Jesus warned his disciples and the multitudes against the teachings and the actions of the scribes and Pharisees. He pronounced woes upon them. These religious rulers were in places of authority, and they controlled the Old Testament Scriptures. They were the authorized interpreters of Moses’ law. People looked to them for the interpretation of truth, just as they look to church leaders today. The teaching of the religious leaders was good, but their lives were not. They were not practicing what they preached.
Jesus said, “Do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach…They do all their deeds to be seen by others.” They wore passages of Scripture written on their garments. God’s people need the Word of God written on their hearts, not on their garments. We look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.
In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of my income…I am not like this tax collector.” The tax collector, standing far off, did not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Jesus said, “This man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Practice What You Preach
James H. Hicks Jr., pastor, Providence Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, N.C. • November 3, 1996
Practice what you preach. Do what they say, but not what they do. Jesus is a strong advocate of practicing what we preach. He strongly criticizes the Pharisees and teachers of the Law for saying one thing and doing another. Jesus condemns the use of one’s religious values and traditions as a way to gain power over others.
Perhaps the real issue here is motive. In Matthew 23:1-12, Jesus is not condemning the practices he mentions. Rather, he condemns the misuse of those practices to bring glory to oneself. If one wishes to use phylacteries, or to be greeted in the marketplace, or to teach the law, that’s fine and good. But why do we wish to do these things? Is it to let everyone around us know that we are pious? God detests this type of attitude. If they are to bring glory to God, then these and many other practices have a place.
Jesus said that in order to be exalted, one had to be humble. On the surface, these two attitudes seem far apart. But in reality they describe a characteristic found in all those considered great in the eyes of God: authenticity. If there are any folks we consider great, I’ll bet we consider them to be authentic people. A truly great person is authentic, and often exalted. And just as often, those people are humble. They are not looking for praise or recognition. They are simply trying to help those around them, trying to love God and do the will of God.
Jesus provides us with the best example of being authentic. Jesus moved among the crowds sharing the love of God with all those around him. This is our calling, to live our lives as Jesus did. To practice what we preach.