SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-19
The first five books of the Old Testament constitute what Jews call the Torah. The similar, though not exact, English word is “Law.” We often call it the Pentateuch (Five Books). By tradition, Moses is the author of these books–except for the end of Deuteronomy telling of Moses’s death. As I discovered when I taught a college course in the Bible, for some fundamentalist Protestants, Moses’s authorship is more than tradition: it is just plain fact. I take a more historical position. When the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in the sixth century BCE and enslaved the people, they drove masses north to Babylon and their other cities, but they allowed these captive Jews to live separately and to keep many of their customs. It was the scholarly slaves of Babylon that put together the Torah from earlier manuscripts. To this day, Jews regard this section as the most sacred part of scripture. They believed, as many still believe, it provided all the essential instructions needed to live as God wishes us to live. The scrolls that play a large part in synagogue services are scrolls of the Torah. Leviticus, from which our reading is taken, lays out the rules for worship services—how to build an altar, how a priest‘s robes should be worn, how to do a sacrifice. Our reading is at the climax of the book—how to behave. I think you will agree there has never been a better set of instructions on how to behave.
A note: Leaving some of the crop behind in the grain fields or vineyards was a way of distributing food to the impoverished gleaners, who would come behind and take what they could find.
First Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23
Paul builds on the image he has used before: you, the members of the Christian community, are a building that can be added to. Here he calls the group God’s temple. Each person can add to the temple her or his individual work, but the foundation is Christ. He repeats his theme that worldly wisdom is foolish (quoting Job 5 and Psalm 94). It is foolish for individuals in their group to attribute their growth to leaders, to himself or Apollo or Cephas (Peter). No one, he says, stands between you and Christ. If you belong to him, he belongs to you, and all belong to God.
© Arthur H. Cash