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Risky Business

Time after time we are called through the scriptures to leave behind familiar and predictable ways of life, risking a journey into the unknown and unknowable. Risks often have a very big and exciting “upside” which is matched by an equally steep and daunting “downside.” Many good and faithful people have a healthy fear of risk, but taking a risk with God is a very different venture. If God’s call to follow is risky, and we succeed, we can experience God’s presence and promise in profound new ways. However, if we follow God’s call to risk and it seems to fail, then we are still following in the footsteps of the one who formed us, loves us, and calls us by name.

In Deuteronomy, Moses had taken a risk and led Israel out of slavery and toward the Promised Land. He encourages the people to continue to risk by choosing life in God as opposed to the lures of life without him. Paul risked his life time and time again in order share the gospel, and he is encouraging the people of the Corinth to risk walking a different route in Christ. In today’s gospel we hear Jesus offer tough teachings which may seem risky to preachers everywhere! These readings all seem to be filled with tough, risky teachings, but dig a little deeper and we can experience the grace-filled message of hope and new life rooted in God’s love. We can clearly hear a call to risk, but also the promise of God’s steadfast presence to be with all who faithfully follow, no matter the outcome. So take a deep breath, dare to risk, crack open the “tough exterior” and experience the love and grace of these texts.

Gospel: Matthew 5:21-37

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorts his followers to embrace standards of righteousness that exceed legal requirements and traditional expectations.

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 21“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

  27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

  31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

  33“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”