The Season after Pentecost: Proper 26, Year A

Practice what you preach

  • Joshua 3:71-17
  • Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
  • Matthew 23:1-12

What a contrast between the kinds of leadership presented in today’s two New Testament readings. Paul emphasizes how he, Silas, and Timothy strived for humility: they tried not to be a burden to anyone, they sought to comfort and encourage those they visited, and they acknowledged that the word they brought was not their own but God’s. Jesus speaks of Pharisees who are the opposite – placing heavy burdens on people’s shoulders, preaching what they don’t practice, and looking for recognition.

Jesus stressed the virtue of humility and directs scathing criticism to the leaders he calls hypocrites. Chapter 23 of Matthew should not be regarded as a balanced critique of Pharisaism as a whole. Matthew was writing for the early Church and was probably concerned that any institution can fall into the trap of “saying” without “doing.” The chapter thus represents warnings for Church leaders throughout history as well as Jesus’ judgment on the hypocrisy of his time.

Followers of Jesus will model a different way: all members of God’s family are equals; no one may claim authority over others as a teacher. (In Matthew’s time, scribes were officially called rabbi, meaning teacher, father, or master, vv.8-10).

As we gather for worship and prayer, remember that we are called to be humble servants – seeking justice for the oppressed and welcoming all people to share the banquet of life with us.

For reflection:

  • Compare Matthew 23:2-4 and 11:28-30 of a few weeks ago. What is the burden that Pharisees lay on the people? In what ways is Jesus’ yoke easy and his burden light in comparison? What burden are you carrying now that is too heavy? How does Jesus’ advice suggest a way to lighten it?
  • What kinds of leaders, both lay and ordained, are we?
  • Do we place heavy burdens on people who visit our churches, expecting a certain look or behavior?
  • Are there unwritten codes about what it takes to be a good member?
  • Do we look to be named and recognized?

Father in heaven, in whose eyes there are no favorites only beloved children: cure our quest for sacred power and status symbols; give us grace to live as learners and servants of your word; through Jesus Christ, who was abased that we might rise. Amen. Steven Shakespeare (“Prayers for An Inclusive Church”, 2009: Church Publishing). 

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About Sharon Ely Pearson

Editor and Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated
This entry was posted in Ordinary Time and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Season after Pentecost: Proper 26, Year A

  1. Pingback: Not So Common Lectionary Thoughts: October 30, 2011 « Walking in the Wilderness

  2. Pingback: Resources for Matthew 23:2 - 4

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