Epiphany Readings: Sunday, February 23

Readings:  Psalm 119:33-40 and Matthew 5:38-48

  1. Sit with God in quietness even before you open your Bible to this week’s readings. Acknowledge his benevolent presence with you as you open to God in honesty. What sense of God, what sense of yourself do you have in these moments? How are you? Agitated? Frustrated? At peace? Where do you find yourself? In difficulties? With anxieties?  Do you sense God near? Distant? Attentive to you? Speak to God about these things.
  1. Turning to Psalm 119:33-40, employ the words of the psalmist as your heart’s prayer to God in these moments of reflection on the Scriptures. Teach me, O LORD…Give me understanding…Lead me… Offer to God your truest intentions regarding your participation in his Kingdom way of life.

In Matthew 5:38-40, Jesus turns the corner in his teaching to demonstrate that God’s love has no limits.  Jesus moves from a focus on external behaviors, merely legal, that had no correlation to the heart,  to a revelation of how human actions, animated by the kingdom love of God, become a good for those around us —even our worse enemies!

  1. As you read Jesus’ depiction of the characteristics, the behavior of how true love acts toward others – ask yourself: Where do I sense stinginess in my loving? Where am I withholding good from others? In what ways might I seek God’s creativity to love beyond my self-imposed notions of love? Or self-preservation mechanisms I hold to minimize risk or cost to my own life?
  1. Paul invites us to experience the depths, the heights, the boundless love of God and to live out of the fullness of God, who is in you, with you, through the person of the Holy Spirit (Eph.3:18-19). Take a few moments to think about a time when you experienced the boundless love of God? When you were met by God’s generosity though you knew there was nothing in you or about your behavior that merited such luxury, such embrace. Spend some time in prayer to be transformed by God’s love that you might love others as you have been loved by God.

– Elizabeth Khorey

Epiphany Readings: Sunday, February 16

Readings:  Psalm 119:1-8 and Matthew 5:21-37

Jesus invites us to move beyond the limits of the Law and human religious traditions and into heart matters – to get to the heart of things. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day loss sight of the heart:  their own heart, the heart of God’s holy Law, and the heart of God’s intended way of being in the world. Jesus is not teaching us to abandon God’s Law (Mt.5:17) but rather to see God’s Law as a way to live a humane life: a fully human, robustly life-giving and loving life as God intended.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Begin your devotional reading by sitting and soaking in Psalm 119:1-8. What do you notice emerging from your own heart as you meditate on the words of the psalmist? How do the psalmist’s sentiments evoke reverence for God’s holy Law? What goodness does the psalmist envision for life by interacting with and living out God’s commandments?
  2. Sit with Matt. 5:21-37 reading it through a couple of times listening deeply to Jesus’ teachings as he corrects core misconceptions of Kingdom spirituality.  Of all the real human and relational issues he addresses – anger, reconciliation, lust, marital relationships, truth-telling, lying, oaths – which one resonates with you? Why? How do Jesus’s teachings expand or correct your perspective of the issue?  From his teachings, how do you understand the connection between the heart (interior condition) and behavior (external way of being in theworld, relating to others)? (For an alternate reading go to Mark 7:1-1-23 to assist you in thinking through Jesus’ teachings.)
  3. Take a moment to reflect on your own heart as well as your current relationships with others. Is there something you’d like to address with Jesus about your life or have him address with you? Open to the Holy Spirit in these moments, asking for the grace to hear truth, to desire God and his good instructions for life, and the courage to make changes if necessary in order to live in a God-honoring way in your relationships.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

 Psalm 139:23-24

– Elizabeth Khorey

Epiphany Readings: Sunday, February 9

Readings:  Psalm 112:1-9 and Matthew 5:13-20

Reflection Questions:

The heart of the Sermon on the Mount is the heart. Jesus’ teaching to his disciples revolves around Matt.5:17-20 and governs what came before and his remaining (through Matt.7:28). Jesus stands juxtaposed to the religious leaders of his day and expresses the real intent of the Law that was given to God’s people on Mt. Sinai (see Matt.22:38-40). Jesus’ criticism was toward a purely moralistic or behavioral oriented religious system without a change of heart. Jesus himself embodies the entire message of the Law and the Prophets: a self-giving love for God and others. His followers are invited into a different kind and quality of life that derives its reality and way of being in the world from a Person and relationship rather than a handbook for behavioral management or modification.

  1. As you sit with Matt.5:13-20 listen to Jesus’ vivid description of his disciples:  You are salt…light…a lamp…a city on a hill. What one image captures your heart and imagination? Why? Is this how you see yourself in the world?  If so, how does the way you see yourself in the world enhance your perspective and experience of life in the world? In what ways are you salt, light…etc…in your family, at work, in your church community, with strangers? If not, how do you see yourself, your life in God? How might these descriptive images expand or change your perspective of your identity in God and way of being in the world?
  1. As you think about your life and way of being in the world, take time to discern any inner struggles, circumstantial difficulties, or real people in your life that might be diminishing your experience of God’s kingdom and goodness, and your influence or way of being in the world? Have a conversation with God about these things.
  1. While reflecting on Jesus’ teachings, what invitations do you sense from God? How might you respond to God in concrete ways today? What changes might you make to live more fully into God’s kingdom life?
  1. Read through Jesus’ descriptives of his followers again. What assurances or encouragements do you receive to your heart and life, right where you are, just as you?

– Elizabeth Khorey

Epiphany Readings: Sunday, February 2

Readings:  Psalm 15 and Matthew 5:1-12

Reflection Questions:

  1. Some of what we hear in the Beatitudes (Mt.5:1-12) is a description of the kinds people who God invites into relationship with him in his kingdom.  No one is exempt from his blessing. Can you identify with any of these human conditions of body, soul and social self? If so, how have you or do you experience God’s blessing in poverty of spirit, grief over losses in life, trouble and trouble making situations, challenges of faith, rejection from others?
  2. What ways do you need God’s intervention, comfort or support in your life today? Spend some time in prayer asking God’s Spirit to shelter with love, sustain in weakness or bolster faith in your present condition.
  3. As you talk with God about what’s going on in your life, how might you see your present condition as an open door for God to come, work, transform or bless you with his goodness?