MARKHAM LUTHERAN CHURCH - Baptized to serve.
Background On the Lessons for November 26, 2017, Christ the King Sunday/Last Sunday of the Church Year


The Book of Ezekiel

Ezekiel, an Israelite priest living in exile in Babylon, wrote about 593 B.C.E.  He asks the fundamental question, "How could God allow the exile to happen?" and answers it by contrasting God's holiness, which is beyond human understanding and control, to Israel's constant idolatry and rebellion. He reminds his fellow exiles of Israel's laws and how they've broken them again and again.  But while Ezekiel does not withhold scalding judgments (as well as recounting amazing visions: the famous wheel, the dry bones), he also shares hopeful promises.  Throughout the book of Ezekiel, God calls his people back to faithfulness, yet they keep coming back at him with accusations of his supposed unfairness to them.  He deftly turns their words back on them. We have free will and can choose to repent (turn back) and live righteously. How we live our lives is up to us! The possibility of "a new heart and a new spirit" is a repeated theme in Ezekiel.  Like Isaiah, Ezekiel stresses that the Lord's desire is not punishment but restoration. 


The Book of 1 Corinthians

Paul's letters to the Corinthians, written between 53-55 C. E., give us a glimpse of what life was like in a 1st century Greco-Roman city and the challenges faced by the Christians there, some of whom were Jewish converts, others Gentiles who had formerly paid homage to many gods.  Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Asclepius, the god of healing, were favorites of the Corithians, and Corinth was also a major center of Emperor worship. The city was ethnically diverse and very sophisticated, the home of a large theatre and a haven for philosophers.  It was a place where a resourceful person, even a former slave, could get ahead. Just as it is in the large cities of our day, there was a sharp divide between rich and poor; so the Gospel, with it's emphasis on justice and equality and the oneness of all believers in the crucified and risen God-man, regardless of status, must have come across as just as radical to the movers and shakers of Corinth as it does to our "it's all about me" society today. The Corinthian Christians were a contentious bunch. 1 Corinthians seems to be a call to unity and advice on issues that were causing division among them - they were in a mess. As the one who brought them to Christ, Paul is trying to bring them back to his teachings. 


The Gospel According to St. Matthew

The Gospel attributed to Matthew was written in the latter part of the first century, probably in the 80s C. E. during a time when there were terrible conflicts between Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity. Christianity had begun as a Jewish movement and early followers of Jesus had continued to worship in the synagogues until they were expelled in the 70s C. E.  The divine nature of Jesus was a major issue for the Matthaean community, the crucial element marking them from their Jewish neighbors. The Gospel of Matthew contains most of the Gospel of Mark, plus a great deal of other oral and written source material. Some of the latter documents have been lost to us, so it's fortunate that they're preserved in Matthew. Using Mark’s gospel as the general basis for his gospel, Matthew collects Jesus’ sayings into five major discourses. Thus he stresses Jesus as the messianic Teacher of the new Israel. Chapters 24–25 are the last of the five major speeches that Jesus gives. They center upon the last days and the expectation of the coming of the Son of Man. In Matthew's gospel, Jesus announces that the Kingdom of God has arrived, and it is this which gives him his authority. (The author of Matthew says kingdom of heaven. The Jews were and are careful about using God's name. You may sometimes notice that Jewish sources spell it G-d, to avoid writing the sacred name.) In Matthew we are constantly reminded of our responsibility to forgive and that God's people are not to exalt themselves over anyone.  As Christ came as a servant, so are we to serve. 

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