10th July 2016
Deuteronomy is the name of the last book of the first and principle section of the Old Testament called the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). It was mostly written down about 700 BC, when the Jews were very weak in their religious practice and when they were drawn towards pagan services and rituals. It contains appropriate sermons and a blueprint for renewal of Jewish religious practice – revival of the original Commandments given through Moses according to Exodus and expanded in the other books of the Law. The sermons are attributed to Moses to give them added authority, and they are what he would have preached in that situation. Today’s reading is from the last sermon (Deut 30:10-14) and is addressed to those who have become slack in practising their religion and maybe exiled from their own country. It encouragingly stresses the intimacy of God’s Law to his chosen people – You know it so do it.!
For the second reading we have what might be adapted from an early Christian hymn in the beginning of the letter to the Colossians (Chapter 1 verses 15-20). This letter contains an understanding of Christianity that has developed from what is found in the early letters of Paul (Galatians, Corinthians and Romans). It links well with the first reading, but speaks of Christ rather than of the Law; instead of rules we have a way of life to live by and live with. Christ is the very representative – icon – of God with us. The first verse of the hymn is about Christ being involved in all creation, and holding everything in existence together. The second verse is about Christ’s relationship with the Church as its head, pouring out his life and thereby lifting us all into the fullness of the life of God.
In the extract from Luke’s gospel (Luke 10:25-37 ) we have a passage that is in the form of a dialogue between a student and a teacher, the rabbi. The student/disciple asks about the Law because it seems unclear as to how one should live one’s life. And the reply is in the typical form of rabbinic teaching, with an illustrative story ending with a question for the would-be follower. Luke presents it as a scholar trying to outwit Jesus who responds with a challenging story and question – especially critical of the clergy and the self-righteous. From this story we have the phrase ‘a good Samaritan.’ The Jews, especially the priest and clerics in the story, would have judged Samaritans to be less religious than themselves, but… on what understanding of religion?