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Year A, Ordinary 5, 2017 – As If

January 31, 2017 / Molly Douthett / Epiphany, Ordinary Time

Welcome back! “As if!” If you saw the 1995 movie Clueless, you know this phrase. The Online Slang Dictionary defines the complexity of these two simple words as “an exclamation which connotes a derisive assertion that whatever is being talked about is impossible or very unlikely.” In each of the passages for this Sunday, we have an “as if” situation. Yet, rather than being something that is not at all possible, each situation is fully possible, but only if God is in the center of it. God speaks through the prophet in Isaiah to tell the people that their worship, while meeting the proper form, is lacking in depth. They need to refocus their hearts and minds on what God desires from them. Paul knows that it is possible for the Corinthians to understand him and his message better if they allow the Spirit to work in them. In Matthew, Jesus tells his followers that they are salt and light and that by living like they are, they fully occupy their place in the kingdom.


This week’s texts are: 

Isaiah 58:1-12 [02:00]  

In this passage, two perspectives are presented regarding Israel’s state of being. The first two verses are God’s charge to the people – through the blasting voice of the prophet – to recognize their rebellion. Even though the people stream into worship daily “as if” their actions are righteous, God is skeptical. In verse 3, the people seemed surprised by this and come back with a claim that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, which God doesn’t accept. Using Eye Smart, we suggest illustrating this back and forth as a theater critic watching wooden actors on stage. For a special effect, bring in toys and see how well they worship just sitting there. For God, worship is part of an equation. In Math Smart, we illustrate this equation with a formula that requires non-zero factors if you want a non-zero product. Since God wants to grab the people’s attention with a trumpet blast, we have some links to just such a thing in Music Smart. God knows the people very well and can see their motivations clearly. In People Smart, I have a story that helps illustrate this kind of keen understanding, and we have some questions for groups to ponder for a special effect.


1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16) [09:53] 

Paul begins this chapter telling the Corinthians that he did not first come to them speaking with lofty words of wisdom. Rather, he came to them relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act as a translator for him. In Word smart, we have two illustrations of translations, and for a special effect, bring in a lexicon. Paul insists throughout these verses that the Spirit allows for perception beyond the usual limits; seeing not only what is in front of you, but what is around you and what is motivating others. So we have an interesting meditation to try as a special effect in Eye Smart. Paul comes to the Corinthians with no preconceived notions about them, but rather with the intention to allow the Spirit to work in him to open his eyes to them. They will tell him who they are as he pays attention. In Nature smart, we have a way to illustrate this watchfulness. And in Self smart, I had a personal experience of seeing other people “as if” I were looking at them through God’s eyes. For a special effect, we wonder what life would be like if we intentionally looked at others in this way all the time.


Matthew 5:13-20 [19:15] 

In the first part of today’s passage, Jesus identifies qualities in his disciples “as if” they were salt and light. We have a link in Eye smart to illustrate what lots of lanterns might look like and suggest using them in worship for a special effect. In Math smart, we thought Jesus’ declaration of fulfilling the law could be illustrated with examples of basic functionality brought to a level of artistry with effort and care. Check out our suggestions for special effects! In Body smart, we wonder how we can reveal our salt and light qualities through our body postures, and in People smart, Karoline Lewis makes the case that our knowledge of God cannot stop in our heads. It needs to make the journey to our hearts and our bodies as we act out our theology in the world. For a special effect, gather your people together and ask them to brainstorm ways that might be possible.   


Image credit: Copyright: pavellysenko / 123RF Stock Photo, used by permission.

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