What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you compare yourself to others? Each passage challenges us to think about how we “view” others, ourselves, and the person and message of Christ. May God give us clear eyes to see and say the truth.

Click here with a tab that will open with each of the Bible passages from the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).

The RCL gives us four passages (I’m writing about 3 of them) that tackle the question of how we view ourselves and others. People first love Jesus based on his words and then discount him because they know his family. Then Jesus perceives and reveals their inner thoughts and they are not pleased. Jeremiah views himself as being inadequate, while God has declared Jeremiah adequate since before he was born! Paul writes the Corinthian church and tells them to stop comparing with others, and instead adopt humbleness and love, even when it hurts. A theme I see is that these passages challenge us on how we view others, ourselves, and the message of Christ.

Luke 4:21-30I must admit, this passage was a bit confusing as I read it. First, everyone praises Jesus and says that grace falls from his lips! Then when he confronts them with their own thoughts, they want to kill him by throwing him off the cliff (a punishment for heresy similar to stoning). Why are they mad at him and not themselves; he’s just revealing the truth? The tension in this passage is about Jesus pointing out secret, embarrassing thoughts. There is a parallel with Elijah and Elisha, who were also rejected and opened their ministry to people from other cultural backgrounds. Maybe Luke is hinting at that – Jesus is for all nations, Gentiles included. They love Jesus and then someone pipes up and says, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” And from there on, Jesus reveals to them, “You’ll say this and that about me and reject my message.” Perhaps there is some truth to the idea that we find ways to discount or avoid the message that haunts us but which can also heal us.

Jeremiah 1:4-10I enjoy the opportunity to talk about the fact that God calls people to join in the work of justice building in the world even when we may not think we are equipped. There is a slight temptation to relive our personal call in the sermon, but the sermon will be better if it includes all and asks questions that may, perhaps, help people get clarity around their call. Perhaps passions will grow as hearers remember their call. We may feel like we are a barrier: too young, too old, not enough knowledge, not enough energy. Age isn’t an issue: cue Abraham and Sarah, Simeon and Anna, John in exile on Patmos. Being a golden-tongued wordsmith is unnecessary as well: cue Moses. God calls and equips.

God sees the ravages of the world, the sin, and the misery, and calls us to join in the work of building and planting a world that reflects the love of God and respects the dignity of the other. God is gracious and calls and uses people like us! We are lucky!

This is more than a passage about our personal call; it is about the call of the church. God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” You were born for the opportunity! This is a message for the church, especially in light of Ephesians 1, where before creation Divine Love was set upon us. And as Ephesians 2 says, “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

God has loved and called and equipped us. Like Jeremiah, God has placed words in our mouths. The public proclamation of the gospel in prayer, song, sermon, and conversation, joins in the prophetic work of tearing down. We need to tear down the veneer so the rot can be seen! And the Word also penetrates and changes our hearts and minds, the seed of the gospel grows. We are rooted and grounded in Christ for the work of Christ in the world.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13In order to get closer to the original context, perhaps we should read this not at weddings but in divorce court. Paul is staring down a congregation that is tearing itself apart with what appears, up to this point, to be irreconcilable differences. On one hand, they pursue knowledge and spiritual experiences, and on the other, they compare to exclude. “I am of Apollos. I am of Paul.” Comparison is not just a joy killer, it is a church killer too! Sure, they have a lot of knowledge and a lot of experiences and a lot of fights, but they do not have love. Paul vows in the verse before our passage to show them a better way of life that is better than measuring (beyond measure).

I find my inner dialogue ramping up with this passage. At first, I wanted to dismiss it altogether, because it is easy to be cliche with this passage. Then a question came: why love? Why do they need to ease up on the throttle a bit? Sure, to honor Christ and preserve friendships and the fellowship, but is there something else. Paul gives the answer (verse 12), “For now we see in a mirror, dimly.”

Wait, what? My mirror is not dim. Sure, it gets obscured by the steam of the shower, but other than that, it seems accurate. The answer lies at the MET! See the image to the side. Mirrors in first-century Rome were not like we have; they were commonly made of well-polished metals. Paul’s thought sticks: stop comparing knowledge and experience, because you only see the outlines, the contours now. You don’t see the fine details. Be humble. Instead of making the most about yourself, act with patience, kindness, and don’t be envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Now we only know in part. We can’t know everything, but we can choose to love. We can’t experience everything, but we can choose to love. We can’t always get our way, but we can choose the way of love – even when it hurts.

Each passage challenges us to think about how we “view” others, ourselves, and the person and message of Christ. May God give us clear eyes to see and say the truth. Image found at https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/248003

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