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Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources 

Seventh Sunday of Epiphany Year A, Colour = White (7th in Ordinary)


'But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also'

At first glance the passage today seems to show Jesus telling his followers that they should get walked all over. When Christians are attacked we often quoted these words quoted 'turn the other cheek.' It is as though Christians should have no dignity or self worth. I don't want to follow somebody who wants me to be walked all over, do you? Actually quite the contrary is true. These little illustration by Jesus are like cartoons which show us about human dignity and worth, what a pity they have been misunderstood and given the opposite meaning! Think about it, how can someone punch another person on their right cheek? The only way to do so is with the back of the hand, which is an insult, an expression of dominance. Times haven't changed, the people most likely to be back-handed are women, children, and people considered somehow "lesser."

Jesus tells his followers that if someone backhands you on the right cheek, lift your head back up, turn your cheek and expose the left one. You have dignity as a human being. Don't let someone else take that away from you. Don't hang your head and accept servility. Stand there with head held high. That way, you are defining your own self and not letting someone else define you as "lesser." This is how to resist evil non-violently, defiantly.

Again, when Jesus speaks of giving one's cloak to someone who demands the tunic, we need to remember what a coat was. This was a long undergarment people wore during the day and which also kept them person warm at night. If the coat was used for collateral, it had to be returned to the person by nightfall so they could sleep in it and the next morning the person's creditors could come and get it again. Without the cloak a person would be naked! So Jesus describes a poor and destitute peasant getting pestered to the point of being sued for his underwear. Nakedness was considered shameful in the ancient world and anyone who viewed a naked person was also shamed. Giving your "coat also" is, therefore, confrontational. It says: I'm willing to strip off my clothes and expose myself and this whole oppressive system.

Jesus followers were poor people, often weak and defenceless people, he showed them ways of fighting back aganist their opressors, now this is the kind of leader I would be prepared to listen to.


Opening Verse of Scripture - Matthew Chapter 5

I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven;

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty God, who alone can bring order to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity: give your people grace so to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, among the many changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Eternal God, whose Son went among the crowds and brought healing with his touch: help us to show his love, in your Church as we gather together, and by our lives as they are transformed into the image of Christ our Lord.

Almighty God, give us reverence for all creation and respect for every person, that we may mirror your likeness in Jesus Christ our Lord.


First Bible Reading Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God. You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. 12And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD. You shall not defraud your neighbour; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a labourer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling-block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.You shall not render an unjust judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbour. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the LORD. You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the LORD.

Second Reading  1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’
So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future - all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Gospel Reading Matthew Chapter 5:38-48

On the mountain, Jesus continued to teach his disciples. ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

Post Communion Prayer

Merciful Father, who gave Jesus Christ to be for us the bread of life, that those who come to him should never hunger: draw us to the Lord in faith and love, that we may eat and drink with him at his table in the kingdom, where he is alive and reigns, now and for ever.


“Various laws” is the heading of our Leviticus reading. We are to be holy, because God is holy-and we are to love our neighbour as our self. Quite a thought from so long before the time of Jesus! Do we ‘love’ ourselves? How much? As for loving our enemies, one of the subjects of our Gospel reading, this is what Bishop Tom Wright has to say about the passage.

“Israel, the chosen people, are challenged to realize that God doesn’t have favourites! Israel isn’t chosen in order to be God’s special people while the rest of the world remains in outer darkness. Israel is chosen to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth. Israel is chosen so that, through Israel, God can bless all people.

And now Jesus is calling Israel to be the light of the world at last. He is opening the way, carving a path through the jungle towards that vocation, urging his followers to come with him. Jesus offers a new sort of justice, a creative, healing, restorative justice. The old justice found in the Bible was designed to prevent revenge running away with itself. Better an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth than an escalating feud with each side going one worse than the other! But Jesus goes one better still. Better to have no vengeance at all, but rather a creative way forward, reflecting the astonishingly patient love of God himself, who wants Israel to shine his light into the world so that all people will see that he is the one true God, and that his deepest nature is overflowing love. No other god encourages people to behave like this!

So Jesus gives three hints of the sort of thing he has in mind. To be struck on the right cheek, in that world, almost certainly meant being hit with the back of the right hand. That’s not violence, but an insult: it implies that you’re an inferior, perhaps a slave, child, or (in that world, and sometimes even today) a woman. What’s the answer? Hitting back only keeps the evil in circulation. Offering the other cheek implies: hit me again if you like, but now as an equal, not an inferior. Or suppose you’re in a law court where a powerful enemy is suing you (perhaps for non-payment of some huge debt) and wants the shirt off your back. You can’t win; but you can show him what he’s really doing. Give him your cloak as well; and, in a world where most people only wore those garments, shame him with your impoverished nakedness. This is what the rich, powerful and careless are doing. They are reducing the poor to a state of shame. The third example clearly reflects the Roman military occupation. Roman soldiers had the right to force civilians to carry their equipment for one mile. But the law was quite strict; it forbade them to make someone go more than that. Turn the tables on them, advises Jesus. Don’t fret and fume and plot and revenge. Copy your generous God! Go a second mile, and astonish the soldier (and perhaps alarm him—what if his commanding officer found out?) with the news that there is a different way to be human, a way which doesn’t plot revenge, which doesn’t join the armed resistance movement (that’s what verse 39 means) but which wins God’s kind of victory over violence and injustice.

These examples are only little sketches, like cartoons to give you the idea. Whatever situation you’re in, you need to think it through for yourself. What would it mean to reflect God’s generous love despite the pressure and provocation, despite your own anger and frustration? Impossible? Well, yes, at one level. But again Jesus’ teaching isn’t just good advice, it’s good news. Jesus did it all himself, and opened up a new way of being human so that all who follow him can discover it. The Sermon on the Mount isn’t just about us. If it was, we might admire it as a fine bit of idealism, but then return to our normal lives. It’s about Jesus himself. This was the blueprint for his own life. He asks nothing of his followers that he hasn't faced himself. Matthew is inviting us to draw the conclusion: that in Jesus we see Emmanuel, the God-with-us person. The Sermon on the Mount isn’t just about how to behave. It’s about discovering the living God in the loving, and dying, Jesus, and learning to reflect that love ourselves into the world that needs it so badly.” And like all learners we get it wrong so often, just like the Corinthians. Yet God, in his love, never writes us off. And that really is good news!
Richard Ledger



Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian.
If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."


Additional Resources