Sixth Sunday After Epiphany

The Good Way: West to the Stream by Michelle L Hofer — mixed media painting on hardboard, 12 x 12 inches, 2021.

February 12, 2022 Lectionary Texts — Year A
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 or Sirach 15:15-20 • Psalm 119:1-8 • 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 • Matthew 5:21-37

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Image description: A gray-brown autumn landscape featuring a grove of trees in the distance and the pink glow of of sunset at the horizon on the left below a gray cloud filled sky. A glassy stream reflecting the glowing sky emerges into the left foreground from somewhere back near the tree line. At right and defined in black ink, a grass and rock-lined rough path winds beside two bare trees. A raven gazing upward is perched on a larger rock in the lower right corner.

Look, I’ve given you two choices today: you can have life with all the good things it brings, or death and all the bad things it brings. If you do what I’ve commanded you today and love the Eternal your God; if you live as He wants you to, if you obey His commands, regulations and judgments, then you’ll live and have many descendants. He will bless you in the land where you’re going to live. But if your heart turns away and you don’t listen, if you go astray and you bow down to other gods and worship them, then today I assure you you’ll be destroyed. You’ll cross the Jordan River into the land that’s going to belong to you, but you won’t live there very long at all. — Deuteronomy 30:15-18

Happy are the people who walk with integrity, who live according to the teachings of the Eternal. Happy are the people who keep His decrees, who pursue Him wholeheartedly. These are people who do nothing wrong; they do what it takes to follow His ways. — Psalm 119:1-3

My brothers and sisters, I cannot address you as people who walk by the Spirit; I have to speak to you as people who tend to think in merely human terms, as spiritual infants in the Anointed One. I nursed you with milk, as a mother would feed her baby, because you were not, and still are not, developed enough to digest complex spiritual food. And here’s why: you are still living in the flesh, not in the Spirit. How do I know? Are you fighting with one another? Are you comparing yourselves to others and becoming consumed with jealousy? Then it sounds like you are living in the flesh, no different from the rest who live by the standards of this rebellious and broken world. — 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Jesus: As you know, long ago God instructed Moses to tell His people, “Do not murder; those who murder will be judged and punished.” But here is the even harder truth: anyone who is angry with his brother will be judged for his anger. Anyone who taunts his friend, speaks contemptuously toward him, or calls him “Loser” or “Fool” or “Scum,” will have to answer to the high court. And anyone who calls his brother a fool may find himself in the fires of hell. — Matthew 5:21-22

This landscape offers much to explore and contemplate with the Scripture passages this week, but there is one element I wish to help you see on a symbolic level. It is the raven found in the lower right corner of the scene.

The story of Elijah being fed by ravens in the desert (I Kings 17) lends the symbolism of Divine provision during a vulnerable time. In the context of this painting, the raven stands as an assurance of God’s presence and protection for the path ahead — a symbol that resonates with choosing life from the Deuteronomy and Psalms passages.

Conversely, ravens are culturally understood as a warning — an omen of doom or an evil presence. How might the raven therefore stand as a symbol for the warnings found in the texts from Deuteronomy, 1 Corinthians and Matthew?

Can you use your imagination to envision the raven speaking from the Scriptures as you proceed forward on life’s path? Are you apt to stop and listen? take what you encounter to heart or forge ahead?

Practicing Visio Divina:

  1. View the artwork
    What do you see?

    Note shapes – color – style – movement
    What stands out for you?
    What are you curious about?
    What questions do you have?
    Hold back any feelings – judgments – opinions
  2. Read the accompanying scripture and look over the artwork again
    What connections do you make?

    Between the image and text?
    What is coming to mind from your own experience?
    What feelings are rising in you?
    Are you uncomfortable with something?
    There are no right or wrong answers
  3. Read the scripture again and explore the artwork a third time
    What do you hear?

    What is God saying to you?
    What do you wish to speak to God?
    What blessing or prayer is rising in you?

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