The Jewish community had particular observances: the obser- vance of sabbath and distinctive dietary restrictions. As these Jews become followers of the Way, they feel that Gentiles who came into the fold should follow these practices as well. The Jewish community insists that Gentiles observe and practice the same rituals and days of observances as they do. Criticism and judgment surface as worship patterns are not followed according to their beliefs. The differences in worship and food regulations apparently cause enough friction among believers for Paul to address these issues.
In the Christian community, we acknowledge sabbath by setting aside a special day to rest and abstain from work while worshiping God. Because we live in a melting pot of cultures and a wide variety of faith traditions, it behooves us to be open to the ideas and ways others express and observe their faith tra- ditions. Paul notes that the well-being of the faith community itself is more important than these petty quarrels over special days and diet. He raises this question: “Why do you pass judg- ment on your brother or sister?”
Let us be open to the faith traditions, practices, and customs that others bring to the faith community. We need to be willing to invite someone into our worship settings and practices while remaining open if they are unwilling to engage as we do. As we open ourselves to differing understandings, we can unite on many levels.
Lord, help us to be open and accepting of the many ways and rituals others use to observe and worship you. Help us to grow more loving and more accepting of one another. Amen.
Exodus 14 narrates the Exodus event in stylized liturgical statements. It tells of God’s utter commit- ment to Israel and of Israel’s fearful doubt. This is a narrative “toward faith.” Psalm 114 is a buoyant, almost de ant cele- bration of the Exodus, in which all the enemies of Yahweh are put to embarrassing ight. It is recalled that Yahweh’s sovereign power to liberate is decisive for the world, as it is for Israel. In Romans 14 Paul struggles with the issue of free- dom within obedience and moves us beyond the letter of the law to its spirit. For Paul, the attitude of faith shapes human conduct. The parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew reminds all would-be disciples that law must be tempered with mercy in their dealings with one another if they expect to receive mercy from God.
• Read Exodus 14:19-31. How can you tell when God is guiding you? When in your life have you wondered if God was still there? Reflect on those times.
• Read Psalm 114. “Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.” Substitute your name for Judah and Israel in this verse and pray the words several times. How does it feel to be called God’s sanctuary and dominion?
• Read Romans 14:1-12. How do you observe a weekly sabbath? Are there businesses in your community that close for a sabbath? How does that practice affect you?
• Read Matthew 18:21-35. Whom do you want or need to for- give? Why and how might you avoid this issue? How will you pray about this?
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