Sometimes Scripture gets a little obvious (even heavy-handed), as it does in this coming Sunday’s Revised Common Lectionary texts:

“You shall not deal falsely.
You shall not lie to one another.”
(Leviticus 19:11)


“Do not boast about human leaders.”
(1 Corinthians 3:21)


“You shall not profit
by the blood of your neighbor.
You shall not hate your own kin.”
(Leviticus 19:16-17)

#colonialism #capitalism
#whiteprivilege #racism

“Give to everyone who begs from you,
and do not refuse anyone
who wants to borrow from you.”
(Matthew 5:42)


“Do not deceive yourself…
for the wisdom of this world
is foolishness with God.”
(1 Corinthians 3:18-19)


“Love your enemies.”
(Matthew 5:44)


…and this doozy…

“Be perfect therefore as
your heavenly Father is perfect.”
(Matthew 5:48)


236a8-holyHow’s that going for you, the whole “perfection” commandment? How’s it working out in your ministry to “love your enemies”? What are you experiencing in the world’s inclination to “boast in leaders” and its preference to “profit from the blood of your neighbor?”

Let’s consider those questions momentarily rhetorical.

Try this one instead:

When Scripture is so obvious, do you preach an equally straightforward sermon?


However you preach such ethical admonitions as these, let’s backtrack to their theological foundation:

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.”
(Leviticus 19:1-2)

breath windowYou shall be holy — not by your own merit, not as an individual, not for the purposes of self-righteousness — but holy because you belong to God who is holy. Or, to borrow from John 15, you are within God who is holy, therefore you shall be holy because God is within you.

You shall be holy, and holiness looks like:

love of enemies,
foolishness for holy wisdom,
hearts set on God more than fear,
spirits of humility and honesty,
abundance for the poor
and welcome of the


You shall be holy, because holiness is the way of God; holiness is Supreme Love and Divine Justice in action.

How will your sermon this week call people to model God’s holy ways? What other strains of God’s story are singing to you from this week’s RCL texts? Please add your reflections in the comments to share the work & wonder of preparing this coming Sunday’s sermon.

Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ minister, soccer mom, blogger, and author. Her book Sacred Pause plays with words to refresh our relationship with The Word.

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9 thoughts on “RCL: You Shall Be Holy

  1. This is great, Rachel. Thank you.

    I am wondering about the provenance of the stained glass looking image next to “you shall be holy.” Would love to use it on our order of worship, but would need to check copyright information towards that purpose. –Wendy


  2. My prayer from yesterday, when I first read these passages:

    Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect – Oh dear Lord, how are we supposed to do that? We’re saints that are sinners and sinners that you have made into saints. Be perfect?

    We can’t

    Only you can.

    So what are you telling is to do here, Lord? Love the unlovable. Respond to violence with non-violence. Let people walk all over us? Give up our rights, our resources, our lives?

    Really Lord?


  3. “Perfect”–It works better for me to translate it “complete,” as in “be completely who your Creator intends you to be.” I don’t think it has anything to do with being error-free. Translation problem.


  4. Thank you for this reframing. I’m still noodling around. One of my parishioners asked about “love your enemies,” specifically with regard to political leaders, just last Sunday. So his question is rolling around in my mind, too.


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