The Sermon on the Mount-The Vision Beautiful
“Thinking theologically… means more than just interpreting our given ‘orthodox’ biblical tradition and creedal statements. It also means being willing to think differently now than in the past” (Sallie McFague)
Matthew 5 The Message
We are encouraged to think of safety in our churches these days, which made me think of the story in the book of Acts, chapter 20. We read the story of Euthycus who fell asleep during Paul’s sermon and fell out of the window, three stories to his death. So, in the spirit of personal safety in church, if you feel sleepy, find a soft landing spot, will you.
Which leads me to the story of a young boy standing in the foyer of the church, looking at a plaque with the names of men and women who had died in great wars that our nation has been involved in.
The pastor notices the boy and explains,
“These are members of our church who died in the service.”
Alarmed, the boy looked up at the pastor and blurted out;
“The early service or the second service?”
Its all about safety.
This morning’s reading was also about a service. This was one Jesus held, only it was an informal gathering where he preached to the people who had gathered to listen to him. In typical fashion back then, the teacher would find a vantage point from where he could speak to all the people. Sitting a little higher than his audience, Jesus looks down upon them and begins to speak.
Matthew 5:1-12 is the first section, or discourse, in what we call the sermon on the mount.
Jesus brings the people good news.
We also see a parallel between Moses and Jesus here. Just as Moses went up a mountain to receive the Law—or the Torah, or the 10 commandments—Jesus brings God’s good news to the people.
Kurt Vonnegut, declares, “For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings… I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.”
No one has ever asked that “Blessed are the merciful” be posted in a courtroom? Or, “Blessed are the peacemakers, in the Pentagon?”
What is it about human nature that drives us to relish the, “though shalt nots” and brush away the “blessed are you’s?
These beatitudes, or expressions of supreme grace, was a breeze of fresh air filled with hope, for those who heard it.
It appears to be a correction to the stark interpretations of the Law of Moses. This is about God’s grace and God’s concern for the people.
It also acted as a correction to the status quo of that time. The poor and the marginalized were caught up in systemic injustice. They had no where to turn to. Between the crushing political system of Rome, the oppressing economic system managed by Jerusalem and the corruption of the Temple service, they where mere pawns in life.
The Gospel, and especially these beatitudes, was and still is Good News to us. There are times when we all find ourselves feeling lost in this world with its demands. If we open ourselves to God’s love in such times we will discover the intimacy of that love.
When we do good, no matter how small the act, the entire community will benefit. There is power in our acts of caring.
When we help people make peace among themselves the benefit is ours. A deep satisfaction that we are doing God’s work.
Read these words again when you have time. It’s a source of comfort and a motivation to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
The Jewish Talmud, or the commentary on the Law of Moses, says the following:
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Act justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
We can easily feel defeated by the challenges we face or by the sheer enormity of the challenges of life, and we are not obligated to complete the work of changing that, but neither are we free to abandon it.
Our mission is the “vision beautiful”. A relentless belief in God’s love despite our circumstances. A relentless commitment to work to put right what is wrong in this world. A community focused on working as God’s people to allow God’s kingdom to come here on earth, as it is in Heaven.