January 29, 2017
The heart of Jesus' teaching was the Sermon on the Mount. In the structure of Matthew, which intentionally parallels the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy), the Sermon functions in the same way as the Ten Commandments did--as the heart of the law. These teachings, and Jesus' lived example, invite us to reconsider the conventional wisdom. We win, according to this Gospel, by losing, such a countercultural and paradoxical notion that Jesus finally had to live it himself to demonstrate its truthfulness.
Perhaps one way we might understand how this functions in our real-world experience is to consider the way that following these "commandments" of Jesus--really a set of images that point the way--break destructive cycles. In an age of such reactivity, a gentle, humble, love-filled response refuses to return violence for violence, taking all the air out of the many confrontations we encounter. Gentleness, mercy, humility, a willingness to take on suffering rather than foist it on others, deep listening that seeks to understand rather than to win. Imagine the power of these patterns of behavior in bridging the divides that seem so wide and deep these days!
Readings for Sunday:
Micah 6:1-8 † Psalm 15 † 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 † Matthew 5:1-12
"In Venezuela, we couldn’t stop Chávez. Don’t make the same mistakes we did.” In the Washington Post.
And have a look at this article by Sojourners:
Mainstream Christianity has failed. It looks nothing like Jesus.
Sigmund Freud, 20th century
(After reading the Sermon on the Mount) "Impossible."
Kurt Vonnegut, 20th century
"For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. 'Blessed are the merciful' in a courtroom? 'Blessed are the peacemakers' in the Pentagon? Give me a break!"
Henry Miller, 20th century
"If there is to be any peace it will come through being, not having."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, 20th century
"We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer."
Alice Walker, 21st century
"HELPED are those whose every act is a prayer for peace; on them depends the future of the world."
Ronnie McBrayer, How Far Is Heaven?: Rediscovering the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now, 21st century
"The Beatitudes are no spiritual 'to do list' to be attempted by eager, rule-keeping disciples. It is a spiritual 'done' list of the qualities God brings to bear in the people who follow Jesus."
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 20th century
"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."
Leo Tolstoy, 19th century
"There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth."
Martin Luther, 16th century
"This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified."
Louisa May Alcott, 19th century
"Simple, genuine goodness is the best capital to found the business of this life upon. It lasts when fame and money fail, and is the only riches we can take out of this world with us."
Victor Hugo, 19th century
"Being good is easy, what is difficult is being just."
Wendell Berry, 20th century
"Perhaps all the good that ever has come here has come because people prayed it into the world."
"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."