Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on November 04, 2017
I want to talk with you about something that has been on my mind this week. I have some time to think since I commute 200 miles a day. I have been thinking a lot about The Sermon on the Mount. For those who remember The Monty Python movie, “The Life of Brian”, the scene that has “blessed are the cheese makers” and “blessed are the meek who just have a hell of time” will ring familiar.
In all seriousness, it is perhaps one of the best-known passages in The New Testament. To give a little background, crowds have gathered because they keep hearing about this Jesus person and they want to hear if what he has to say is worth listening to.
To better understand Jesus’ message we need to know that many of those who have gathered are spiritually hungry and seeking renewal and mercy in their life. Seems timely today?
Instead of imposing intellectual doctrine and dogma that is equal parts distant and unforgiving; Jesus brings, as Pope Francis said, a “freshness and fragrance” to those who hunger and thirst to know God.
Jesus is preaching to fellow Jews and Gentiles who want to know “where and how is the God of creation guiding them?” Seems fair to me!
Jesus gives a most unexpected message, a message so fresh it is like oxygen. Jesus doesn’t say, “Shame on you,” then unfurl a list of laws to smack them over the head. No, he says something entirely different: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are they who mourn, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for goodness, Blessed are the merciful, Blessed are the pure of heart, Blessed are the peacemakers.”
In the very next breath he says, “You are the light of the world.” The meek, the hungry, the merciful, the peacemakers, “are the light of the world.” Ponder that for a moment?
Much of the power of the Sermon on the Mount depends where you sit in life. A few years ago my life was in another season and I heard it differently. Today and over the last year my life has changed. I now hear the same message, but in a new way!
The Sermon on the Mount sounds different if you are at the top of the ladder or hanging on the bottom rung. If you are sick, deliriously happy, grief stricken or feeling stuck. It sounds different if you are up front hanging on every word, or far in the back and think the message is for other people. It sounds different if you are a CEO of a bank, or an undocumented day laborer who works in a vineyard.
Jesus says that, “if your eyes are soaked with tears, and your spiritual bones are aching, the light of God illuminates your darkness.” Said another way, your life, your tears, your pain, your power, your influence, your wealth are pathways to holiness.
The message from some churches over the years has become obsessed with small-minded rules that limit and shame us. Jesus says God’s message is far more important and life-saving than the insistent rules that are being applied today. In a sense he is saying that, “the message of God is healing and here it is folks!”
Jesus says, “Be the light of God.” If you are smart, rich, unemployed, sick, educated, broken heartened, your life is Holy. This is a provocative and radical message then and now! Jesus’ message breaks down and opens up what is possible in our lives instead of being reduced to pedantic rules that cause us to feel small and unlovable.
When our life is filled with worry, pain, or anxiety, you don’t have to be far from God. To the contrary, you have a bridge with an open and receptive heart to let the light of God shine upon you.
The Sermon on the Mount is not about being perfect. It is not some impossible ideal we will never achieve. The Sermon on the Mount is not an ethical understanding of life. It says that wherever you are in life, you are forgiven, you are child of God, the light of God that shines in the darkness now shines upon you. This is what the Sermon on the Mount is all about. Have a blessed week!
Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah
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