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Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount

From my daily Bible reading:

IF“Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching,  for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” —  Matthew 7:28-29 NRSV.

“Wesley preached extensively on the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7), calling the teaching of Jesus found within it “the sum of all true religion” (Sermon 21: “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount,” §I.1). The church’s history of applying the sermon to the Christian life has fallen between two positions: first, as an ethic for the kingdom of God to be fulfilled in the future heaven; and second, as a description for the way things should be now in the present church age. This dual distinction has also led some to identify with Matthew’s more spiritualized teaching of the sermon (“happy are people who are hopeless,” 5:3) and others with Luke’s more sociopolitical expression (“Happy are you who are poor,” 6:20). For John Wesley, the Sermon on the Mount was to be a backdrop for the social ethic of the New Creation, and he used it to support the Christian’s involvement in building the Kingdom of God on earth as well as in heaven.” (more…)

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On Peace, Love and Perfection – Matthew 5:38-48

sermon-on-the-mount-romaniaIn this passage Jesus is continuing the series of antithesis statements he began in verse 21. In these he fleshes out what he means be coming not to to destroy the law but to fulfill it. He goes beyond the law — not relaxing it, but pushing it further — pushing it toward its spiritual fulfillment. Jesus forces us to consider more than just outward fulfillment — he challenges us at the level of our motivations — our inner lives.

In verses 21-37 the issues were: destructive anger, covetous sexual desire, divorce, and the swearing of oaths. Here the issues are vengefulness, enemies, peace, and universal love for all.  Here the issue is how we treat — and think about — each other. This passage can be seen as a unit because of its closely related themes.

This is also one of those passages in the New Testament that uses the word τέλειος — often translated “perfect” — which gave rise to the phrase “Christian Perfection”— often used by John Wesley (and his followers) to talk about the spiritual life. The phrase was misunderstood from the beginning and still is today — and it’s easy to see why. Looking at verse 48 in its context may help to sort out some of the confusion.

But, our goal in looking at this passage is much larger than that one issue — it is to understand how Jesus interprets the Old Testament law and applies it to life. (more…)

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How Jesus Fulfills the Law – Matthew 5:21-37

sermon-on-the-mount-romaniaJesus has already stated that the purpose of his ministry was in no way to destroy the Law and the prophets (that is, the Old Testament) but to fulfill them. In this passage he begins to flesh out what that means. He seeks to bring the Old Testament law and teaching into its fulfillment by expounding its inner intent and purpose for the people of his own day.

In “fulfilling” the law, he fills it up with meaning, demonstrating how it reveals to us the will and purpose of God. It is for this reason that the Israelites meditated upon the law — seeking not just to keep it but to understand its inner meaning.

This passage begins a series of antithesis statements: “You have heard that it was said…”But I say….” In doing this he in no way seeks to undermine the importance or authority of the Old Testament’s teaching. He is stating the inner intent of the law — the spiritual significance of the law — for the moral and spiritual lives of the people. Notice that his sayings in these verses do not relax the law — in fact, they make them more demanding. In Jesus’ teaching the issue is not just murder, but destructive anger and rage. In Jesus’ teaching the issue is not just adultery, but the lust that makes people into objects. The issue is not how you make an oath, the issue is basic honesty.

Jesus seeks to establish among his disciples a righteousness greater than that of the Scribes and Pharisees — not more meticulous, but more in line with the will and purpose of God revealed behind the letter of the law. (more…)

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Light, Salt and Righteousness – Matthew 5:13-20

candle-tipRead this passage in light of the missional nature of the church — a topic discussed in this video of Ed Stetzer, that I recently posted on this blog. Stetzer says, for example, that it’s not so much that the Church has a mission as that God’s mission has a Church.

The mission of God requires a people who are bearers of God’s light and presence in the world. As Christ came into the world to mediate God’s presence to the world, his followers — the disciples to whom this Sermon is addressed — are now to continue and extend that mission.

The church doesn’t exist for itself; it exists to serve the world. It is not ultimately about the church; it’s about the people God wants to bless through the church. When the church loses sight of this, it loses its heart. — Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith p. 165.

Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with a series of shocking statements about who had the blessing of God. The blessings of God’s Kingdom were falling upon unlikely people. Jesus now continues with a series of sayings about his disciples and their role in the world. They are people who are sent on God’s mission to bring hope to the world. (more…)

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John Meunier: Do We Still have Room for Wesley in United Methodism?

John Meunier

John Meunier

This post is from John Meunier’s blog, one of the most widely-read United Methodist blogs. I’m posting it here because it is also a reflection on John Wesley’s interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount —  something I alluded to in my comments about the Beatitudes. At one point Wesley says:

The Son of God, who came from heaven, is here showing us the way to heaven; to the place which he hath prepared for us; the glory he had before the world began. He is teaching us the true way to life everlasting; the royal way which leads to the kingdom; and the only true way, — for there is none besides; all other paths lead to destruction.

John writes: “I am a 46-year-old nearly life-long Hoosier. I teach writing courses to the young and soon-to-be upwardly mobile students at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. I also serve as a part-time local pastor at Erie UMC and Wesley Chapel UMC in Lawrence County, Indiana.”

Here are John’s reflections on whether John Wesley’s interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount has a place in contemporary United Methodism. (more…)

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