Pastor’s Friday Comments (02.07.20)

A few of you have already reported in on my challenge to read the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5, 6, and 7. (The majority of you have not. Remember that by the end of this month, if you haven’t told me you have read the assignment, I’ll be asking you directly.)

As I said when I issued this challenge, it is far more than an intellectual exercise. This is an opportunity to consider seriously one of the major summaries of the teachings of Jesus and to contemplate the extent to which your life conforms to these expectations.

When some of you have told me that you had done the reading, you commented on how meaningful this was for you. It may even be for some that it was the first time that you took on the task of reading this large a chunk of Scripture. When I suggested a couple of months ago that you read the New Testament in thirty days, that may have seemed like too formidable a job. Maybe you started with this baby step.

A couple of people noted how something that they read came to mind as they approached their daily tasks. It was almost as if the text was drawing you to consider your life in a new light. Reading the Bible can do that.

As you read this passage, or any other biblical text, there are some questions that you will want to keep in mind. If you run across something you do not understand or that you have difficulty in applying, I’ll be glad to have a conversation with you about it or to point you to some good resources.

If you haven’t read the Sermon on the Mount yet, or even if you have, here are some questions you may want to consider:

Are there any words that I don’t understand or that I don’t understand how they are used in this context?
How was the historical situation in the time of Jesus different from ours today and how does that affect the interpretation of this text? (Consider, for example, the roles of women and slaves in those days and today.)
Are there any of these teachings that no longer apply or that must be interpreted differently today? (One such passage might be 5:31-32, the instruction on divorce, given at a time when only men had the right to divorce.)
Am I drawn to a particular portion over and over again? Do I find myself thinking about it frequently? What might God be seeking to tell me through this passage?
Is there a teaching that convicts me about my own conduct? How must my ways be changed and am I willing to pray that God will help me to change? Or am I too comfortable with the way things stand?
Are there any of these teachings that I find difficult to apply to my life? Why do I struggle in this area? How can the Holy Spirit help me to conform more closely to the ideal that Jesus taught?

Christians throughout history have had to be drawn back to the teachings of Jesus when they have succumbed to the temptation to remake the faith into a comfortable religion. We certainly face that need today as so many who call themselves Christian espouse views that are completely at odds with the teachings of Jesus. Rather than debate particular points of theology, politics, or cultural acceptance, I simply suggest that we return to the teachings of Jesus, and, through the power of his Holy Spirit within us, to do all we can to live up to them. Reading the Sermon on the Mount is a good start.