Almighty God, the Lord and giver of all life – be with us in this time of reflection and digging deeper in your word, that we may have a greater vision of your kingdom and live to serve on earth as it is in heaven. Amen
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” (Matthew 7:24)
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)
Today, the last of five weeks, in which our gospel passage has been on the ‘Sermon on the Mount’
Chapters 5 through to 7 of Matthew include some of the most memorable instructions for living
Where so much of the Bible is narrative or story – where we learn by examples modeled and witnessed to us
We have a rare collection of teachings taught by our Lord Jesus in which the entire 3 chapters might be titled
“Life, as lived under Kingdom of God” or “The Law of Christian society”
We began with the Beatitudes, and The Sermon on Mount also contains the Lord's Prayer - injunctions to "resist not evil" and "turn the other cheek"
There is Jesus' version of the Golden Rule.
We are instructed to Love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us
And we hear our Lord declare that we are the "salt of the Earth," & "light of the world,"
Last week we considered God creation and were given an understanding of worry
And we conclude today with a choice
The Sermon on the Mount is an incredible section of scripture that five weeks of sermons does not do justice to
I was talking with a colleague of mine the other day and we were both commenting on how you could spend a year on the Sermon on the Mount and still come up short with all it has to offer
She in fact wants to do an eight week series on just the Beatitudes
So today I would like to re-centre your attention on what we have talked about to this point and conclude with the conclusion… which we have as today’s Gospel message
First remember those that our Lord calls blessed - Poor in spirit, mournful, the meek, seekers of righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and sufferers of persecution
Consider how this doesn’t sound like a winning list
Where are the powerful? – Where are the supermodels? – where are the rock stars?
Jesus begins this powerful sermon by giving us what the world might deem as victims of the world
Our world is so connected with success defining our identity
We are used to paying for our mistakes… paving our own way… toeing the line… and reaping the consequences when we don't,
And so it is downright unsettling and nearly inconceivable to imagine whom God declares as Blessed
"Poor in spirit" – This is not someone that lacks a zest for life
Rather, what is lacking is human pride apart from God - It means to be humble.
Humility is the realization that all your gifts and blessings come from the grace of God
“Those that Mourn” are people that regret over our own sins and the sins of this world, for we have hurt The One who has been so good to us.
Here the understanding of meekness is that the more one ascends in understanding of Divine Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, and then realizes, is mournful of the poverty of human nature,
“The Meek” – A humble person becomes meek, or becomes gentle and kind, and exhibits a docility of spirit, even in the face of adversity and hardship.
A person that is meek is one that exhibits self-control and obedience and submission to the will of God
“Seekers of righteousness” – Are those with a continuous desire for justice and moral rightness with God which will lead one to a fulfillment of that desire.
This is true for all the virtues - if you hunger and thirst for any of the fruits of the Spirit, you will head towards the goal you have in mind – God promises that you will be satisfied
“The Merciful” – As we are merciful to others, so our Heavenly Father will be merciful with us! Jesus reminds us that whatever "you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:31-46)
And we are declared as Blessed, in the eyes of the Lord God
“The Pure in Heart” – To be pure of heart means to be free of all selfish intentions and self-seeking desires.
The pure in heart will see God - Such a blessing is especially appropriate because, as people who are truly pleasing to God, they have offered the world a vision of what is godly.
Those who will see God, are those in whom something of God has been seen.
“The Peacemakers” – not only those who live peaceful lives but also try to bring peace and friendship to others, and to preserve peace between God and man.
They are best regarded as agents of God who are actively establishing shalom or Peace.
“The suffers of persecution” - Jesus said many times that those who follow Him will be persecuted.
"If they persecute me, they will persecute you" (John 15:20-21).
To all of these people… to us… when we are: Poor in spirit, mournful, meek, seekers of righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and sufferers of persecution – Jesus declares Blessedness
Where, on first glance seems all wrong, seems the reverse of worldly expectations - I’ve come to realize that Jesus is not upside down—I am.
The beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, is our Lord’s way of presenting a vision of the world as seen with God’s eyes
It calls us to a deeper understanding of the reality we see
Brothers and Sisters in Christ – today and everyday – claim God’s blessing for others… and even for yourself
We are "poor in spirit" or "meek" or "hunger and thirst for righteousness" - when we walk humbly with God.
We are "merciful" or "pure in heart" or "peacemakers" or "mourners" or "accept persecution for righteousness' sake" – when we do justice – when we love in kindness.
When we show compassion and mercy – putting others before ourselves
When we stand with the oppressed, or strengthen the weak,
The Beatitudes invite us to be instruments of God in the world.
They represent the diversity of our response as he calls us to walk with him in justice and kindness.
Moving from the declaration of Blessedness, Jesus tells us:
“You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world”
Salt in biblical times, and even today, is an agent for preserving things
It preserves food, sacrificial offerings, was used medicinally with new born babies
But salt was both practically and symbolically seen to be for the preservation of life. If you don’t have salt, all you have is decay.
And Jesus said, “YOU are the salt of the earth”
Salt also bites
When people sin, like the solider injured on the battle field, you are to rub the salt into the wounds of their sins.
Like the wounded soldiers ‘you need it’ to experience healing. That was part of the way that you treat physical and spiritual wounds.
We as friends need to be honest with each other.
So when you see somebody doing wrong, the tendency is to pour syrup on their behaviour, and ‘sweeten them up’
But there are times when syrup is not necessary.
What is needed is salt… And Jesus said, “YOU are the salt of the earth”
“Salt is to bring seasoning to life.”
One of our roles, as Christians, in this life is to bring flavour to life.
If you are a person who loves God, who walks with Jesus.
If you are a person of forgiveness and kindness. If you are a person who brings generosity to those who are hurting.
If you are that kind of person, there is a flavour that you bring to your family, the workplace, your school, your neighbourhood.
“YOU are the salt of the earth”
In the world, Christians are to be the light of Christ.
Like light, we - the disciples, as a gathered community have overarching purpose of being the mirror that refracts God’s light so that all peoples and nations can know of God’s justice and mercy.
You are to be the light of Christ in the world.
Our lives are to be an inspiration to the lives of others around us.
Our lives are to be like a beacon, that light on the hill, that shows people the way.
Our lives are to be like a lighthouse, guiding other people’ lives through nasty storms.
On Sunday, February 6th I presented to you a challenge to see the world as God sees it
In a practical way I challenged you to do something a little out of habit
And I realize, that we have a hard time believing that we are good, worthy, and lovable and therefore will perhaps nod politely when Our Lord Jesus call us “salt and light”
But if we can take stock in a different way… and so I gave out "Salt & Light Log books" – (which I have more, for those that weren’t here that Sunday)
That you are to collect examples of where God has worked through someone you know… or even… and especially ‘you’
To look for God in the world –and record it in your own log book
For you to come to believe that YOU are vessels through which God is working
We were blessed on February 20th to welcome young Mya Nielissen-Trevor into the family of God through Holy Baptism and we were also blessed with a window into “being a child of heaven”
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But what I tell you is this, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:43-45)
It is a message, as wonderful as it is, that is part of a much bigger task and mission
In baptism, we are made one of the family, it is the first step in a life of faith
What lies ahead for all of us, is a life of responding to God’s grace-filled invitation
To be a child of heaven – we are told to: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44b)
Intuitively, we all know that enemies are not to be loved
And I think most people would agree that we live in an ‘eye for an eye’ world
That our whole system of justice is built on it
And I shared with you how our Matthew has responded in school by hitting those that have wronged him
To a four year old and in fact to our entire system of justice “an eye for an eye” makes sense
It would be considered common sense in our society today and common sense in Jesus’ time
Yet Jesus says: You have heard that it was said … But I say to you…
Jesus takes the common understandings of the world, and calls for something better – something higher
We learned Jesus’ way of ‘Creative Non-Violence’ – how when Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, he is not merely suggesting that Christians take a beating and trust that it is a nobler way
But in fact that the socially acceptable way to strike one’s slave was using the back of the right hand across the right cheek
So when Jesus suggested that one offer up the other cheek, it would have meant that the person would have to strike the left cheek with an open hand
Back of the hand – simple social discipline
Open hand – violence, assault
And thus humiliation for the perpetrator
Jesus taught a new way – to follow Jesus is to be engaged in the world – but engaged in a different way
A way of peace – a way of creativity – a way of non-violence
A way in which a disciple exposes injustice – and works towards peace and righteousness
And when we turn the other cheek – offer more than is asked – go the extra mile – When we Love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us
We are living a righteous life – we are perfect in the eyes of our Lord
And we are a child of heaven
Then, last week we were challenged with a three part message, first to: Consider the Lilies of the Field… to… Look at the birds of the air…
As we look and marvel at its fragile beauty, Jesus challenges us by saying effectively “Are you too busy to look carefully at the wild lilies of the field?”
Are you too caught up in your hurried and harried life so that your heart is no longer captured by the beauty of God’s creation?
Secondly we given insight to our relationship with “worry”
Where we think of worry primarily as ‘anxiety’
Yet likely the word was used to mean being preoccupied with or be absorbed by…
Jesus was not telling His audience to become carefree and irresponsible. He was, instead, exhorting them to set priorities
Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?(Matthew 6:25b)
All this talk about birds… and lilies… and worry…, all of it - leads up - to ‘what we are simply called to do’ – The third part of the message:
Strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness
We are told the two parables: of the birds of the air, and the lilies of the field - to bring home the message of why God created us
How we are not to be preoccupied with things before God
That we are to order our life around the kingdom of God and His righteousness
And so in conclusion we reach our passage for today
It is the conclusion of Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’
And our Lord finishes with giving us a choice
24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” (Matthew 7:24-27)
Our choice is simple in design, yet it is the challenge for a lifetime
Do we truly hear the words of Jesus?
Do they take root in our hearts and lead us to be His disciples – His students
If God was to examine our lives or our life’s intentions – Would He declare us Blessed?
Are we up to the challenge to live ‘as salt and light?’
In the world that needs us so badly to do so
Can we examine our roles and the roles of others and see the world as God does – see how WE are salt and light
Can we embrace Jesus’ new way – to follow Jesus being engaged in the world – but engaged in a different way
A way of peace – a way of creativity – a way of non-violence
A way in which a disciple works towards peace and righteousness
Loving our enemies and praying for those that persecute us
That when we do, we are perfect in the eyes of our Lord
And we are a child of heaven
Can we consider God’s creation and abounding provision?
Can we not be not to be preoccupied with things before God?
Can we Strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness
Ordering our life around that?
Because the stakes are high… some might say… the highest possible
For all of our Lord’s teaching on this Sermon on the Mount, present us with a crucial question
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
But when this moment when all that is listed might feel overwhelming… Brothers and Sisters in Christ – God is mercy
As St. Paul wrote in Romans, read today
All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as an propitiation, through faith, by his blood (Romans 3:23-25)
Brothers and Sisters in Christ – our role in faith is to strive for all that Jesus speaks of … and
"Ask and it will be given you,
Seek and you will find,
Knock and the door will be opened.
For everyone who asks receives,
He who seeks finds,
And to him who knocks the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-11)
 Feasting on the Word – Volume 1 Year A - page 332