But I say to you: anger

sermon-on-the-mountA Teaching About Anger. As will be evident, the following comments use Boring’s model (previous post) as a way to think about the text at hand.

21 “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.25 Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.26 Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny. Continue reading

But I say to you: greater righteousness

sermon-on-the-mountTowards A Greater Righteousness. In v.20 Jesus calls for a greater righteousness. Eugene Boring sees vv.21-47 as offering concrete instances from which the disciples can discern a way forward to that greater righteousness. This is a particularly long section of the Sunday reading, and so, it will be broken up into six posts, all of which will appear today.

In Jesus’ teaching a three-fold structure appears (what follows is quoted from Boring, 189):

Reaffirmation. Matthew reassures those who fear that Christians advocate the abolition of the Torah that this is a misunderstanding. Jesus’ commands do not transgress the Law, but radicalize it—they go to the radix, the root of the command. The one who puts into practice what Jesus teaches in Matthew 5 will not violate any command of the Torah, which is not abolished but reaffirmed. Continue reading

But I say to you: patterns

sermon-on-the-mountA Framework of Understanding. Matthew 5:21-47 is clearly designed to be read as a whole, consisting of six units of teaching each introduced by ‘You have heard that it was said … But I say to you …’, and rounded off with a summary of Jesus’ ethical demand in v. 48. It is neither a complete ethic, nor a theological statement of general ethical principles, but a series of varied examples of how Jesus’ principles, enunciated in vv. 17–20, work out in practice. And this practical outworking is set in explicit contrast with the ethical rules previously accepted: it is in each case more demanding, more far-reaching in its application, more at variance with the ethics of man without God; it concerns a man’s motives and attitudes more than his literal conformity to the rules. In this sense, it is quite radical. Continue reading

But I say to you: the law

sermon-on-the-mount19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 20 I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven Continue reading

But I say to you: smallest part

sermon-on-the-mountThe opening passage of this Gospel is controversial.  Is it a general statement of Jesus’ attitude to the Old Testament, especially in its legal provisions, designed to introduce the detailed examples of Jesus’ teaching in relation to the Old Testament law in vv. 21–48 and other points throughout the Gospel? Do Jesus’ words affirm the permanent validity of the details of the Old Testament law as regulations, or do they express more generally the God-given authority of the Old Testament without specifying just how it is applicable in the new situation introduced by the coming of Jesus? Continue reading

But I say to you: context

sermon-on-the-mountHere in the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, our gospel reading continues the “Sermon on the Mount” begun on the 4th Sunday.  As mentioned elsewhere, the “Sermon” is the first of the Matthean discourses and perhaps the best known. Warren Carter (Matthew and the Margins) has these introductory comments about the entire sermon:

The focus of Jesus’ teaching concerns the “good news of God’s empire/reign” (4:17, 23; 5:3, 10, 19, 20; 6:10, 33; 7:21). The sermon is not, though, a comprehensive manual or rule book not a step-by-step “how to” book. Rather it offers a series of illustrations, or “for examples,” or “case studies” of life in God’s empire, visions of the identity and way of life that result from encountering God’s present and future reign. (p.128) Continue reading

But I say to you: readings

sermon-on-the-mountWhat began on the 4th Sunday continues here on the 6th Sunday: the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:17-37). The gospel for this Sunday is long and contains five connected, but different thoughts. This “pre-post” presents the entire Gospel reading with a suggestion of the five teachings presented by Jesus. The thought that connects them all is the teaching power of Jesus is the fulfillment of what you have been taught and only dimly came to understand. It is expressed in various ways, all variants of “You have heard it was said…but I say to you.” Continue reading

Redemptive Anger

sermon-on-the-mountCommandments, rules, and laws – our readings offer a lot to think about. When I was 5 years old, I followed (mostly) the rule: “Don’t cross the street by yourself”, even as I wanted to explore the world across the road. When I was 25 years old, I understood that those rules were for my welfare, health, and protection.  There were also rules to shape me to be a good person: “You have to share your things with your friends.” Hopefully, when we are older we don’t think about those things, they are ingrained, and they are part of the good person we have become. Continue reading

How Will You Belong? The Stranger at Our Doors

Welcome-StrangersI have often mused about the connections of being a welcoming community and hospitality. As part of that musing, I wondered about the distinction between entertaining and hospitality, surmising that it perhaps depends on your role model and the source of your ideas about hospitality. If the model is from Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, and Southern Living Magazine – then perhaps “entertaining” is a better description. As a church of believing Christians, it would be best to look to Jesus for models of hospitality. Continue reading

In the world: light

sermon-on-the-mount14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. 16 Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

Light, like salt, affects its environment by being distinctive. The disciple who is visibly different from other men will influence them. But the aim of his good works is not to parade his own virtue, but to direct attention to the God who inspired them. By so doing the disciple will give light to all (cf. Phil. 2:15). Continue reading