Notes for the message based on Matthew 5:21-37; “A” -E6

This week’s readings are: Deut 30:15-20; Psalm 119: 1-8 or UMH 840; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37

You can read these Scriptures here:  NIV  // ESV // NRSV // The Message

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Human beings are notoriously resistant to change. Christians are especially resistant to change because we believe that God is with us and therefore we expect God to take care of us. We expect God to be there at a moment’s notice, bailing us out of all kinds of mayhem.

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That is why the image of Jesus as a gentle shepherd is so popular in our culture. We, as Jesus’ sheep, graze peacefully on a gentle slope of the hill (preferably with a large screen TV somewhere nearby) while Jesus watches over our safety and security day and night and prepares a picnic lunch to delight our senses by a gently flowing stream.

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The truth is that Jesus did not come to protect the world; Jesus came to redeem the world. Jesus came to empower us to live in the world, to serve the world, to tend and take care of the world and to transform the world. Jesus came to empower his church to infuse the world with joy and zest for life: “you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world” (Matt 5:13,16) and “I’ve come so that you have life and live it abundantly” (John 10:10).

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We are created in the image of God; that means that all of us have reasoning abilities and we are able to construct norms and follow rules by which our society operates. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus deals with several portions of the law. Before we begin I want to make it clear; RULES AND LAWS ARE GOOD!  Rules are the foundation of a civilized society. We can get into our cars and drive to Florida or to California and be fairly certain that other drivers will follow rules and that we will get to our destination. We know that if everybody follows the agreed upon rules of conduct, we will enjoy fulfilling and productive lives to the glory of God.

On the other hand we are God’s creations, and being created in the image of God means that we have an ability to love and to experience emotions and feelings.

These abilities: {1} to reason and {2} to love and feel, are two complementing aspects of our lives. We need both.

If we live relying only on rules, we open ourselves to lives of self-justifying righteousness. No murder today; check!  Did not cheat on my wife today; check!  Did not steal anything today; another check! My mom and dad are dead and buried, therefore I do not need to do anything to honor them; another check! WOW! I am a righteous dude!

That is a checklist spirituality; it invites us to follow the letter of the law without giving any consideration to the spirit of the law. Jesus that I know wants more for us.

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“You’ve heard… But I tell you…” With these words Jesus is calling us to look beyond the rules and legalism of religion. With these words Jesus is challenging us to consider our Christian identity to be MORE than just a membership in a group of likeminded people. Jesus is calling us to be changed and transformed by loving each other, and taking care of each other and the world in which we live.

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So today I want to leave you with couple of thoughts:

  • What kind of community do you want to live in? What kind of community do you want to build? What can we do to build and to create such a community?

  •  In what ways do you minimize your involvement and hide behind the rules? Think of all the times when you said, “we’ve never done it that way” or “nobody would want that.”

These are tough questions and I know such questions are difficult to think about. But if we take the time to think, and then gather together to respectfully and lovingly discuss our opinions and ideas we will be inviting the kingdom of God into our homes, into our community. Our actions (the way we live our lives) will follow and will impact the world that we live in.

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“You’ve heard… But I tell you…” Jesus makes the point that religion is a foundation of a good thing. Religion reminds us who we are and whose we are. Jesus challenges us to live “abundant lives” by living the promise of our faith in God, not because it will change others, but because our faith in God can bring positive changes, healing and emotional maturity in ourselves and help us to build a better tomorrow for each other.

To God Be The Glory!

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