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At St. Paul’s: “Our primary mission is to relate to, and minister to people who are living on the edge, who seek God’s will for their lives, struggling to find direction and purpose in a society that can be violent, insensitive and money-grabbing.”
Jesus gives us a prescription. It is like we are the patient and he is the MD. We come to him in our time of distress and he has the remedy. Matthew begins with the Law of Moses and moves quickly to the Beatitudes.
Let’s look briefly at the whole Chapter 5. The crew of disciples were on the Mountain; to the ones closest to him he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
YOU are the salt; make yourself useful; You are the light; let your light shine everywhere you go; act in accordance to your faith; Praise the Father in Heaven; Practice what you learn from Scripture – be righteous in all that you do. Here’s some more hints:
A Huge Crowd was Gathered on the side of the Mountain. These are things Jesus said not to do:
You have heard that Moses who wrote the Law said: “Do not murder,” but I say
Do not stay angry with your brother or sister
Do not insult your brother or sister
Do not say: “you fool”
Do not give a gift to God at the altar with any animosity in your heart
Do not divorce your wife (except for sexual promiscuity)
Do not marry a divorced adulteress (you become an adulterer)
Do not make empty promises or swear at all (You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk)
And these are Things Jesus said to do:
Reconcile with friends and foes alike
Come to terms with an adversary out of court if possible.
Refrain from Looking at a women (or men) with lust. Sexual promiscuity in your mind is wrong. Even if you don’t intend to actually go all the way; it is the same as committing adultery. And Jesus goes on: If your Right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out (better to remove it than your whole body tossed into hell)
If your Right hand causes sin, cut it off . . .
And don’t swear or use the Lord’s name in vain. Let your words be “yes, yes” or “no, no”
And Jesus goes on with some real prescriptions for relations:
Do not fight with those who try to work evil against you
If your brother or sister strikes you on the cheek, turn and offer the other
If someone takes your shirt, give him your jacket too
If someone forces you to walk a mile, go two
If someone asks to borrow something do not turn away
Love your enemies
Pray for those who torment you and persecute you
God loves all, loves each of us, good and evil, kind and cruel
God causes the rain to water the fields of the righteous and the sinners
God calls us to the higher place: be perfect, as the Father in heaven is perfect.
48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Live as if you are living under the cross of Jesus.
Beneath the cross of Jesus
I find a place to stand,
And wonder at such mercy
that calls me as I am;
For hands that should discard me
hold wounds which tell me, "Come."
Beneath the cross of Jesus
my unworthy soul is won.
The cross is a reminder of your commitment; to love God; to love neighbors as yourself. It is focused on relationships with friends, families and communities. These relationships apply to our contemporary setting in that the words of Jesus value the role and personhood of all women. Jesus gave women equal status. According to Craddock: "The point is, a woman is not a thing, a property to be coveted so as to possess, but a person to whom one relates with care and respect".
My friend, Rev. George Hrbek calls this “Right relationship.” The reason why we got together in Ohio City and formed a group of concerned citizens called NEIGHBORHOOD VOICES, is that we want all of our neighbors to be heard so that our elected officials make better decisions based on all neighbors. Justice for all. Justice for minorities. Justice for the working poor. Justice for those at the low end of the totem pole.
This section describes HOW TO DO “Right Relations.” There is a laundry list of justice issues that demand our energies and time. It takes time and energy to address peace and justice issues in city hall and town meetings. These issues require that we engage in critical self-examination and come to terms with why our society dehumanizes and renders victims of innocent people; why is it that society no longer values relationships and has ceased loving neighbor as self. The primary importance of human relationships seems to be lost as individuals are rendered less-than because of race, gender, and sexual orientation.
Right Relationships are not to be taken lightly. Mutuality and respect come with Love, when individuals honor God and neighbor as self. It is only then that right relationship is realized. It cannot be legislated. Laws will not make people change their attitudes. Right relationships have to come from the heart!
So here is the higher ground in down-to-earth language. We human beings have been created in the image of the Divine . . . and where do we learn to live in to the image of the Divine?
All of these lessons point back to the greatest command: Matthew 22:36-40
When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”
This is right relationship. Loving the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength and with all your mind is like the vertical arm of the cross on which Jesus was hung. And loving others as you love yourself is the horizontal arm of the cross. That is what I think about when I consider the crucifix. Two arms, one connecting me to God, and the other connecting me to people.
This teaching of Jesus moves from the personal healing and receiving God’s blessedness as it is focused on yourself, and moves in an other-centered motion.
This is the definition of: You are so blessed . . . remember, you are blessed if you:
. . . are poor in spirit, if you mourn, if you are meek, if you are merciful, if you are naïve, meaning ‘pure-in-heart,’ if you are a peacemaker, and more so if you are persecuted, despised and ridiculed. There is no room for guilt, embarrassment or shame. YOU are the one you have been waiting for; you are the salt of the earth; you are the light that cannot be hidden under the bushel basket.
Beneath the cross of Jesus, although you may think you’re unprepared, it is there you must take a stand FOR Jesus. . .
I take, O cross, thy shadow
For my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than
The sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by,
To know no gain nor loss,
My sinful self my only shame,
My glory all the cross.