Friday, February 1, 2008

For Sunday, February 3 - The Ways of the Kingdom

Matthew 5; Isaiah 53
On the surface, these two passages don't have a lot to do with each other. But I consider it a spiritual gift to be able to bend and twist disparate passages and ideas into something that will preach as one - or maybye it's heresy, who knows?
Matthew 5, what we normally call "The Sermon on the Mount" is Jesus' inaugural speech about the Kingdom of God/Heaven that he brings. Most believers, even non-Christians, stand in awe of Jesus' words here. Though he re-states many of the ideas of the prophets and sages of Jewish Old Testament history, he does so with perfect clarity, simplicity and beauty. One can't help but read through the Sermon and simply think, "Yes, if only the world and people were like this..."
Which is exactly the problem. It isn't and we aren't. Instead we find that, at our best, we consider Jesus' words impossible ideals. But we don't really think there's any way things can be as he describes.
Here's a thought: What if he really meant what he said? On both the individual level (inner me stuff), and on the social level of how we treat each other - and (gasp) - how tribes and nations treat each other? What would it mean to turn the other cheek and bless those who persecute us? How do we possibly do that? If we get ticked off when someone cuts us off in traffic, who we don't even know, then how do we ever forgive someone who has injured our soul? And yet here we are with these words about a very different kingdom.
That's where I think Isaiah 53, the passage of the Suffering Servant comes in. I don't know how far I'll get towards tying all of this together in the sermon - maybe it will be more than one. We'll see...
Your thoughts?
- Curtis


  1. Much of the time bending and twisting of scripture passages seems to be done to make the scripture fit into a certain mold. When the prosperity preachers talk about "blessings" it always seems to come around to receiving things of this world. When Jesus talks about "blessings" for the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the persecuted, the reward is God's kingdom. It just makes it harder to turn your away from worldly thing when the message we're bombarded with leads right back to it.
    So if your bending and twisting us toward servanthood and sacrifice I think that's a better tack to take. And that is clearly where the beatitudes and Isaiah take us. It causes me to reflect on times past when our society really seemed to be begining to focus on peace, love, and social resposibility. It's hard to identify what keeps us from continuing to listen to the likes of MLK, Mother Teresa, Gandhi and others who teach about relationship and servanthood.
    Can we really have a say in how nations treat each other? Isn't that part of what our participation in the election process is about? It gets discouraging when the pollsters tell us one of the keys to success in getting elected is how much money you can spend on your campaign. The candidates with the strong message on social responsibility don't have a chance if they can't out-spend their opponent.
    Jesus tells us here that hungering and thirsting for rightrousness is what will bring fulfilment, and being peacemakers brings us into God's family.

  2. I saw a bumper sticker the other day: "I like your Jesus. It is your Christians I do not like, they are so unlike your Jesus." ~Gandhi

    I don't think we are any closer today than we were 2000 years ago when Jesus walked the Earth. It seems that it would be so simple to beleive and do and set out and accomplish his words if they were spoken directly in front of us as if we were in the crowd...... or would we be the ones calling him "insane"? I'd like to think not, but aren't we doing it now? We think it insane to believe that nations can come to agreements to make peace. It's insane to believe that a person can live a life of homge toward their fellow man and not feel that twinge of anger when they are cut off in traffic by said fellow man. That he would just bless the man and pray he makes it home safe.

    It's downright emotionally exhausting to take that kind of pressure and abuse day in and day out! People abuse the kindness and generosity of others - especially Christians. We are seen as the people whom others should look up to to take their life cues from in regards of how to live. In theory it's true. Nonbelievers see us as a punching bag and wait for the smallest error on our part and then use it against us or the church we are part of.

    Jesus' sermon is a utopia that I would love to be part of and take part in helping to achieve. In a small way I am and I try.

    I wouldn't mind it so much if it weren't such a high pedestal, and the fact is, I'm afraid of heights.


Thanks for posting!