For Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011
Epiphany Week 6
The Sermon on the Mount does not strike me as a seeker-sensitive approach to sermonizing. This is particularly true for this passage. It may be true that honey gets the bee but here, clearly, the bee is not the objective. If Jesus was preaching this from a church, the sign out by the road would read, “Today’s message: Murder, Adultery, and Divorce.”
What Jesus was after was not filling the pews so as to pay off the mortgage but rather change at the core of our beings. The Jewish synagogue, the reigning religious institution of the day, had standard practices when it came to murder, adultery, and divorce. If you murdered someone you would go on trial for it. If you committed adultery, you would be shunned. If you divorced your wife, you had to provide her with a certificate of divorce.
What Jesus is saying is this: “I don’t want you merely to comply with standard outward practice. What I want for you is authentic transformation at the core of your being. For this to happen recognize that at the core of murder is anger, and I want to redeem your anger. For this to happen recognize that at the core of adultery is lust, and I want to redeem your lust. For this to happen recognize at the core of divorce is selfishness, and I want to redeem this too.
This is the preaching we need as believers for the core is the level at which the gospel does its most powerful work. What a different place the church would be if believers were challenged to address their anger, lust, and selfishness in the light of the grace of the gospel.
Let us therefore stop preaching to the lowest common denominator and rather preach to the gospel’s deepest aspirations. For at the end of the day the measure of our ministry will not be the size of our buildings or programs but rather the depth of the change we have engendered in others as well as in ourselves. Jesus himself didn’t have a building. He didn’t need one. All he needed was the power of the gospel. The core transformation it engendered then in a small group of men and women continues to shake the foundations of the world to this very day.