For Sunday, February 16, 2014
6th Sunday After Epiphany
I have a side interest in church signs. There are a couple I drive by regularly. More often than not while the sign maker is trying to come up with something clever what I’m left with is a groan and roll of the eyes. If you want to share in the fun check out Ed Stetzer’s weekly “Church Signs of the Week“.
Normal fare is just that … normal. Yet every once in a while a plate is put down in front of us that contains something different and new. I remember sitting down in Chicago for my first ever Persian dinner. The waitress brought the plate, and as I looked down at the colorful sauces I said to myself, “Now this … is something new.”
This feeling of excited discovery is what we’re intended to experience in Matt. 5:21-31. Each of the three sections within starts the same way. “You have heard it said … but I say to you.” The topics themselves are breathtaking in scope: Murder, Adultery, and Divorce. Can you imagine driving past a church sign that said, “This Week at Glen Cove: Murder, Adultery, and Divorce”? For each topic case Jesus stands conventional wisdom on it’s head. Our real problem, he says, is not ultimately murder, but the anger that lies at it’s core. Our real problem, he says, is not ultimately adultery, but the lust in our hearts. Our real problem, he says, is not when to allow divorce, but the brokenness of our relationships.
This strikingly new teaching goes on for another two chapters. At the end of it all Matthew says this: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matt. 7:28).
Following Jesus was never supposed to be about a bad church sign. It’s supposed to be about God picking up the pieces of our shattered lives and forming them into something new and wonderful.
As you are driving this week keep your eyes open because you will drive by Jesus more than once. When you do, take a moment to pull over, because you’ll be amazed at the authority with which he speaks new life into your soul.
I’ve been reading all the commentaries I can find for this difficult text. I read yours and it brought tears to my soul. Most of them have talked about the antitheses being “new” but I was reading new as in more and it felt oppressive. “Excited discovery” opens up for me a whole new way to preach this text! “God picking up the pieces of our shattered lives” is the hope I’ve been searching for. Thank you, I think I can now go write a sermon!
Elizabeth, please see my reply below. Thanks.
Elizabeth, you really encouraged me this afternoon with your reply. Thank you! What a joy to have something one wrote three years ago, warts and all, encourage someone three years down the road! (I did just make a few edits to try to make it flow a little better).
Reflecting further on this verse this week I posted to Facebook that that point was never for us to keep the law, because we can’t, but rather to recognize our desperate need for one who could. Jesus is our path to the deep serenity of righteousness, whether with regard to anger, lust, or commitments.
I’ve been through some really painful stuff and it’s so good when God redeems the pain. We need more pastors and ministers who admit they don’t have it all together, but who can point the way to someone who does. Please share your sermon with me when you are done. 🙂