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Beginning the Conversation

A Reflection on Matthew 5

“You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16

          As a preacher, Jesus’ sermon on the Mount fascinates me for a variety of reasons.  First, he breaks all the “rules” of preaching.  He doesn’t ease into his subject, doesn’t do an introduction that draws his listeners in any way. He just launches in with a set of declarations that frankly sound almost completely insane!

        Blessed are the poor in spirit?  Blessed are those who mourn?  Blessed are the meek?  Blessed are those who are persecuted and reviled and slandered?  If this is blessing, how worse can it be to be cursed!

        But of course that is Jesus’ point.  His way is all about reversals – the weak will be made strong and the strong made weak, the poor will be rewarded and the rich will go away empty.  God is not in any way interested in the usual priorities of the world, and doesn’t want us to give into them either.  God wants us to be different – Salt for the earth, a light in the darkness.

        But you notice he’s still not promising anyone they will get any rewards for themselves.  That’s not what it’s about at all.  He’s telling those who would follow him that they are supposed to be lights for the world.  They are called to shine before others so that others can see their works, not to gain their respect and admiration, but so that they will give glory to God.

        Then Matthew gets down to brass tacks:  I’m not getting rid of the law, I’m making it harder.  Not only are you still not allowed to kill those who anger you, but you can’t assault them in spirit with your anger and your insults.  Go offer peace to them before you even think about making an offering to God.  Adultery is still wrong –  even thinking about it is wrong. Not only is it wrong to swear falsely, but you shouldn’t swear at all!  Live transparently, say what you mean and mean what you say.  Don’t seek revenge on those who wrong you, in fact, go out of your way to do good to them.

         And then the hardest words of all:  “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  God gives good gifts to us whether we deserve it or not – we should do the same.

         So what is the message of all this for us at Simpson right now?

          I don’t know if it’s the a message for the whole church or not, but I know what it says to me:  Be what you are and do what you can do!

           I spent a lot of time ruminating and worrying over the question one service or two.  Which is the right decision?  Who will be angry if we go back to one service?  Who will burn out or get discouraged if we don’t?  How do we develop a greater sense of community in the congregation either way?  Questions, questions, and more questions.

           But in the end the decision came down to a simple fact:  we can only be who we can be.  As a church right now we do not have the resources, not just in money but in “people power”, to do two services well.  In my time here we really never have.  So we should do what we can do well – as messy and sometimes dissatisfying that may be at times.   Because the idea has never been to be “successful” or “mighty” or “popular”.  The idea is to be a light, a lamp on a stand, a beacon that shines out with God.

           And light has a cost – to the lamp, that is.  Oil burns, ceases to exist.  But light, once emitted, keeps going; only stopping when it strikes surface, where it is either brings warmth or is reflected away to travel further.

          I found a quote recently from a priest/writer I admire named Richard Rohr:  ““The most amazing fact about Jesus, unlike almost any other religious founder, is that he found God in disorder and imperfection—and told us that we must do the same or we would never be content on this earth.”

           So we feel resource poor, but seek the blessing of what we do have.  We mourn the things we’d “like to have”, but find comfort in the blessings already with us  We feel small and sometimes put upon when we compare ourselves to others, but we find that God’s kingdom has never been about “going large”.  It’s about giving ourselves for others, and in the process teaching others to do the same.

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0522121601a

0522121601a

Hello world!

I’m hoping to use this blog as an exchange site for ideas, especially among those who are part of the vision group at Simpson UMC.