Good morning. Welcome to Wednesday. We are half way through the week. The sun has been shining and I hope, in the midst of this strange season, that you are able to take a moment, to breathe deeply and to – however fleetingly – connect with our heavenly Father.
Yesterday we embarked on a whistle stop tour of the Beatitudes… the opening section of the Sermon on the Mount… sometimes referred to as Jesus’ manifesto. The Sermon on the Mount is a concise record of Jesus’ teaching. So, if we want to know what Jesus was about, we need look no further. Book after book has been written, community after community has been shaped and life after life has been transformed by these words.
Some Bibles highlight the actual words of Jesus in red type… this section is red throughout, it’s rich and full of the abundant life, the overflowing life. What I am trying to say is that if you have heard the call to ‘come! Follow Jesus’ then this part of scripture is fundamental to understanding what that means.
Yesterday we set the scene. Jesus’ opening salvo is that ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit…’ namely that no-one is beyond God’s touch, no-one is disqualified from the kingdom of God… We started with grace and the words that follow are shot through with grace.
Have you ever asked the question, “what does it mean to live the good life?” What is the beautiful, abundant life that Jesus talks about?
If we believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, what does that life look like… the answer is Jesus, obviously! But beyond that throw away catch all line, what does that look like broken down?
Today’s reading is Matthew 5:21-32. Let’s read v 21-22 now.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
Here is what the good life looks like. Jesus isn’t messing about! He is not musing on otherworldly spiritual things. He is not musing on the meaning of life. He wades right into the muck and filth of the human experience: Anger.
Do you ever feel angry? Do you ever experience lust?
Jesus says, let’s get this out in the open, let’s talk about it, let’s deal with it.
Yesterday I was driving one of my boys to a football match. We were on the Derek Dooley way, approaching traffic lights; a BMW had come fast up behind us and tried to undertake us. The lights had changed to red and so we had come to a stop, we were both second in the queue. We waited. The lights changed. We pulled away together and the car in front of me was quickest off the mark. There was no space, but the BMW accelerated hard and forced its way between the car in front of it in the queue and me. I was hard on the brakes and hard on the horn…
I was livid! I was ready to pull up alongside and give the driver both barrels… metaphorically you understand… to shout, to rebuke, to trash their flash car.
I was really angry… really angry.
It took me a long time to regain my composure and find my peace.
Have you ever had moments like that?
Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt, through the red sea, out into the desert and into freedom. Remember the burning bush? Remember the promise to Moses when God had spoken to him, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
On the mountain God had spoken with Moses and had given him the 10 Commandments… ‘you shall not murder’
I could join with the Pharisees and think to myself, I’ve not killed anyone! I’ve not done anything wrong. I could sit comfortably in my car, judging the BMW driver, feeling all holier than thou, pointing the finger, feeling content in my righteous anger, condemning, righting off.
I had done nothing wrong… I was the victim… I didn’t kill anyone… I had committed no sin… and yet my heart was far, far from God.
Anger is not the way of the kingdom. Jesus doesn’t say this to condemn us but to highlight the problem of the human heart… not simple to point us towards how gracious God is to put up with us broken humans but to extend Monday’s invitation –Come and I will make you fishers of people… remember, “come, I will enable you to be… Come I will cause you to be people who respond with love and grace, not anger, contempt and bitterness… come I will produce in you a heart like mine.”
I don’t know about you, but I want that.
I don’t know about you, but I am not content to clean the outside of the dish… I want to work with God to clean the inside also.
It says in Jeremiah 6:16
“Stand at the crossroads and look.
Ask for the ancient paths: ‘Where is the good way?’
Then walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Teach us your ways Lord, teach us your ways!!
Father we ask for the ancient paths today, show us the good way. Help us to come before you with humility and faith, to learn from you, to be honest with you and to work with you to bring change. Help us to walk with you, to walk in your truth and to find the rest for our souls that you promise, in Jesus name, Amen.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 5:21-32
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”