It is not enough to just hear the words of the Sermon on the Mount. As disciples of Christ, As disciples of Christ, we are called to incorporate them into our lives, to let them become a part of who we are, to let them transform us into the people God calls us and created us to be and then to follow them with all our heart, mind and soul.
February 19, 2023
“Lessons from the Gospel of Matthew”
What Do These Things Have in Common?
Matthew 7: 1-14, 24-29
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Matthew 7: 1-14, 24-29
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For the judgment you give will be the judgment you get, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asked for bread, would give a stone? Or if the child asked for a fish, would give a snake? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
“Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
“Everyone, then, who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” Now when Jesus had finished saying these words, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes.
What Do These Things Have in Common? Matthew 7: 1-14, 24-29
I feel like I need to start out this sermon with a confession. There was a part of me that was tempted to simply read this Scripture and then sit back down again because I am not sure what I can add to this text. For the most part, each of these verse couplets are self explanatory. They really don’t need me to stand up here and dissect them verse by verse.
Because although these statements mention various items like dogs and pigs, pearls and gates, they all have one thing in common. All of these statements challenge us as disciples of Christ, they invite us, they call us to think about how living into the values of God’s reign shapes us into the people God created and calls us to be. These statements are reminders that it is not enough just to hear these words. As disciples of Christ, we are called to incorporate them into our lives, let them become a part of who we are, let them transform us. These statements invite us to follow them with all our heart, mind and soul as we work to bring about healing and wholeness to all of God’s creation..
This section concludes Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It contains what is lovingly known as “Jesus’ Greatest Hits.” Think of these various statements not as Jesus ending his sermon with 3 points and a poem. Instead, Matthew has gathered a collection of Jesus’ sayings and placed them in one spot.
Again, as I said last week, and the week before, Matthew is not trying to show that Jesus came to bring about a new tradition, new religion or new faith. Instead, Matthew wants to show the connection between what God has done in the past and what God is doing now. Matthew is having Jesus interpret the Word of God for the People of God in a new context but it is the same thing as it has always been…living in community, living in relationship with God and with one another.
What Matthew is inviting his readers and in turn inviting us to do is to experience the Divine in our midst as we become the people God created us to be.
That’s why Jesus uses this parable about building our houses of faith on the solid rock. It is not enough for us to hear these words. That’s the easy part. The challenge is acting on them in ways that reflect the Beloved Community in our midst. This collection of Jesus’ sayings invites the disciples, invites Matthew’s readers, invites us to discern God’s ways and purposes in our lives and in our communities. “It imagines a symbolic world in which disciples are to live and by which they are to see and understand, derive direction and make meaning of their lives.”
Or let me say it this way…Week after week, it feels like I say the same thing, things like, as people of faith, we are called to reach across the boundaries this world uses to separate and divide. We are called to reach across these boundaries so that all can come together as one. I feel like I’m saying the same things week after week, things like as disciples of Christ, we are called to view people as beloved children of God, not as commodities to be used and abused.
At some point, it all starts to get repetitive. It just becomes background noise to our everyday lives. Not exactly what the preacher wants. Rather, my hope is that one day, I will have worked myself out of a job because we as humanity finally get it. We get what it means to be people of peace, to be people of justice, to be people of mercy. We finally get what it means to be in community, in relationship with one another.
But instead, what I am finding is that regardless of the decline in religious institutions, I have job security more than ever. As we look at our communities, our nation, our world, it seems like it is more broken than ever before…name-calling, fighting, bullying and these are adults I’m referring to when it comes to this type of behavior.
Please hear me say that I know I am preaching to the choir. All of us are here because at some point, we had an encounter with the Risen Christ which changed us, which transformed us, which helped us realize that there is another way to be. But please also hear me say that I don’t want to get into an us verses them mentality either. I know that there are lots of people who don’t go to church who also believe in a vision of a better now for all people while there are plenty of people in the church who continue to turn a blind eye to the hurt and hate around them.
What I am saying as the collection of my greatest hits is this…the very character of our God is loving and gracious, steadfast from generation to generation and as the people of God our words, our actions need to reflect what we already know to be true….that God loves us more than we could ever imagine and that all are welcome and invited to the Table as God’s beloved children.
These words which Jesus offered that day, which are offered to us today have the power to effect change. They are words of power and hope. They are words which show us time and time again that the only response we have to God’s gracious faithfulness is to offer up our entire being, heart, mind and soul, and allow these words to take root into our very selves so that all may know the presence of the Kingdom of God.
So if as people of faith, if our words, if our actions are full of hate and hurt, if our words and actions are being used to separate and divide rather than bringing people together, we are doing something very wrong. We are not practicing what we preach. We are not becoming the people of love God created and called us to be.
Because the fact of the matter is,what this section of Jesus’ greatest hits all boils down to is that faith is not measured in religious activity. Faith is not about us. It is not about making us better than everyone else.
Faith has been, is now, and forever will be about knowing this world will not have the last word. It is about the light of God becoming incarnate in our lives. Faith is about becoming the people God created and calls us to be…people of love, people of grace, people of mercy.
Faith is about building our houses on a solid foundation, a foundation that supports, that strengthens, that encourages, that connects us to the Divine in our midst, that inspires us to be God’s hands and heart in this world. Ultimately what Jesus’ greatest hits boils down to is as disciples of Christ, as ones who have experienced the Risen Christ in our own lives, it is about practicing what we preach in all things and through all things. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, February 19, 2023 – What Do These Things Have in Common? Matthew 7: 1-14, 24-29.