Category Archives: Sermon on the Mount
May 11, 2017 by jmar198013
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September 1, 2016 by jmar198013
One of the passages Jesus drew upon when the devil tempted him was Deut. 6.16: “Don’t test the LORD your God the way you frustrated him at Massah.” This refers back to an event that happened in Exodus 17. The people came to a place where there was no water, and were afraid God had left them to die of thirst. They lost faith in God, and were about ready to kill Moses. Testing God means refusing to trust that our Father is good and generous and just, and at work in our lives and in his world. It means giving up on God and going our own way. If Jesus had succumbed to any of the devil’s temptations: turned the stones to bread; enforced his will through political means; or stunned people into submission with self-promoting miracles; if Jesus had done any of those things, he would have been testing God. Because that’s not the way God had made for him. God gave Jesus the way of suffering with people and serving them. Not the way of self-promotion and self-service. Jesus still had to go through the Exodus of death and resurrection. To lead us all through the Red Sea of his blood to set us free, and bring us to the home God has promised us.
August 18, 2016 by jmar198013
One day God’s kingdom will come in its fullness. There will be a new heavens and a new earth. Our bodies will be raised imperishable. Death and sorrow will be no more. God will wipe every tear from every eye. We will dwell with God and God with us forever in a greened city—the new Jerusalem. Ultimately, this is what we’re praying for when we ask God to, Bring in your kingdom. In the meantime, because we pray these words, we are called to live in their light. That can mean doing things like planting gardens. Cleaning up litter. Wiping away each others’ tears, even as we cry together. Bringing healing to sick and wounded bodies. We are totally only limited by our imaginations! The point is, we bring heaven’s touch to this earth, this life, right here and now. That’s our work as disciples. That’s our work as the church. That’s God’s kingdom, working.
June 22, 2016 by jmar198013
There’s a feedback loop between fellowship and generosity. That’s how the Jesus model of generosity works. And that’s what Paul hoped the Judean Poor Relief Fund would accomplish: bonding the Jewish and Gentile churches together as a family. A big, diverse, messy, rich, robust family that shows the world how generous God is.
When we follow the Jesus model of generosity—the self-giving way, the way of sharing-as-fellowship—it changes us. It transforms our hearts, our worldview, our values. We discover that our most valuable treasures are found in each other. And, like the man said: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
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June 17, 2016 by jmar198013
To say that the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is good news because it means that there is a new creation. And this new creation is possible because the fallen creation died with Christ; and when he rose, he brought a new creation with him. And in this new creation, everyone and everything is reconciled to God. This is a very big, very good gospel.
I want to celebrate this very big, very good news. I want us to celebrate the gospel—this gospel—together. But I suspect that some of you might be sniffing around this very good gospel for horse manure. And that’s okay. Some days, I do, too. So if any of you are thinking, “Preacher, either Paul was full of it; or you are; or both of you are”; I get it. That’s totally understandable.
When we look around our world, everything doesn’t look reconciled, does it? When we examine our lives, everything doesn’t feel reconciled, does it?
Some preachers will just tell you not to trust what your eyes can plainly see; what you have learned from experience; or what your heart already knows. But there is a very real tension between what Paul has told us, and what we see and feel and experience every day. It would be dishonest of me; or of you; or anyone, to deny that this tension exists.
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June 3, 2016 by jmar198013
The vulnerable places in our lives don’t have to be places of shame or blame or anxiety or endless frustration. They can be the very places where God’s awesome power pours into our lives, and baptizes every bit of us in his transforming grace.
A wise old rabbi named Bob Dylan once said: “Ain’t no use jiving, ain’t no use joking: everything is broken.”
A few years later, another wise old rabbi named Leonard Cohen answered: “There is a crack in everything: that’s how the light gets in!”
According to Paul, that’s how the light gets out, too.
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April 28, 2016 by jmar198013
During John’s telling of the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples many things as he is preparing for his death, and resurrection; and finally, to return to his Father, God. One assurance he gives them during all the turbulence and upheaval that will follow his departure is: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.”
How does the world give? The world does not give peace. The world gives us fear so we will buy their versions of peace: military, personal, financial, or material security. But Jesus gives his peace. A peace that comes from knowing that we are perfectly loved by the Father; and “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4.18).