Fourth in a Series of Seven Sermons
Series Theme – “Cornerstone”
Text – Matthew 5:38-48
Dear Christian Friends,
Yahoo! (Mountain Dew!) This past Friday, I was leading a service at the Janesville Nursing Home, there were about 20 folks in attendance, and the first song we sang was “Oh for a 1000 Tongues to Sing.” As nursing home singing goes, we were doing pretty well, and as we sang the last words of the last verse, a sweet little lady I had never seen before shouted out “Yahoo!” To which I responded, of course, Mountain Dew!
I was reminded of that commercial when I looked at the front cover of the bulletin today. It pictures a person a couple feet off the ground rejoicing and being glad. In this sermon series, “Cornerstone”, we are rejoicing and being glad that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our lives, that lives centered on His grace are like homes built on the rock, and that as often as the rains come down and floodwaters start rising and the winds keep blowing, these homes stand strong and solid.
Three weeks ago, we traveled through the beatitudes as a catalogue of God’s promises. Two weeks ago, Pastor Muther introduced the next section of the Sermon on the Mount and focused on Jesus’ thesis statement, “Whoever does the least of these commandments (and all the others), and teaches them, will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Last week, Jesus laid out for us the standards of the kingdom of heaven. We heard Jesus pleading with his people to take a different path than all others, to quote Pastor Muther, to take a path that “seeks to do what others need – not what they want, not what you want them to want, and not what you think they deserve….
At first glance, today’s tex
t seems to be focusing on what we should or should not be doing. Jesus seems to be lecturing His followers on not retaliating when folks do us wrong, on turning the other cheek and going the extra mile, on loving not just the folks we enjoy spending time with but also the folks that rub us the wrong way. A second glance at this text as a portion of the entire Sermon on the Mount helps us to remember that this sermon is first of all a description of Jesus Christ, and secondly of His followers. With that in mind, our theme for the fourth in a series of seven sermons is “It’s All About Jesus.” Two parts to our sermon today, 1)It’s all about what Jesus has done for us and on our behalf in the past, and 2) it’s all about what Jesus is doing in us and for us and through us on behalf of others in the present.
Part I - It’s about what Jesus (has done). Every day, no matter what is going on in our lives, we have good reason to kick up our heels and say how blessed we are. The good reason is that Jesus Christ has already done for us all that He was supposed to do, He has avoided on our behalf all the evil He was supposed to avoid, and He has suffered in our place every bit of pain and sorrow we should have suffered. His obedience to His Father’s will was both passive, and it was active.
(Passive obedience) By refusing to retaliate, He gave us an (example to follow). The writer to the Hebrews says that although He was a son, Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered. And that being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. When it was time for Jesus to suffer under Pontius Pilate and be crucified until he was dead and buried, that’s exactly what happened. Jesus could have resisted every nasty attack on his body, but He didn’t. He could have returned insult for insult, but He didn’t. He didn’t just give the shirt off his back, He gave up His back. He didn’t just go the first mile for us, He went the final mile. He didn’t just give to those who were begging for His help, He gave everything he had for every last sinner in every one of the generations.
Instead of taking matters into His own hands, He left them in His Father’s hand. Instead of calling on a legion of angels to get revenge on his enemies, He asked His Father to forgive them, for they didn’t know what they were doing. Instead of living by the law of the jungle, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, He lived by the prayer he taught us to pray, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” By not retaliating, by not seeking revenge, by not using his divine powers and knowledge to defend himself, he gave us an example to follow.
(Active obedience) By going to the cross, He engaged (the devil head on). If you happened to be on Facebook in recent weeks and months, you know that there are two kinds of folks when it comes to political conversations. There are those who engage in the battle and those who want nothing to do with it. There are those who love to discuss and debate, even argue about Donald Trump’s latest tweet or executive order and there are those who just want to plug their ears and make it all go away.
The decision to engage or not to engage in the give and take of politics, seems to be neither here nor there. Neither decision seems right or wrong to me, just a matter of personal preference.
But when Jesus invites us to follow Him, He takes the option of non engagement off the table. If you’re going to follow me, Jesus warns, get ready to deny yourselves and take up your crosses not just once in a while, but every day. Go ahead and rest in the fact that your Savior has already run the perfect race, rest in the fact that He has already fought the perfect fight, rest in the fact that Jesus Christ has already paid your entire debt, He has already washed away every one of your sins, He has already won the victory, but do not rest as if the work of the Holy Spirit is done. Do not rest as if there is nothing left for the Church to do. Do not rest as if your race here on earth has been completed.
Lesson #1 today was that following Jesus is all about what He has already done for us and on our behalf in the past. Lesson #2 is that It’s about what Jesus (is doing). This very day, faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. This very day, the Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life and is proceeding from the Father and the son. This very day, Jesus will be out and about in this world, working through the circumstances of life to get people’s attention. This very week, people outside the church will watching those of us on the inside to see if we are practicing the love we keep on preaching. They will either be attracted or repelled by our collective witness, but it’s hard to imagine that our witness could be neutral.
Two truths we want to learn today about what Jesus can do for us and in us and through us as we spend our days refusing to retaliate, and as we pick up our own crosses and engage the enemy forces. First of all we know that the mission of the Church will be moving forward As often as the Spirit works inside of us a desire for (reconciliation). In our text for today, we have four examples of what this desire for reconciliation might look like…..1) turning the other cheek instead of slapping back, 2)giving your coat as well as the shirt off your back instead of taking them to court, 3)walking the second mile instead of only the required first mile, 4)giving to beggars choosing to beg and borrowers wanting to borrow.
In the days of Jesus, if you wanted to insult somebody, especially if you were right handed, as a majority of people are, you would take your right hand and back hand that person’s right cheek. Human nature tells us that if a neighbor insults us, we should insult him right back in order to teach him a lesson. Jesus teaches us to not give way to anger as a way of de-escalating the conflict.
In the days of Jesus, if your neighbor owed you money, you could take him to court and legally take the shirt off his back. Human nature tells us in that situation to stand up for ourselves and make sure people know we can’t be pushed around. Jesus teaches us to go ahead and let him have the shirt and your outer garment as well as a way of helping people to know we are marching to a different drummer than everyone else.
In the day of Jesus, postal carriers were authorized by the government to requisition animals and even people to travel with them for a Roman mile. Human nature tells us to be bitter and to resist such an inconvenience, but Jesus is teaching us to go ahead and be cheerful in going above and beyond for the purpose of engaging folks in Gospel conversations.
Our final truth this morning is to note that the mission of the church will be moving forward As often as His Spirit moves us to practice a (reckless generosity). Regular generosity is when we throw a benefit for the nice woman and kids down the road whose husband died after a long and expensive bout with cancer. Reckless generosity is when we throw a benefit for the family who has fallen on hard times mainly due to drunkenness and bad behavior. Regular generosity is when we forgive folks who are apologizing for hurting us, reckless generosity is when we forgive folks who continue to hurt us and seem not at all bothered by it. Regular generosity is when we let the church borrow our snow blowers and lawn mowers, reckless generosity is when we lend it to the neighbor whose dog and children are constantly annoying us. Regular generosity is when we half of our 50 t shirts to the local thrift store, reckless generosity is when we invite a homeless couple to live in our house until they can get back on their feet. Regular generosity is when we imitate Jesus by listening carefully to the stories of broken hearted folks, reckless generosity is when we engage in an ongoing and perhaps expensive way with those broken hearted folks.
No doubt you have heard the saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. As I read up on the origins of that quote, I found a little twist on that saying that helps us to think about what it means to follow Jesus Christ in a path of non resistance and non retaliation. Imitation is the sincerest form of (worship).
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town where less and less interested in insisting on their own rights and more and more focused on doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with their God. Less and less do they yearn for more instructions on how to live and more and more they want to hear Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and coming back again. Less and less do they focus on building bigger and better, more and more they make sure their home has a firm foundation and a solid cornerstone. Less and less do their goals center on the easy and comfortable life, more and more they want to be part of the mission of the Church moving forward. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther