The Holy Gospel: February 13, 2011 (Year A)

Read:  Matthew 5:21-37

Meditation:  “From Lists to Life”

Today’s lesson comes from the section in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says several times, “You have heard it said….but I say to you….”  Clearly, he is laying down a new standard.  He is establishing himself as a new authority in the lives of his hearers.

Every one of his admonitions moves religion from something that can be put on a list, to something as broad as life itself—from regulations to relationships.  Religion has never done well on paper.  When we can make our lists and check them twice (in our attempt to find out who’s naughty or nice), we immediately limit the practice of our faith to the things on the list—to the things we can think of.

Jesus broadens every behavior into a larger domain.  We kill people with anger, not just weapons.  We commit adultery, not just with our bodies but also with our minds.  We divorce, not merely by filling out paperwork, but through ongoing infidelity.  We demonstrate our integrity, not only when we raise our right hand and make a promise, but by responses as simple as “Yes” and “No.”

Lists create the false impression that if we are doing the “specifics” on them, we are okay.  Jesus says the only way to determine how we are doing is in relation to the totality of life.  Sunday Christianity has never been enough; neither is behavior that only applies under certain circumstances.  Jesus is calling us to throw our lists away, but keep the principles—applying them all the time and everywhere.  Only then can we be said to live as he wants us to live.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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