Saturday, February 11, 2017

Gospel text for Sunday 12 February 2017

Matthew 5:21-37        Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, `You shall not murder'; and `whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, `You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
"You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

"It was also said, `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. "Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, `You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.' But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be `Yes, Yes' or `No, No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

You have heard that it is said, “Be polite and do not offend others,” but I say, “It is not enough to be politically correct and say, “I pray for the poor, the disenfranchised, the elderly, the disabled, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, I pray for immigrants and refugees, the specially abled and all those experiencing violence and oppression.” We must set down all of the categories and groups that pigeonhole people in pejorative boxes and see the inherent good and godly nature of every single person. Jesus said to the religious leaders, "You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy--full of greed and wickedness!” (Lk 11.39) It is what is inside that matters.
You have heard that it is said,  “Be good citizens,” but I say, “Voting and paying your taxes is not enough. Look beyond your personal obligation and see your obligation to dignify and care for every human being. As members of God’s community we owe our allegiance to God and are intended to care for all of God’s people.” In Jesus’ words, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12.17) Which of course begs the question, “What exactly belongs to God?”  Only everything.
You have heard that it is said, “Take responsibility for yourself,” but I say, “ life is not about asserting your personal rights and gratifying your personal needs. Life is about fostering community in which all people have access to security, safety, esteem and empowerment.” Again, Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Lk 6.31) Take responsibility for humanity.
Yes I have taken liberties with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount,  but here is the thing. It is all too easy for us to bow to prevailing social norms; to be polite, be good citizens and assume responsibility for our personal welfare. In doing these good things it is easy for us to injure, neglect or discriminate against members of our community. By paying inordinate attention to the outside of our cups,  we fail to remember the blessing we are intended to be for others.
This section of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount invites us to look beyond external appearances, to set down categories and groups that divide and denigrate people, and behold the root that lies within each of us. What is the root that lies within us? It is our God given good and godly nature. It is God with us, given that we may be a blessing for all. 

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