This year as my church families have been looking forward to Lent and Easter we've been studying together, through Scripture and sermon, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount as given to us in Matthew 5.
I have found the Sermon an interesting progression from general to specific on what it is like to live in God's World on earth, while preparing for God's World in heaven. Other years I've studied a single part of the Sermon and usually seen it in general, broad terms. This year, by going on through the material week after week I've noticed some very specific, practical applications for every-day life.
For instance, "blessed are the peacemakers" can be seen to relate to world peace. However, I doubt that Jesus had that in mind. More likely he was thinking of situations close to home, such as turning the other cheek, controlling our anger, and not taking revenge. All are part of getting along with our neighbors, and family, too, for that matter.
Or, do not commit adultery. Jesus was pretty specific about this-it isn't just doingthe act, he said, it's about even wishing. It's a heart thing. That's a hard message for us, probably always has been. We humans like to think that if we only wish, don't do, no one is hurt. Yet, Jesus said one is as bad as the other. Even if we don't actually hurt someone else, this behavior is hurting ourselves, since it is symptomatic of how we think of others, of what is in our heart.
So now we are in Lent, a time for introspection and study. We go toward the remembrance of what happened to Jesus as he lived out the ultimate consequences of being a man of his word. What he talked about in the Sermon, he found himself following in the extreme as he stood before Pilot, and later on at the cross as he asked God to forgive his enemies.
The good news is that in the end Jesus arose and lives with God and with us.
He started out the Sermon by saying, "God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them." (New Living Translation) In Lent, we prepare ourselves to realize how much we need God and to seek the Kingdom of Heaven for ourselves and others, both in the here and now and, ultimately, with God for eternity.
The Rev. Nancy Pullen is the pastor of the Fonda-Fultonville UMC and Salem UMC.