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The Sermon on the Mount

May 25, 2010

In my church community we are beginning a Sunday morning teaching series on Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” I have been preparing for this study for about 6 months, and it’s been a very insightful exercise to look more in-depth at the SOTM. I am also indebted to some friends on the journey who sent me study materials or made recommendations for good background sources (in addition to the Matthew text)-you have helped to shape and form me in this preparation time, and your help has been much appreciated!

The SOTM is of particular interest to me and my faith community due to the influence the Sermon had on the early Anabaptists. The Anabaptists definitely seemed to be informed by themes within Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, like ministry at the margins, suffering/persecution, oaths, and enemy love/nonresistance. I believe this series will be an opportunity for us to get acquainted or reacquainted with some of this tradition that our community is rooted in. It could also (hopefully!) lead to some good conversations: in our community some folks grew up Mennonite, some have little religious background, and others came to us from Christian traditions that may have interpreted the SOTM in a different manner. We pray that the Spirit will be igniting our imaginations for what the SOTM, embodied in the Perkiomen Valley, could look like.

The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online highlights an interesting point about the interpretation of the SOTM within the North American Mennonite community (and I believe this element still could be true in my regional context). In the “Sermon on the Mount” entry, Abe Dueck mentions the influence of dispensationalism on the interpretation of the SOTM:

One of the most significant threats to the central role of the Sermon on the Mount in Mennonite thought and practice has been the influence of dispensational theology, especially in North America … Dispensational theology created a method of biblical interpretation (hermeneutic) which seriously undermined the central role of the Sermon on the Mount. In this view history was divided into a series of seven ages or dispensations. God was seen as working in different ways in each dispensation. The age of the law preceded the age of grace, which was the age of the New Testament church. Characteristically the dividing point between the two ages was seen as coming with the crucifixion. Christ, at the beginning of his ministry, offered the kingdom of God to the Jews until they rejected it, and Matthew 11 was often viewed as marking the point of rejection. Christ’s earlier ministry, including the Sermon on the Mount, was therefore still kingdom preaching with an emphasis on the law rather than on gospel …

This point about dispensationalism is, of course, not relevant to the first-century context of Matthew’s words (which we will consider in our study), but it is part of the context of how some of us may hear these words today.

Looking forward to letting the SOTM mess with us for a few months. If you or your church community has spent some time dwelling in this text, I’d love to hear: how you did it/what questions emerged/how did God inspire your community?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2010 2:25 am

    My husband just recently did a paper on the SOTM. He is going to Theological school. He has learned so much about the bible. His brother is also our Pastor.

  2. godsloveandlaw permalink
    May 25, 2010 4:09 am

    One of the greatest points and warnings given by our Lord was (Matt 5:19) “Therefore, whoever BREAKS the least of the Commandments, and TEACHES others to do so, shall be callede LEAST in heaven, but, whoever DOES tehm and TEACHES other to do so, shall be called GREAT in heaven”

    In this one statement Jesus profoundly guides us in His ways! Obey and teach and be called great, disobey and teach falsely and be called least. Let us NEVER ignore or fail to understand His simple and direct words to live by!

  3. May 25, 2010 2:37 pm

    jacksonmom, thank you for your comment and for reading the post. Blessings to your husband in his theological education-that’s exciting!

  4. May 25, 2010 2:43 pm

    godsloveandlaw, thanks for your comment. You point out one of those difficult teachings found in the SOTM, yet it is one that leads to transformation when we obey Jesus with our lives. I’m reminded that living these teachings out is possible only with the help of God’s Spirit. Praying for God to guide us as we desire to embody these teachings of Jesus.

  5. godsloveandlaw permalink
    May 25, 2010 3:34 pm

    Actually it not difficult, if we take it for what Jesus “simply”said. Keep ALL the commandments and teach them and you’ll be called great. The problem with So many Christians I find today is that those words spoken by our Lord, don’t matter! They think the Lord said “Keep 9 of the 10”. leaving out ofcourse the 4th(?). The Devil and his workers have done a tremedous job hoodwinking the masses into thinking God’s holy day was changed! But as we know this is all so plainly predicted in bible prophecy for the last days.

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