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SOTM 4: Warning Indicators

June 21, 2010

Sunday we continued our study of Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount, looking at the text of Matthew 5:21-32. Many English Bibles subtitle these sections of the SOTM with words like “Murder”, “Adultery”, and “Divorce”-which is accurate as Jesus names these issues to his audience. Yet as Jesus was so often doing, he pushes further, toward the core issues that lead to those actions. He pushes his hearers toward deeper examination-to what’s on the inside (in our hearts). Underneath murder is anger; underneath adultery is lust. There is a very present and real danger of these elements causing us to break God’s Law, summed up by Jesus as loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:37-40).

Some things that stood out to me while studying this particular part of the SOTM:

  • The strong focus on reconciling relationships (and how these indicators have such powerful tendencies to break relationships).
  • The powerful illustrations Jesus used to make his point, particularly…
  • Leaving one’s gift at the altar until reconciliation happens: How might this illustration inform us as when we think about our practice of Eucharist?
  • The divorce illustration (In addition to teaching about divorce in general, or commenting on current rabbinical debate, perhaps also a thinly veiled shot at Herod Antipas and Herodias?): I hadn’t noticed before how the Herod/Herodias situation could be connected to lust and anger (lust for relationship & perhaps a political power arrangement; anger at John the Baptizer for calling them out).

In our sermon discussion time the following questions emerged as part of our conversation:

  • When we see these indicators (anger; lust) how might we take them seriously and respond to their presence in our lives?
  • What is “righteous anger” and is it different from what Jesus is warning about? Does Matthew 5:6 help to clarify the issue?
  • How might a church community help one another engage these indicators in healthy ways?
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