A series about the Sermon on the mount is about as appealing as a beige minivan. The overplayed themes and parables have shaped our theology and much of our culture so much that we presuppose the punchline before we are able to gain a fresh hearing. I’m endeavoring to change that.
The Sermon on the mount is hailed has the greatest sermon in the history of humanity, but I wonder how many have really heard it? As a wisdom teacher, Jesus lays down a way to live that challenges and inspires both the devout and the skeptic. If truth is delivered too softly or too severely, it loses its transforming power. The three chapters (Matthew 5-7) are like bars on a cell phone that illuminate our proximity to awareness (signal). Accessing the truth beyond everything requires us to do the soul work of finding our true GPS coordinates.
Oliver Wendell Holmes said “One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions“ Narrow minds must widen, and wide minds must narrow when encountering perfect truth. This examination will burst the wineskins (Mark 2:22) of your mind.
The scene is ancient Israel. A thirty year old carpenter from Nazareth has emerged on the scene following the prophetic voice of his cousin John. After baptism and a trial in the desert, Jesus begins a ministry of healing people and reaching them at their greatest point of need. No surprise, everywhere he goes, the crowds follow.
For those marginalized, sick and dying, it was enough that there may be a chance at healing. To the people who lived under the oppression of Rome and Religion, the healings were a potential sign that the prophesy had come true just as the baptizing cousin had been proclaiming. Could this be it? Is God going to end the oppression of His people and liberate the captives? (Isaiah 61:1-4) So they all went; some for healing, others to hear what he might say, others to assess if this man was a threat to institutional power.
Like a campaign speech, the audience is given a chance to ascertain the muster of the speech giver. Is it all hot air and empty promises? Or is this person actually saying something? Given the fact that the lame are walking and the blind are seeing, this mans message has credibility. The skeptic wonders if this is just another voice in long line of panderers to the power that placed them? Could this really be the voice of long awaited change? What can one man do? What can one man say that can begin to unravel and undermine the oppressive, dehumanizing state of hopelessness of our time? Are we too far gone?
These questions remain with us today. We’ve lost all faith in our politicians. Corporations have primarily served themselves, and our religious leaders polarize us with fear and power plays and self promotion. Academics and science has diminished those who acknowledge the esoteric, the metaphysical, or the spiritual. Mystical has become a bad word and Psychology has laid claim as the authority on the human mind. Is there anything left? Is there a power beyond us that is perceivable? If so, does this power care about the plight of human suffering, poverty, and the horror of our ecology? Our world longs for color but too often is given beige.
What can words do for us now? What kind of speech can set our world back on course? Is that just a pipe dream? Shall we just brace for impact and reduce into hedonism? Is it too dangerous or risky to hope again? The Sermon on the Mount is not just an historical speech, it’s a lens that allows us to pick up bright rays of light that remain just beyond our spectrum. Spiritual seeing is the only way to grasp Ultimate Reality which goes beyond the empirical. Spiritual seeing allows us to hook our winch cable to something higher up and further back than the structures in our common line of sight.
I hope you will join me as we take as long as necessary to unpack the most powerful words ever spoken to humanity. Be warned, none of us will pass by unscathed. No mind will return to it’s original dimension. This is not a cabinet refacing here, this is total gut job. Any hope of taking something with you will prevent the job from ever starting. We must lay down our assumptions, turn loose of our frameworks, and relinquish the outcomes in a willingness to go where this takes us.
We must venture toward what we perceive with an inquisitive faith just as the original audience did. This discovery may turn to hope within our hearts and if it does, the end result will not only be a new experience of life, but perhaps the restoration of the world.