Monday, April 29, 2013

The Crazy Sermon


House on the rock, island of St Marko
Since I read Francis Chan's book "Crazy Love," (read the post here) obedience has been much on my mind.  In the first chapter he challenges readers to imagine how their lives would be different if they took Jesus's words seriously.  So as I read Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount pummeled me.  All day I've been asking myself to imagine that I wanted to obey Jesus' words.  Not make excuses, not explain away the hard sayings but really genuinely try to obey.  It's not going so well.

Take for example this bald sentence.  "Give to him who asks of you."  What if all day today, what if every day, I gave to the ones who asked. Immediately I want to say, "Yeah but, people are really unreasonable and they ask all kinds of things of me and I've got to protect myself and my time." I want to huff and ask Jesus for an exception or two. 

Or take this really tough one.  "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth."  But what Jesus really means is as long as I am giving a tenth or maybe a fifteenth of my income to the church or some charity or other, I can save the rest in some kind of account and travel the world when I retire.  Right?  Right?? 

I don't think Jesus means that I have to give my daughters all the cookies they want. Nor that my savings account is sinful.  But read in context the words become more not less radical.  Along with "give to him who asks you" and "do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth" are half a dozen other sentences (Matthew 5:38-42 and 6:19-21) that all insist that Jesus intended us to pass up reasonable, convenient and comfortable and just keep going.  

Within the body of the sermon he repeatedly points out some reasonable law.  "You have heard it said, "An eye for and eye, and a tooth for a tooth." That seems fair.  Take no more vengeance than equals the harm you were given. Then he'd lay out a principle that was nearly ludicrous. "But I say to you do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." (Matthew 5:39) Over and over he went beyond the law, which they had not managed to keep, and asked for something that could only be accomplished by the heart-transforming fruit of the Holy Spirit.  There is no way to turn the other cheek except out of a heart of peace, patience, gentleness and love.

Jesus tells his audience that unless they exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees and scribes, the gold standard for what it meant to be a good person in those days, they'll never make it into the kingdom of Heaven.  (Matthew 5:20)  The Pharisees looked around at the secular world and thought themselves righteous, the world looked at the Pharisees and saw the height of law-keeping.  Jesus glanced at them and told the crowds, "You've got to do better than that for sure."  

Today I found these words from the Sermon on the Mount devastating. 

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall.  (Matthew 7:24-27)
 
I have sang the song in VBS, in Sunday School, and in the back of a taxi speeding through the streets of Kuala Lumpur, but I don't know that I ever noticed that the verse says that it's when we hear and obey the words of Christ that we are like the wise man.  I have shrugged off the burden of obedience.  I am a fool.

I'm going back to the Sermon on the Mount.  I'm going to listen to it again with ears to hear.  And this time my Spirit-filled heart is going to stop excusing and explaining and find a way to DO it.  No matter how radical or unreasonable it seems.  I'm going to be a wise woman. Even if the rest of this world thinks I'm crazy.  How about you? 
 Helene 
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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