Scripture: Matthew 5:13-20
Different things we do and say, mannerisms, phrases, give away where we grew up or where our families are from.
Whether you call the things that go on your feet tennis shoes or sneakers.
Whether you say something is catty corner or kitty corner.
Whether you call it a shopping cart, grocery cart, or a buggy.
Whether it is a frontage road or an access road.
Whether it is pop, soda, soda water, or coke.
Whether you know what Runza, Whataburger, Wa-Wa, or Maid Rite are.
There are three things I now do or say that help me feel more like a midwesterner. Much to the sadness of my southern heart, I now call Coke pop. One of my go-to phrases is now, ooftah. And, I’ve seen this more in rural parts of the state, it feels good to do this two fingered wave thing while driving.
Consciously or unconsciously, how we say things and what words we use, can give away something about ourselves, where we are from or where our families may have been from. But what “gives away” that we are from the Kingdom of Heaven. What gives away not just our physical location and origins, Nebraska, Iowa, Kenya, Texas, the DRC, Florida, but gives away that we are also a part of God’s kingdom on earth? This idea of the Kingdom of Heaven is a significant part of the Sermon on the Mount and today we’re just going to dip our toes in. Today we ask ourselves, how does it show, in our lives, how we act, how/what we say, what in our lives gives away that we are a part of God’s Kingdom? Spoiler alert, Christ tells us and he starts out very simply and broadly.
You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world, so let your light shine.
Beautiful, descriptive, aspirational, and motivational statements. Salty and shiny is what we can and should be. But, that is not very specific. So Jesus continues.
He first emphasizes that he is not erasing or abolishing what we call the Old Testament. Back then it was just scripture, the New Testament didn’t exist yet, and there was an accusation going around that Jesus was replacing or overriding Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and all the prophets. So he takes a moment and says no, I am not erasing anything. In fact, I am bringing scripture to its fullness. I, with my life and teachings, am bringing all the commandments to their fullest intent, to their fullest manifestation of God’s love, grace, and care. And guess what, that is what you’re called to do too. “I say to you that unless your righteousness is greater than the righteousness of the legal experts and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Being a part of the Kingdom of Heaven is not about following the letter of the law. The letter of the law is not bad but just as Christ brought scripture to its fulfillment we are called to live scripture to the fullest.
Think about it like this. In my younger days I was that student who turned things in on time. And I mean, on time. If a professor said, this paper is due at 11:59pm, the time stamp on my email may have once or twice indicated 11:59 and 59 seconds. And, if that paper was only three pages or less, I sometimes may have started it at 5, 6, 7, or 8pm that evening. Now, did the professor’s rules leave room for me to do that? Sure. I wasn’t breaking any rules. Was that the professor’s intent that I do that? Probably not.
What gives away that we are a part of the Kingdom of Heaven? When we are the salt of the earth, when we are the light of the world, when we shine, when we live scripture to its fullest. And the rest of chapter five is a series of concrete examples of what that looks like. These examples all start with similar statements and are designed to illustrate what the people had been taught and how to live that teaching to the fullest.
Verse 21, “you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘you shall not murder’; and ‘whosoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment.” I’d say for most of us, thou shalt not kill, is an easy checkmark each day. Done, scripture followed. But Christ says eh, that’s all well and good, but maybe we can be more aware of our emotional and mental state. Maybe, we should recognize when feelings that can lead to violence pop up, feelings like anger, rage, and frustration. Let’s hold ourselves accountable to not murdering and also hold ourselves accountable for recognizing and dealing with thoughts and feelings that can lead down unhealthy paths. Jesus does not erase or abolish the law, he extends it, he interprets scripture to help us live not just the letter of the law but the intent and the heart of the law as well. He interprets scripture to help us live scripture to the fullest.
Verse 27, “you have heard that it was said, ‘you shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Ooftah. Again, Jesus extends the commandment. Jesus calls us not only to not commit adultery but also to stay aware of and deal with thoughts and feelings that could lead us down unhealthy paths.
His final example is this, verse 43, “You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…for if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
To love all people as fully as God does, to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, means loving not just our friends and neighbors but our enemies. Christ extends the law of love to include avoiding things that lead away from love. Bitterness, violence, anger, vengeance, are all things we might feel towards an enemy so Christ says, be proactive, head those thoughts off by praying for those who persecute you and turning the other cheek. Jesus calls us not only to love but also to do things that help keep us on the path of love.
Jesus does not erase or abolish the law, he extends it, he fills it with fullness. 2000 years ago, Jesus interpreted scripture to help people of any time live not just the letter of the law but the intent and the heart of the law as well. He interprets scripture to help us live life to the fullest, to be salt and light, to live as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, what does that look like for you?
Our mannerisms and how we say things or what we call things unconsciously gives away where we are from or where are families are from.
The t-shirts and colors we wear may intentionally show what sports team we cheer for.
What gives away that you are a part of the Kingdom of Heaven?
God asks different things of us through out scripture and each one is an opportunity. Love God, seek justice, love mercy, steward creation, care for the stranger, love your neighbor, welcome the migrant and refugee. How can you let your light shine as a member of the Kingdom of Heaven and live out the fullness of God’s love?