Skip to main content

Jesus Raises the Bar Impossibly High

The Gospel appointed for this Sunday is a continuation of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” as found in Matthew.

The section of the Sermon on the Mount that we’ll hear Sunday begins with a series of six statements from Jesus that contain what scholars call “antitheses,” “oppositions,” or “contrasts.”

Each of the teachings follows the same basic pattern:

“You have heard that it was said… But I say to you…”

In these contrasts, Jesus takes on some of the most controversial -- and relevant to everyday life -- issues of his day:

Murder and anger.

Adultery and lust.

Divorce.

Oaths and public integrity.

What to make of our revenge in responding to evil doers.

Who to love, and how to treat one’s enemies.

These issues, of course, still are controversial and relevant in and of themselves. But what makes them even more controversial and relevant to our everyday lives is what Jesus does with them.

In each case, he states what the Law -- biblical teaching, or religion -- requires. He then raises the bar in one of two ways.

In some cases (murder/anger, adultery/lust, revenge/responding to evildoers), he agrees with the teaching but says for his followers, following the rule of the law is not good enough; they (we) must follow the spirit of the law.

In other cases (divorce, oath-taking public integrity, who to love) he raises the bar for his followers so high that the biblical commandment seems almost seems irrelevant… trumped by an even higher goal.

But in each case, Jesus wants to make it very clear that he has not come to abolish biblical teaching, but to “fulfill” it -- to fill it full, to complete it.

And -- as we hope to show in this and next Sunday’s sermons -- in each case, we are left breathless, staring at a bar set before us that is so high it’s impossible to clear.

At least on our own.

And that very well may be the point that Jesus is trying to make.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Let's Unpack One Trump Tweet on Refugees

No one can  -- and I certainly don't want to try -- to unpack every tweet the person currently holding the office of President of the United States sends out.

No one has the time to respond to every one of his tweets on just one issue. Although I wish I had the time on the issue of the Executive Orders recently issued in regard to refugees.

But every so often I feel I MUST respond to at least SOME of those tweets, lest I grow accustomed to them as normal. And I refuse to normalize the abnormal. 

Take one of Saturday's tweets, for example: in response to Judge Robart's temporarily stopping an Executive Orders, there was this: 



“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?” 

Let's unpack: 

"What is our country coming to..." 
Does that lament sound familiar? Ask yourself: who often says it, where do you hear it from the most? Is it a positive, hopeful line of thinking? I wil…

The Beatitudes, Lady Liberty, and Refugees

A sermon preached January 29, 2017
The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector
The Falls Church Episcopal

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the p…

Irresponsible to be Silent

A sermon preached June 19, 2016 The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal, Falls Church, Virginia
(“Dear Lord: Carry your word into the most protected parts of our hearts.”)
Today I don’t have a traditional sermon. I certainly don’t have a sermon about Father’s Day, but now that I’ve mentioned it, happy Father’s Day. Today, instead of a traditional sermon, I feel led to share some things that have been on my heart this past week.
I’ve been your Rector here since August of 2012. Those of you who have been here a long time know that my preaching style is almost always “expository,” a fancy word that simply means you take a passage of scripture, and having studied it during the week, you show – or expose – its meaning and relevance as best you can, and then you sit down, trusting Holy Spirit will be hard at work simultaneously translating for each of you what you need to hear on any given Sunday.
One of the implications of this style of preaching is I tend not to preach “to…