Skip to main content

When Jesus' tough sayings don't sound like "good news"


The gospel reading on Sundays always concludes with the reader saying "The Gospel of the Lord" which means "The good news of the Lord." And the congregation always responds "Thanks be to God."  

Well, this Sunday's gospel contains a number of Jesus' "tough sayings," with Jesus zeroing right in on the heart of several matters of human behavior: murder, adultery, divorce, and lying. We'll hear Jesus' teaching that managing to avoid actual physical murder, actual physical adultery, actual literal lying, or managing to divorce for the right legal reasons does not give any of us a leg to stand on. Rather, he sets the bar a lot higher, focusing on the anger, lust, and other intentions we carry with us 24/7.  

In case this image is copyrighted, here's where I found it: http://www.gatheringfaith.com/category/podcast/jesussaidwhat/
When the Gospel sayings are as tough as they are this Sunday ("if you say, 'you fool,' you'll be liable to the hell of fire," and "if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away..." and "anyone who divorces his wife, except on the grounds of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery" just to name three!), it's difficult to know exactly where the "Good News" is and to know any reason we should feel thankful for what we've heard.  

Difficult at first glance, anyway.  

As I'll explore in Sunday'sermon, I believe these sayings can in fact be heard as good news. As liberating news.  

Here are two hints, or previews, of what I want to say on Sunday:

One: As the collect for purity reminds us, one of the things we believe about God is that God is a God unto whom "all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid." There are major implications of that belief, if we only take it to heart on a daily basis.

And two:  As the collect for the day puts it, "in our weakness we can do nothing good without [God, and so we need] the help of God's grace, that in keeping God's commandments we may please God in both will and deed." 

On that point, I'll say again on Sunday: "to the degree we can keep the first commandment, the other nine (three of which are referred to by Jesus in Sunday's Gospel) come easy." And remember, the first commandment does not start out with a prohibition, but with a reminder: that the Lord God is a god of freedom.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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…