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Jesus vs Religious Hypocrites

As we'll see again in this Sunday's gospel, if there was one thing that drove Jesus up the wall, it was religious people. Especially religious hypocrites.

And on the other hand, when Jesus encountered moral failures and social rejects, he had nothing but compassionate and forgiving words for them.

Again, I invite you to read, for yourself, any one of the gospels - especially one of the first three so-called "synoptic," or thematically similar gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke -- straight through, in one sitting, and then ask yourself: what image of Jesus emerges from that reading?

Do that - read a gospel straight through - and I'll bet you'll be surprised.

Because the picture of Jesus that emerges from such a reading is not as someone who was primarily a miracle worker or healer. It is not Jesus as primarily a teacher or preacher.

Rather, it is Jesus as someone who was primarily a provocateur: someone who deliberately, repeatedly, provoked the religious-status-quo.

Considered in one reading, the hallmark of the gospels is not (as we suppose from hearing the stories in bits and pieces) primarily about healing-the-sick, feeding-the-crowds, or teaching the disciples. Rather, it is proclaiming "the-Kingdom-of-God-is-at-hand" -- a topsy-turvy, radical re-orienting of the world and the world's priorities.

And the central theme of this "Kingdom-of-God-at-hand" is chesed: merciful loving kindness.

However, throughout history, that merciful-loving-kindness is in competition with the same religious institutions and religious people who are here to practice it. That's one of the saddest ironies, and one of the most hypocritical of all hypocrisies, known to humankind.

But - as I hope to explore further in my sermon this Sunday (August 21st) at The Falls Church Episcopal - it doesn't have to be that way. Not with you. Not with me. Not with us.

We're called to something different.


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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.

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

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