top of page
  • Writer's pictureBOO

The Sermon on the Mount: An Invitation

Updated: Feb 18



The Sermon on the Mount went straight to my heart. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

I am inviting you to join me and my friends in walking through the Sermon on the Mount over the next few months together. I believe that, whether or not you are a Christian, tracking with this series will be time well spent.


At the very least, these three chapters of the Bible (Matthew 5-7) are like a palate cleanser for our souls, beneficial for us to come back to between reading other books and even other parts of the Bible. For those of us who love Jesus, reading, discussing, meditating on, and living out the Sermon on the Mount helps us stay rooted and grounded in Jesus’ most central message: the good news of the kingdom of heaven on earth.


The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples - students, apprentices, practitioners - of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence. ~ Dallas Willard (The Great Omission)

If you want to join us, this post offers three interrelated suggestions:



1. GO SLOW. Every word has meaning, so let’s take our time.


The Sermon on the Mount is likely Matthew’s condensed compilation of the key elements of Jesus’ teaching: his “Greatest Hits.” Through this one sermon we encounter Jesus gems like the Beatitudes, the inspiration for “this little light of mine,” an extended discourse on how to read and apply Scripture, unprecedented teaching on enemy love, going the second mile, turning the other cheek, the way of peace, the Lord’s Prayer, seeking first the kingdom, the way of simplicity, avoiding worry, not judging, asking-seeking-knocking, the straight and narrow, the importance of fruit inspection, what it means to build one’s life on the rock instead of sand, and more. We have so much to look forward to in this one “best of” compilation.


Matthew the writer intends for us to read the lines, then read between the lines, before and after the lines, and behind the lines. This is discipleship.


From ancient Jewish, pagan, and Christian sources, we know that disciples of a teacher were meant to be active learners, not just passive recipients of knowledge. They were meant to engage, to question, to debate, to kick the ball around conversationally all as part of wrapping their heads and hearts around a teaching.


Matthew’s extreme distillation process – taking what was likely hours or days of conversational, interactive, dialogical teaching and boiling it down to something that can be read start to finish in a few minutes – means every sentence is packed with a universe of meaning.


We will benefit from walking slowly, observing keenly, and inhaling deeply.



2. FORM A CIRCLE. Before diving into the next post, invite one or two (or more) people to join you on this journey.


This teaching of Jesus was given to a community and preserved by a community for application within a community.


Our family used to get frozen orange juice concentrate. The cylindrical containers were kept in the freezer until mixed with three parts water to make orange juice. I think the Sermon on the Mount is like that concentrate. Or maybe the analogy of freeze-dried food works better for you. The Sermon on the Mount as it sits in Matthew’s Gospel is shrunk down, freeze-dried spiritual food. It is nourishing to study it as it is, to learn about the scriptural, historical, and cultural context, to memorize and meditate on the precise words of the text itself. But we are also meant to do more than learn about the text as it is – we are meant to reconstitute the meaning of the message into our lives.


With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are meant to add the water and expand and apply this teaching for our sustenance.


Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. ~ JESUS (John 7:37-38)

The next verse explains that Jesus was referring to the Spirit (also see Ezekiel 36:25-27; John 4:14; Revelation 21:6).


Matthew gives the Church Jesus concentrate. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we are meant to reconstitute it into Jesus juice. (So cheesy, I know, but the analogy works for me and this is my blog.) And, how important it is that we reconstitute Jesus' teaching using the living water of the Spirit and not the competing and convenient coolaid of current cultural trends. As disciples, we have a different kingdom culture, shaped by the values reflected in places like the Beatitudes, the fruit of the Spirit, and the qualities of love in 1 Corinthians 13.


So how are disciples meant to reconstitute this Gospel concentrate? One word: together.


Discipleship includes a combination of private study, meditation, and prayer partnered with a robust engagement with other disciples within committed community. We are meant to discuss and discern together, then workshop our best understandings by applying them to, expressing them in, and manifesting them through our lives together.


The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount was originally given within the context of a small community of followers that embodied the message together. Then the teaching was condensed into Gospel concentrate and written down so it could be preserved and passed on. Now our job at the receiving end of this process is, with gratitude, to reconstitute the teaching into a small community that embodies the message once again.


One more time for added clarity and conviction: The sermon on the Mount began as a lived-out relational message of life-altering principles, then was condensed into privately written and read precepts for the purpose of preservation, and now it is meant to once again become a lived-out relational experience.


Next, this third thought is really just an expansion of what we are already talking about...



3. LIVE TOGETHER WHAT WE LEARN TOGETHER. Apply as we go. Make our goal transformation not just information.


This is hard and I need help. I'm so used to studying Jesus I can grow comfortable knowing about Jesus rather than really knowing him, communing with him, and walking with him. I fail when I allow being a fan of Jesus to replace being a friend of Jesus. Thankfully, Jesus is patient, forgiving, and helping me by his Spirit through his people.


In Matthew 13:52, Jesus says that “every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” Scholars see this image as Jesus encouraging his disciples to learn basic Bible information and interpretation (the “old” treasures), but then to also be open to how the Spirit is always leading the Church into fresh understandings and applications for new times and contexts (the “new” treasures).


The Sermon on the Mount was always meant to be lived, not just studied. We should always be asking and answering the “so what” question for our own lives and circumstances.


As small intimate and interactive circle churches of a few believers together, we become living laboratories, experimental communities, embodying our best interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount in our relationships. And as we express our understanding together, we also observe and assess. We pay attention to the fruit we bear together, which can help us adjust our interpretations and applications as we go. Hint: If our engagement with and understanding of Scripture doesn’t produce more faith, hope, and love we’re doing it wrong. (See the post entitled “Coal Fire Fellowship” for more on what the Bible says about this.)


We are always working together to understand the text, then apply our understanding, and then to assess the fruit of our application which should send us back to reassessing our understanding of the text.

  1. INTERPRET Scripture together.

  2. EXPRESS our interpretation together.

  3. ASSESS the fruit of our expression together.

Then we RETURN to step one and reinterpret, reapply, reassess, repeat. This is the loop of learning, the pedagogical process, the hermeneutical cycle that Jesus intends for his disciples.

This process points to something more than "having a Bible study". It describes a committed community experimenting with ways to live out the truths we discover in the Bible. There is a significant difference.


Now, this is a blog – words on an electronic page – so its specialty is limited to that first step: interpreting together. At the same time, my thoughts here have been and continue to be developed within an experience of interactive and mutually submitted community over time and your engagement and feedback also contributes to this process for all of us going forward. Then it’s up to me and you to express and assess within our own relational circles. (My family and I are blessed more than words can tell by this kind of community and we wish the same for you.)


So if you intend to keep reading these posts, let some friends know, invite them to join you on this learning journey, and dive into the next post together.


And in the meantime, here is a quote from Stanley Hauerwas, an Anabaptist scholar, to whet our appetites:


When he called his society together Jesus gave its members a new way of life to live. He gave them a new way to deal with offenders - by forgiving them. He gave them a new way to deal with violence - by suffering. He gave them a new way to deal with money - by sharing it. He gave them a new way to deal with problems of leadership - by drawing upon the gift of every member, even the most humble. He gave them a new way to deal with a corrupt society - by building a new order, not smashing the old. He gave them a new pattern of relationship between man and women, between parent and child, between master and slave, in which was made concrete a radical new vision of what it means to be a human person. ~ Stanley Hauerwas (Matthew)




Recent Posts

See All

6 comentários


Thank You

Curtir

I was given your blog link today and I just can’t put my phone down. Absolute food for the starving soul. I’m looking forward to journeying with you

Curtir

Danny Deakin
Danny Deakin
30 de jan. de 2023

I love this. I’m excited to follow along on this journey with my little group! Thanks, Boo for allowing us to tag along on this adventure!

Curtir

My heart is singing, I am looking forward to this journey, thank you for the invite!😍

Curtir

Thank you for the invitation, Boo! I am anticipating the journey!

Curtir
bottom of page