You Have Heard It Said…Matthew 5:21-37

These days I find myself stunned by the things that are said.  I am not thinking about cursing, the four letter word kind.  I am thinking about the disinformation, lying, deception, spin and so on that are being used to justify what is wrong…make corrupt appear honest…take the things we were taught to be a sin and make them seem noble instead.  Since this is an election year, I will likely be spending much of the coming year stunned by what is said.  As is the case, humanity hasn’t changed from two thousand years ago.  We have simply refined our techniques and with social media become more devious and stunning.

Jesus was still giving the Sermon on the Mount in the reading.  He tackled the prickly topics of murder, adultery, divorce and oath taking.  His listeners would have likely been stunned.  Not because of how he was able to diminish these topics and how he rationalized a way around them, rather how he intensified them and left no room for spin.  We need to remember that Jesus told of the need to be more righteous than the Pharisees and teachers of the law to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  He also said that he came not to abolish the Law and prophets but to fulfill the words spoken through them.  Righteousness was so central to the importance of relationships.

You have heard it said…do not murder.  This seems very straight forward or is it?  Murder can be more than the ceasing of physical life.  Do you know of anyone whose career was ruined by personal attacks or vengeance?  Do you know of a reputation destroyed by disinformation?  Jesus warned that even calling someone “Fool” will make you liable for the fire of hell.  Now we all know people who are difficult to get along with in life.  Yet, Jesus advised that before we come to the alter go first and reconcile with our neighbor.  How we live in our relationships is how we live out our righteousness.

You have heard it said…do not commit adultery.  You have heard it said…anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.  These two are lumped together because they arise from the same problem which is the advantages and power of men over women.  Today misogyny is still alive and prominent.  The ‘Me Too’ movement shows how little things have changed over time.  Jesus warned that it would be better to be physically maimed than to continue in such behavior and be liable to the fire of hell.  How we live in our relationships is how we live out our righteousness.

You have heard it said…do not break your oath.  Who hasn’t known the hurt of broken promises?  Who hasn’t known what it is like to have trust destroyed because a promise was never kept?  Have you ever been swindled?  Have you ever been surprised by a person/business keeping their promise?  Finding integrity can be a challenge these days.  Jesus simply stated that our in relationships with others ‘yes’ should mean ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ should mean ‘no’ because anything else comes from the evil one.  How we live in our relationships is how we live out our righteousness.

These days we might be stunned by how disinformation and spin have become normalized in life.  Yet, Jesus will have none of it.  Righteousness is demanded and it is found in how we live out our relationships.


AHA! Matthew 3:13-17

Every so often we all get those “AHA” moments.  All of a sudden we get it.  What seemed beyond comprehension, we now understand.  What we couldn’t recognize has now become obvious.  These times when the light bulb goes on we call an epiphany.  In the church, this is the season called ‘Epiphany.’  The readings assigned are to help us have one of those “AHA” moments about Jesus.  The reading for this Sunday is the baptism of Jesus.

The first couple chapters of Matthew have given us some background with a genealogy, Joseph’s struggling with the news of Mary’s pregnancy, the Magi, Herod’s desire to kill the baby Jesus and the family fleeing to Egypt for refuge.  Now with the adult Jesus being baptized by John at the Jordan river we read Jesus’ first words, “…it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”

Righteousness is a relationship word. The word carries with it the understanding of fidelity and promise keeping.  If we call a relationship “right”, it is because falsehood has not found a place.  So when Jesus was baptized by John (a baptism in preparation for welcoming the coming of God’s reign), righteousness was being fulfilled.  God was keeping the promise of establishing his reign over a rebellious world.  God was bringing salvation from darkness.  As Jesus came out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove with a heavenly voice saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  These words were for the bystanders and for us to have that “AHA” moment.

The search continues to find the savior bringing us salvation.  We look to business leaders, celebrities and politics but they don’t bring God’s righteousness.  So often we are left with those serving only their own interests or who leave us in the darkness of our greed, animosity, division and struggle for power.  This is not salvation.  Righteousness is not experienced.

The companion verses from Isaiah 42:1-9 has God declaring his servant…in whom God delights…on whom the Spirit will rest.  This chosen servant of God will not be a braggart or crush the life of someone barely holding on to life.  He will bring justice (another relationship word).  He will be a light: for the nations to recognize the darkness…for us in our blindness…to bring freedom to those in the prison of darkness.  Upon this one alone will God’s glory reside.  Upon this chosen one, God’s righteousness toward us is fulfilled.

Jesus was baptized by John and as he came out of the water the Holy Spirit like a dove descended on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”