On Sunday February 16th our minister Trevor Dixon led worship. We began worship with singing ‘God is love: his the care’ before Trevor led the opening prayers of adoration, confession and thanksgiving. We then sang ‘Forgive our sins’ before I read the Old Testament reading Deuteronomy 30v15-20. I Corinthians 3v1-9 was then read. We then sang, ‘Blest are the pure in heart’ before Trevor read Matthew 5v17-26.
Trevor began his sermon by saying that the world is full of evil, even when things seem to be going well; evil in people, in the ways they treat each other and evil in corporate life. Religion is supposed to show us how we live in this world. Jesus came to show us how to live. Many feel that Jesus’ ways are too idealistic and hard to keep. Jesus had been brought up as a Jew and knew the Old Testament well and the struggle they had to find God’s way forward as seen in Deuteronomy.
Jesus takes Old Testament and modifies it. St Matthew’s gospel was written for Jewish Christians. It showed that Jesus was the new king in the line of King David. Jesus was also seen as a prophet like the prophets of the Old Testament. Jesus was seen as the second Moses, who like Jesus had escaped slaughter as a baby, when his sister put him in the bulrushes. Jesus too having fled as a baby to Egypt returned to teach on the mountain as Moses had done on Mount Sinai.
What was the function of a prophet? Was a prophet someone who foretold the future as if with a crystal ball? No the role of the prophet was to declare God’s will and word in the situation facing them at that time. God’s word had consequences then and in the future. God brought a message of judgment and yet of hope; He was not satisfied with us but he did not give up on us; He shared our pains and hope for something better.
The Sermon on the Mount showed 6 prophetic declarations for God’s people then and now. The first one was that every part of the law must be kept; Jesus came to fulfil the law not to replace it. Jesus kept the essence of the law but relaxed the many Sabbath laws and annulled the laws of ritual purity. The second declaration was that they had to be better than the scribes and the Pharisees; that is Jesus condemned the Pharisee for his self-righteous attitude as opposed to the truly penitent tax collector. We can learn to be single minded in pursuit of Christian living.
Anger was forbidden in the law but Jesus was angry on occasions. Paul too had righteous anger against injustice and abuse. If anyone calls his brother a fool faces hellfire. Fools are seen in Psalm 14v1 as those who say in their heart there is no God. What does Jesus mean when he says likely to go to hell? Who knows? Threats of fear were a secondary motive. Generosity and thanksgiving are more for Christians. If your brother is an enemy how can you say that you have God as a friend. It takes 2 to quarrel and courage to do something to put it right. Jesus warned those who had a quarrel to settle matters quickly or they could be taken to court and end up in prison. Finally Jesus urges them not just to love their neighbours as even the pagans do that but to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.
Is it even possible to fulfil these laws? Will curing the ills of the world be easy? Can evil be beaten so easily? Jesus presents a prophetic challenge which gives us a code of life to follow. The Christian way is hard; we need to be like blotting paper soaking up evil in the world. Jesus’ challenge turned the world against him and he did not fight back. Jesus took evil into himself and died on Calvary. Which is worse; the power of the rules of the Jews or the Roman authorities? Jesus had the victory. Only as we absorb the evil thrown at us, will evil be reduced in the world. The power of forgiving love will remain supreme. How can we forgive; we can only forgive in love in God’s strength. We need to learn to grow and develop in the Christian life. The church is there to build people up, to absorb evil through forgiving love as the gospel is spread. We, as the people of God are called to be and do forgiving love for the world. Show us the way of life we are called to and help us walk in it.
After the sermon we sang, ‘O Jesus Christ, grow thou in me.’ Trevor then led the intercessions before the service was concluded as we sang ‘The Church of Christ, in every age.’ It was a worshipful service.