Next Wednesday we will begin Lent as John Riley brings us the Ash Wednesday message on (go figure?) Wednesday, March 6th. I love all of the services of the Lenten Season including the service of repentance on Ash Wednesday. By the way ... repent means to 1) turn around, 2) change directions, and 3) do life differently in areas that need God's work. So I will begin this season with three words ... get over it!
Many of you might be saying, "Pastor ... what do I need to get over?" My answer is found in that wonderful exhortation called The Sermon on the Mount. The Biblical text is found in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 and in Luke 6, 7, 11 and 12 (selected verses). If I had to sum up the Sermon on the mount in 3 words it would be, "Get over it!" So, to answer the question above, what do we need to get over?
There are at least four things we need to get over, expressed in this beautiful sermon preached by Jesus himself. The first is, get over religion. Matthew 5:21 uses a repeated phrase, "you have heard." The phrase is repeated in verses 5:27, 5:31, 5:33, 5:38 and 5:43. The idea of "you have heard" is embedded in the entire sermon. Jesus is saying over and over again, "What you have heard misses the point of God's intent." "Your 'religion' has taught you rules but not the heart of the matter." Adultery, divorce, oaths, revenge, loving, prayer, fasting, treasure and worry are all affairs of the heart. Religion makes laws about these things "but I say [Jesus] get your heart in the right place." If that doesn't happen, rules and religion won't guide you to do life differently. Get over the idea that somehow your religion will keep you from violating the intent of God's calling. Following Jesus is devoting your heart (the authority within yourself) to Him. If we give Jesus the authority we will be able to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength and love other people like we should.
The second thing we must get over is akin to the first. Get over what you have heard. Many of us are devoted to things we have heard ... traditions that we latch onto ... cliche' phrases that hem-in our faith walk ... even what others say about us. The Sermon on the Mount shouts ... "Get over that stuff!" Why are we worried about these things (Matthew 6:25-34)? Why are we caught up in labeling other's intentions and demonizing them? Why do we let tradition or church (Matthew 6:5-13) define your prayer life when Jesus tells us to pray God-focused? Why do we let the world define what is 'treasure (Matthew 6:19-24).' Is "what we have heard" our rule of life, or is Jesus saying "but I say" our guide? These are the questions and challenges of the Sermon on the Mount.
Finally (and this is the hardest) we must get over ourselves! Guess what percent of the time events and meetings at the church are about us? Zero percent! I often pray before meetings for God to guide us in those meetings. I do this because I am reminding myself (and hopefully others) that none of our deliberations are about me or them. This does two things. It makes our work more important, more urgent and more transformational because we operate under God's power, grace and authority. It also makes me focus on servanthood and on others. I wonder if this is why Jesus ends the Sermon on the mount talking about building wisely. When we do daily life ... when we do work in/for the church ... when we meet to proclaim Christ and be God's mission in the world ... when we have the great honor and responsibility to express (in God's context) our faith acting faithfully in a world of confusion ... Jesus says we have a rock to build upon (Matthew 7:24-27). When we build on ourselves, our wits, our fears, our worries about what people think about us, the things we have heard, and OUR definition of religion, our hearts are invested in the things of this world. When we build on what Jesus has said, we are building on the rock of truth, love and grace. We must be all about Jesus. We must get over ourselves.
Do we view Jesus like the crowds who were "amazed, because He taught as one who had authority and not as their teachers of the law (Matthew 7:28-29)?" I hope so! Randy