Although it’s quite possible that no one noticed, I haven’t posted on Theological Thursday for the last two weeks. Our Internet was out two weeks ago, I was speaking at chapel that morning, and just didn’t have time to go to Starbucks or anywhere else with Wi-Fi. And then last week was Thanksgiving and that day was all about family, of course. So I am excited to be diving back into the the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve been trying to read it everyday for the last few weeks, and have honestly failed quite miserably. I’ve missed quite a few days and have just found it difficult to process when I have read it — it feels almost like too big of a bite. This leaves me feeling rather sad and inadequate, because I believe Jesus gave this message in its entirety for a reason. It is not merely a collection of sayings, and yet I am having a hard time getting the big picture of the Sermon.
I’m not giving up, but I am going to change methodology. I’m going to try to read it in smaller chunks each day, meditating on and contemplating five or six verses at a time, and then read all three chapters from Matthew once a week. So I anticipate blogging on this foundational sermon for quite a few weeks, maybe months because it is quite convicting that I have so little insight about this passage. Some theologians believe the beatitudes don’t apply to our lives in a prescriptive way at all, but merely demonstrate how ridiculously short we fall of God’s standards, and further that the blessings described are not for today but are only descriptive of Heaven itself. (See Scofield Study Bible). But I think this view oversimplifies the message that Jesus intended. If there is one overarching theme of the Sermon on the Mount it is that the Kingdom is now! Not the kingdom in its fullness that is promised in Heaven, but snippets of the kingdom, hints of the beauty that God has in store for us. And it is my belief that the beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon describe “the present availability of the kingdom through personal relationship to Jesus.” The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (New York: Harper One, 1997) p.106.
One manifestation of this kingdom NOW-ness is that we as believers are the light of the world. What a privilege, yet what a responsibility! Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 14-16 ESV)
This Christmas may all the beautiful lights remind us of two important truths: (1) first of all, we need to recognize and be cognizant that God is light (1 John 1:7); and (2) as believers, we are to let our light shine before others, giving a hint and a fragrance of the kingdom. Just a few weeks ago, Holly Leachman (my much beloved Bible study leader) spoke about of this issue. She pointed out that “when you are resisting God on any level, darkness will come.” May that not be true for us. Instead, may we submit ourselves fully to God, acknowledging Him as the source of all light, and reflect Him unmistakably — like a city on a hill — throughout this beautiful season!