Matthew 5 (NRSV)
HERE is a chant of “The Beatitudes” from the Valaam Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior, Kareliya, Russia.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.
I have read that this was the common posture for teaching in that culture. It was customary for the teacher to sit and the hearers to stand.
2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
HERE is a quiet conversation with God around the Beatitudes.
Salt and Light
A key thought in both the pictures of salt and light is distinction. Salt is needed because the world is rotting and decaying and if our Christianity is also rotting and decaying, it won’t be any good. Light is needed because the world is in darkness, and if our Christianity imitates the darkness, we have nothing to show the world. To be effective we must seek and display the Christian distinctive. We can never affect the world for Jesus by becoming like the world. — David Guzik
13“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
from Monday Moments,
by Dr. Mike Halleen:
In ancient times, salt was not a food seasoning but a preservative. Fresh meat and vegetables, in the absence of ice, have a short shelf life. Bacteria need moisture in order to thrive, and salt lowers the amount of water molecules in these foods, keeping them safe to eat for an extended period of time.
The metaphor Jesus used here, therefore, was to not to liken his followers to something that brought zest to the world but something that preserved it. People of faith keep society from falling apart. Through faith the world is held together. Where faith is lacking, life begins to disintegrate. Without commitment to the moral compass that faith provides, the thin veneer of civility that keeps us from chaos is quickly torn away.
The nightly news shows us a stream of people trying to survive through deep distress. A devastating hurricane leaves hundreds of thousands homeless. An outbreak of flu has people walking around in masks, and there are murmurs of pandemic. Worldwide economic recession creates crises for governments, industry and labor, as well as for financial institutions. Stories come to us every day of personal heartbreak, and we wonder how some are able to bear the crushing load, or even survive.
But among the stories also are tales of helpers and heroes – salt. A family from South Dakota travels the U.S. in a van offering counseling to the terminally ill. A minister in Spain works tirelessly to teach a Christian and Muslim community to live together in harmony. A rural Virginia couple donates 40 percent of their modest annual income to those in need. A Texan relocates to Russia to help young people who grew up in orphanages to find better opportunities for education, housing and employment. Heroes . . . preservatives . . . salt.
We who believe are the salt of the earth. Living boldly by faith, we help to preserve this world and whatever kindness and mercy are in it, not merely for ourselves, but for the good purposes of the Creator who gave us life.
14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
The Law and the Prophets
17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
21“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
HERE is “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” — a classic by Tammy Wynette, from 1986.
33“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.
Do not say, “I will do to others as they have done to me; I will pay them back what they have done.”
42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
The rain, it falleth on the just
And also on the unjust fella,
But chiefly on the just because
The unjust has the just’s umbrella.
46″For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.