Michael Frost has noted that, “the work of exile is to rediscover the teachings of Jesus and the practices of the early Church, and then to apply them to life on the soil of a post-Christian empire.” Using the Sermon on the Mount, that’s what we’ll do. As in every part of the Bible, what matters is not only “What is written in the Scripture; (but) how do we read it?” (Luke 10:26). And the way we read the Sermon on the Mount will be as a charter for a new society that Jesus is forming in every age around the world. Those who learn to do what he said, who come to actually believe in his values, are both happy and whole and they are as strange to the world as they are necessary for saving it (Matt. 5:13-16). Beginning with an understanding of the gospel and how this gospel must take shape in a practicing community, we’ll explore a handful of things that these people practice.
Week 1 “Not Ashamed” Rev. Steve DeNeff
Matthew 4:12-17; Romans 1:1-2, 16-17. In spite of all that is wrong with the world, the gospel is still “the power of God for salvation.” For Jesus, it was simply that “the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Yet somehow we have turned the “good news” into “good advice” – repent and believe – that has very little to do with what’s wrong with the world and even less with what God Himself is doing. This message will explore the origin of the gospel (in the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel) and show how it is still the most powerful, optimistic and complete hope for the world.
Week 2 “A Beautiful Life” Rev. Emily Vermilya
Matthew 5:1-16; Ephesians 1:3, 11-14. What kind of people are called for by these times? A people formed by the gospel. The Beatitudes are a profile of people who are humble, vulnerable, modest, hungry, simple, compassionate, peaceful and persecuted. They are unlike anything the world has seen, yet they are the happiest and the most whole. And when they come together, in covenant with one another, they form a new society, becoming a social alternative for the world. This sermon will introduce the core practices and call us to live in covenant with each other.
Week 3 “Making Peace” Rev. Steve DeNeff
Matthew 5:21-24, 38-42; Ephesians 2:14-18. In our emphasis on diversity, have we forgotten unity? In fighting for justice, have we forgotten what spirit we are of? What historian Arthur Schlesinger called, “the cult of the minority” – the idea that one’s peculiarity is the most important thing about them – has begun to tear at the union of our nation. The trouble is that everyone feels like a minority. But the children of God make peace. We turn the cheek, release our debtors, love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. If someone takes our shirt, we give up our coat as well. And we not only forgive, we absorb the sins that others commit against us. This service will explore practical ways to embody the gospel of peace.