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.

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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.

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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.

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Week 4 “Having Integrity”  Rev. Steve DeNeff

Matthew 5:27-37; Ephesians 3:14-21. The rise of the individual over the community, along with an emphasis on freedom without commitment has led to an impermanent society in which promises are only good intentions. Against this tide of self-indulgence, the people of God are called to make promises and to keep them, for “our freedom doesn’t grow in the abstract; it grows in a particular soil with particular people . . . it grows only as we commit ourselves with and to others.”  
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Week 5 “Making Room”  Rev. Steve DeNeff

Matthew 5:43-48, 7:1-2; Ephesians 4:1-6. As our nation becomes more polarized politically, economically and socially we hear the call for justice, for equality and tolerance. Perhaps what is needed is a community devoted to making room for those who are invisible, those on the margins. This community would be open, practicing not just charity but generosity. It would go the extra mile and gives to those who cannot pay us back. It would open itself to the invisible, without passing judgment, for ultimately it is the community, and not just our resources, that help us the most. 
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Week 6 “Bearing Crosses”  Rev. Steve DeNeff

Matthew 5:10-12; Ephesians 4:29-5:2. Every religion has to deal with suffering. Some try to avoid it, to overcome it, or to explain it away. But the mark of a practicing community is that it comes alongside those who carry crosses, with empathy and patience. These people know that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance (produces) character and hope,” (Rom 5:3-4, NET). This sermon will explain how we can bear one another’s burdens in the name of Christ, and how such a community can be used by God to evangelize its city.
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Week 7 “Sharing Hope”  Rev. Steve DeNeff

Matthew 6:19-21, 25-33; Romans 15:13. Hope is in short supply these days. As our world stumbles under the weight of terror, tragedy and natural disasters, there is talk of recovery and reconstruction, of legislation and government loans, of “finding a way forward . . . to a new future.” Our leaders say that we must stay optimistic. We must rely on each other. We must believe in ourselves and “keep hope alive.” But the hope of which the Bible speaks is not a conviction that something will turn out well, nor the certainty that it will make sense, but the assurance that, however it seems and however it goes, God will remember; God is still present; and God will fulfill His promises to the end. Our hope begins in the promises of God and it ends in a fearless trust that He who “knows what we have need of before we even ask” will bring it in due time (Matt. 6:8, 26, 30).
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