Signpost for Sunday 12th February, 2017: 6th Sunday in ordinary time: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37.
We are back to Year A in the Lectionary – three years have flown by since I began writing for Signpost, sometimes with great joy, sometimes with great trepidation. I’ve learned a lot, and very much enjoyed other people’s contributions.
A Gospel passage part way into the Sermon on the Mount (a title coined, I read, by St Augustine of Hippo, though not, if dare speak lightly of such a man, with much originality or flair) does not lend itself easily to originality or flair for this Signpost writer. It is best left to preachers, and we are not here to write sermons, more, as Brye, our Originator, said as he handed on the baton all those years ago, to tickle the fancy of our readers. What did tickle my fancy was to read in Wikepedia (or some-such revered authority) that a widely held interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount in mediaeval times was that it applied only to Clergy! Maybe that is because the Sermon was addressed to the Disciples – and there appear to have been only four of them at the beginning of Chapter 5 of Matthew – but by its end (7:28) ‘the crowds” were astounded at his teaching and they followed him down the mountain.
The Law was God’s great gift to the Jews, and devout Jews, good people and true, devoted their lives to keeping it. But those in authority turned it from a life-giving gift to an incubus. In today’s passage (and the preceding few verses) Jesus makes it clear he has not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it. The Jews live inadequately. They need to exceed their lived obedience by doing more (not just refraining from murder but also refraining from hate) and doing differently (the leaders preserve Rome’s hierarchical and unjust society – disciples must challenge it by creating an alternative, just society).
It’s really straining any metaphor that might be perceived in relating the Sermon to the difficult situation the Anglican Church in Whangarei is facing at the moment, but it seems to me that God’s great gift to us Westerners of the Anglican Church is becoming an incubus. We are spending our energies in maintaining its great tradition when we should be doing more, and doing differently. May God look favourably on us and our leaders as we accept the challenge.