As we begin 2017, I, like most people, would like to start it off well. I would like to have sound practices that shape my mind, body and spirit in ways that not only keep me healthy but facilitate growth. For most Americans, this resolve lasts about a month. Fast food sales start to pick up in February just as visits to the gym start to decline. However, if you have peers that you make resolutions with, you are more likely to stick to it.
This is one of the geniuses of Christianity. In fact, Methodism was founded around small covenant groups that helped keep Christians accountable. Christian community ideally helps its members grow in the faith as they journey together.
Within worship, we are entering the season of Epiphany which will last until Lent. This will be eight Sundays which will get us through Ash Wednesday which occurs on March 1 this year.
Since Epiphany is a season which emphasizes shining the light of Christ to the world, I thought it would be helpful to explore the Sermon on the Mount. We are currently in Year A of the lectionary which features Matthew's gospel. The Sermon on the Mount starts with chapter 5 of Matthew and then continues in chapters 6 and 7. It is some of the most challenging material in the Bible and some interpret it as only to be observed by monastic orders. Since we are under the priesthood of all believers, I see it as applying to all Christians.
We'll be dividing it in the following schedule:
January 8 | The Beatitudes | Matthew 5:1-12
January 15 | The Law | Matthew 5:13-20
January 22 | Reconciliation | Matthew 5:21-26
January 29 | Vows | Matthew 5:27-37
February 5 | Love Your Enemies | Matthew 5:38-48
February 12 | Integrity in Faith | Matthew 6:1-18
February 19 | Anxiety | Matthew 6:19-34
February 26 | Judgment | Matthew 7:1-12
Then we will finish the series on Ash Wednesday:
March 1 Follow Through Matthew 7:13-29
This basically divides the Sermon on the Mount into 9 sermons which will help us focus on the ethical wisdom of Jesus. Matthew presents Jesus as the new Moses in many ways as the Sermon on the Mount is similar to Moses bringing the law down from Mount Sinai. Ethics are universal to human philosophy but as the Christian community, we interpret these teachings in light of the resurrection. This makes it distinct for us as we settle into our own identity.
I hope that this will help us in our spiritual growth as we start this new year together. It will at least get us through the end of February before we start to slide!
This Sunday, we'll begin with the Beatitudes. We could all use a little blessing although we may wonder if we fit into these various categories or if we would even want to fit. Join us as we begin to interpret this most important teaching of our Lord!