Written as an exegetical paper, this is a simple overview of the Sermon on the Mount that may help to inspire connections with the season after Epiphany preaching texts in Year A.
Sometimes referred to as the "Divorce Passage" of the Sermon on the Mount, this week we hear about Jesus' concern for how that community lives together in a way that will uplift everyone.
To describe why it’s difficult to know the true meaning, each of these metaphors on their own are awkward for different reasons. Salt doesn’t really lose its saltiness. A city on a mountain as a light is not very practical other than to be seen from far away. You don’t usually keep a lamp/light burning forever and it will need to be extinguished at some point. These few verses don’t fully function as parables. They are more proverbial. Ultimately, holding onto Matthean themes and Matthew’s narrative may be the best help for our understanding.
Both Matthew and Luke use the Beatitudes with a purpose and in aligning our preaching with their purpose, we can open a world of preaching opportunity. But if we preach on our preference and overly compare these two different Gospels, then we give permission to accept one and throw the other out, when in reality they are used for two entirely different purposes.
This is a transitional section in Matthew to get us to the Sermon on the Mount. And because of that, it can feel like there are a thousand things going on and none at all. But, I think if we pick one lane, there are some possibilities for really meaningful topics.
What the 12-step program tells us, what our readings today tell us, what the season of Advent reminds us, is that the world is always going to try and speed us up and move us toward rapid action. But when that happens, when things are getting chaotic and confusing, we are reminded time and time again to take it one day at a time.
Here in John’s account, there is beautiful room to tell a story of “being known.” After we get the long prologue of John, we the reader should have little doubt as to who Jesus is: the Word, the light, the Messiah. But even though we have this beautiful poetic prologue, this opening scene with John the Baptist immediately has a profound intimacy.
For centuries the question of “Why was Jesus baptized?” has been asked by theologians. John’s was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. So why was Jesus baptized since he did not need repentance? How does it connect with our baptism?
Everything in you may be begging you to preach on the “name of Jesus” (Luke 2:15-21) this Sunday rather than the “slaughter of the Holy Innocents” in Matthew’s text. But I implore you to consider preaching this Matthean text.
Matthew and John are essential Gospels for our Triune Christology. Obviously, John 1 helps us with the Word in the beginning. But Matthew helps as well with the introduction of the prophecy of Isaiah (7:14), “‘and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’”