At the end of last week’s passage, the Narrative Lectionary takes us from Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness to the beginning of his ministry, saying “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near”.
In this week’s passage, we start to get a sense of what the Kingdom of Heaven (or commonwealth of heaven, as I prefer to call it) looks like.
This is a big chunk of text. It includes the Beatitudes, the Salt of the Earth, the Light of the World, and Jesus’ reminder that he came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it.
People often chafe at the word “blessed” in the beatitudes, maybe because it feels like hollow comfort to people who are poor, hungry, and mourning. I know the word can also be translated as “happy” or as “fortunate”. I’ll stick with blessed. My seminary professor, David Bartlett (whose memory is a blessing) described it as Jesus proclaiming the days of blessedness have begun. In God’s commonwealth, pay attention to who is marked for blessing. And be aware of how that is at odds with how the world often dispenses blessing.
At the end of this passage, Jesus says “for I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. What do you make of that verse? Is that a high bar or a low bar? I’ve often wondered if he’s saying, “if you insist on playing this game the way the pharisees do, it’s not gonna work, but have fun trying”.
Commentary at Working Preacher is here.
Share your ideas for Time with the Children here. Do you have good songs to go with this week’s text? Other ideas?
Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She serves on the boards of the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood, Covenant Network, and the Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church USA. Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book,There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).
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