Gospel of Matthew 5:21-37e
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”
Let us Pray: Sisters and brothers, let us lift our hearts in faith, to the one who hears all prayers and holds close all those in need. This we pray in Jesus name. Amen
In a few days we will celebrate Valentine’s Day, this day brings to mind the image of those little candy hearts we see as we approach that day of expressing our love. They are supposed to reveal what was in our hearts for someone else. They had messages on them, like “Be Mine,” “Yours Forever,” “True Love,” “Hugs and Kisses,” “Ever After,” “So Fine,” and “Hot Stuff.” The logos now include “Text Me,” “E mail me,” and “U R Special.” Now we have scripture conversation hearts with inspirational messages like: God Loves You,” “Praise God,” “Faith, Hope, Love,” etc. Messages that can make us think about God’s love. As we approach Valentine’s Day you can’t go into any store without seeing hearts, flowers, and chocolates. . In painting a picture of the life pleasing to God, Jesus offered this beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8).Jesus in these teachings is standing on the foundation of prior teachings from Hebrew Scriptures about the heart as the inner source of outer actions, subject to the good or evil influence of imagination. He’s asking, “What is in your heart?” That may be partly why this text from Matthew 5:21-37 about anger, adultery, careless severing of marital bonds, and frivolous oaths, makes one think about hearts. Hearts so easily broken and thrown aside. If you feel like our world has lost its moral compass, if you feel like your relationships with others have suffered because there are times when your life has been out of control, listen to Jesus. He is seeking to help by reminding us of the house rules of God or God’s law. Suddenly, we can begin to see another purpose to the Law. The Law also offers us a picture of the Kingdom. It reveals God’s design for a world of human flourishing. As the apostle Paul declares, the Law of God is good (Romans 7:12). It gives order to a world where people care for one another and live in a community. For this reason, even after people have turned from their sin and been forgiven in Him, the Law remains important to Jesus. This section of the Sermon on the Mount begins to turn the perspective of the disciples outside of themselves. They are not disciples for their own sakes, and their own actions, but for the sake of those around them as well. There is accountability, and a responsibility to others for the sake of the good of the community. To be accountable to a community puts some checks and balances in place when it comes to being a disciple, and when it comes to being a leader. All too often, we witness leadership that seems oblivious to the fact that the shaping of a community is at stake. Leaders sometimes make decisions as if no one is watching, no one cares, or that the decisions do not matter in and for the lives of others. Again as the apostle Paul declares, the Law of God is good. It gives order to a world where people care for one another and live in a community.
Let us Pray. Holy God, you gather the whole universe. into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring healing to all wounds, make whole all that is broken, speak truth to all illusion, and shed light in every darkness, that all creation will see your glory and know your Christ. Amen.