A friend once came to Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, and said to him:
“Two weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I went to the funeral of a man my own age. I didn’t know him well, but we worked together, talked to each other from time to time, had kids about the same age. He died suddenly over the weekend. A bunch of us went to the funeral, each of us thinking, it could just as easily have been me.
That was two weeks ago. They have already replaced him at the office. I hear his wife is moving out of state to live with her parents. Two weeks ago he was working fifty feet away from me, and now it’s as if he never existed.
It’s like a rock falling into a pool of water. For a few seconds, it makes ripples in the water, and then the water is the same as it was before, but the rock isn’t there anymore.
Rabbi, I’ve hardly slept at all since then. I can’t stop thinking that it could happen to me, that one day it will happen to me, and a few days later I will be forgotten as if I had never lived. Shouldn’t a man’s life be more than that?”
It is an understatement to say that this man experienced a wake-up call! For all of us, there are times when we are brought up short, and we are left thinking disturbing questions like, “Shouldn’t a person’s life be more than that? Is this all to life that there is?”
I get that kind of feeling when I contrast the existential reality of daily living against the words of Jesus portrayed in his Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapters five through seven. Sometimes we want to pass by Jesus’ words quickly on our way to the rest of our life. Or we assume that Jesus was merely a simple Galilean stumbling along the dusty roads of Palestine mumbling spiritual platitudes not understanding how the “real” world works. This is a big mistake!
What was it about this man, Jesus, that was so disturbing to the religious leaders of his time? He really had a knack for unnerving them. What were the things he said in his Sermon on the Mount that rocked their world? What did Jesus really mean? Is it real life to us?
When you take the time to read through the whole of the Sermon on the Mount—I mean really read it—and contemplate its impact and then dare to envisage what Jesus truly has in mind, there is that haunting feeling that Jesus may be on to something we need to consider more closely. That’s why we need to stop and take another look.
In my new sermon series that starts this Sunday, I plan to give you a clear-cut opportunity to experience Jesus’ renowned discourse without complex philosophy or theoretical distortion. During the course of October and November I would like to be your guide to an up-close-and-personal tour of this mountaintop sermon interpreted through the actual life and time of Jesus of Nazareth.
Mahatma Ghandi is said to have remarked that he would gladly become a Christian if Christians would only live out the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s at least give it a shot and see what happens. Take a few minutes and use your Bible and read through chapters 5, 6 & 7 of St. Matthew, or go to www.biblegateway.com and read it online, first in the New Revised Standard Version, then the New Living Translation, and finally the Common English Bible. This comparison and contrast research will serve to prepare you for our upcoming voyage.
My Methodist History & Heritage New Members Class got off to a grand start this past Wednesday evening, and I would like to remind those who are part of that class that I am looking forward to seeing you this evening at 6:30 p.m. in Room 144 downstairs from the new sanctuary. If you did not previously register, but would like to participate, you are welcome to do so. I would love to have you join us. As always, nursery and childcare are available.
My Sundays are more complete when I get to see your smiling face! Can’t wait to join you in worship this week!
I will see you soon!
P.S. Just a moment ago, Pam Holton (our Holy Land trip representative) called and told me that 93 people are registered for our Spring Pilgrimage! I am thrilled! In light of this, we have decided to limit the number of attendees to 100 so that we can keep the trip as intimate and personal as possible. I want to be able to greet and share in this journey with all of you and I cannot do that if the group is too large. So…if you are still considering, it is time to make a decision. To help you do that, visit our Holy Land webpage for the trip itinerary, information guides, maps and a video from ETS (the agency with whom we are traveling).