We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall
fight on the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing
strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight
on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and
in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what
you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America
will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and
tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I
have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its
creed: - 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'
We are all familiar with those famous, passionate, stirring speeches given by leaders in front of great crowds at pivotal times in society.
What a sharp contrast to:
O the bliss of the poor in Spirit for they shall be comforted.
Oh, man. We can try so hard to be great. We fall so short. We need our God. It is no wonder that the people listened to this speaker, Jesus, AS ONE WHO HAD AUTHORITY. He is the UNDENIABLE authority. His words and his actions and his heart never left any doubt in the people's eye. The crowd recognized Authority, Godliness, Holiness and Hallowedness in this man they followed.
How do you identify authority in a leader? Is authority in the apparel, in badges, in the equipment, in actions, in credentials. Is it in words, in knowledge, the deeds performed? Is it an aura or a swagger that one possesses? Or perhaps a combination of some or all of those?
For most peoples throughout history and throughout the world, authority has been a matter of birthright, wealth, power, knowledge, and combinations of those. But Americans understand authority differently than most people throughout history. We "grant" people the right to have authority over us: elected officials, policemen - when we are a student in a class, we basically give the teacher the authority to direct our studies and the discussion in the class. For some, we expect them to have earned the right to have authority over us. We may elect a man who was born in a tar paper shack to become the governor of our state. We may choose to respect those in authority over us, or we may just endure them until we choose to grant that authority to someone else.
But how often has a leader that comes along that when he speaks, many people will leave the comfort of their homes and go up into the hillsides to listen to his words - listen for hours - forget about meals? I often sit in meetings all day in relative comfort listening to speakers, some of them are good, but often I mark the time waiting for the next break or mealtime.
I spoke to a nearby school district's staff this past Friday for 3 hours. This was the 3rd year that I have presented to them on Parent Involvement. They consider me an expert on the subject, their "favorite staff development presenter." So does UAFS. I will present to their Student Interns next month like I do every semester. National PTA calls me a trained presenter. I am a National PTA mentor. But sometimes I see a few people in the audience that look a little inattentive, a little bored. Maybe they just don't get as passionate about parent involvement as I do. Maybe they don't consider me an expert.
When Jesus spoke the audience was attentive. He often quoted God's Word, but He did not quote other teachers the way the audience was used to hearing from speakers. His words were good, but not necessarily what the hearer always wanted to hear, but what they needed to hear. His words were relevant to his audience. He spoke from the heart of God, with the knowledge of God and the audience recognized the source.
Knowledge only become relevant when it is translated into action. It does not do much good to go to a doctor and then not do what the doctor says to do to get well. There is little point in going to an expert for training unless we are prepared to follow that training, right? It does not do much good for a school district that has little parent involvement to invite an expert in for 3 or 4 years, and then not follow that "expert's" advise on how to start an active parent organization in their school. In their mind, it can't be done in their district. My words sound good, but they are only relevant up to a certain point - a point of action.
The Sermon on the Mount audience heard some nice comforting words, but they also
heard some words that they were expected to put into action - mind changing, life
changing. Unlike some of the religious authorities they had previously witnessed,
Jesus taught that Religion is not just a matter of words, it is life changing and heart
Some scholars like to discuss that perhaps this is not just one sermon. They point to a number of things that to them indicate that perhaps this is Matthew's compilation of the major topics that Jesus taught when he did in depth teaching to his disciples and more generally spoke to the crowds. Perhaps that is so. In the 3 weeks that we have studied these 3 chapters, I feel like we have just barely brushed the surface of so many of the topics.
What would the Jewish religious authorities have said if you had asked them about the
teaching of wisdom? They might sited Psalm 15 which talks about "Only the man
who does no evil to his neighbor can approach God." More than likely they would
have quoted Rabbi Eliezer or others who only taught this concept in a negative form.
The lesson on judging others ends with this Golden Rule. Sometimes we judge others based on our own lives. Or self-deception.
But I don't want us to miss something that I think may be easy to overlook in chapter 7 today. I've never really connected these 3 elements together before, but perhaps I should have. In today's lesson there are 2 ways, 2 trees and 2 houses. Each has their own lesson, but are they related in any way? We start with 2 self assessments.
We start by choosing a path: 2 Ways -
Then there is growth: the lesson of 2 fruit bearing trees.
At the end of it all we come to the 2 house builders.
The 2 builders had a lot in common. They both desired to build a house. Both built
houses that looked good and sturdy.
That is a portion of Jesus' astonishing teaching. That is teaching that our neighbors need to hear. We don't have to tell it with authority or as an expert. Jesus does that. We can share it with a changed life that produces good fruit.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR