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Friday, October 12, 2007

Sermon on the Mount, Second

After giving the people the Beatitudes, he gave them the following:
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Matthew 5:13-16. As I am moving through the sermon, I am looking for bits that challenge me. My first read of this passage is that you are not allowed to be quiet. You can just be Christian all by yourself.

The next thing I notice is that Jesus does not say, "I am the light of the world," here. He says, "You are the light of the world." Taking that very literally is significant to me. And if we ever lose are ability to change the environment we are in, then we should "be thrown out and trampled." Which I read as strong suggestion not to waste time with a meek faith.

So, nothing too tough for me so far.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Guilt

In a previous post I shared a DOJ study showing that in 2007, my twelve-year-old son was twice as safe as I was at twelve in 1983.

Here is another study that flies in the face of the everything is going to Hell in a hand basket narrative. See the nytimes story here.

I think the data about women is interesting because I doubt there are very many women working 23 hours a week. I know that one can work part-time, but I suspect the numbers reflect the result of averaging.

Anyway, it looks like kids today are safer from violent crime and spending more time with their parents. The divorce rate is also down from its peak in 1981. The only conclusion I can come to is that George Bush is a much better President than Ronald Reagan.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sermon on the Mount, First

Okay, I spent a decent amount of time looking at Revelation, a book that is difficult to understand and pretty light on calls to action (aside from be faithful). Also, I don't see a book like Revelation as very authoritative. I don't know much about its author, and I feel pretty free to discount themes I find unhelpful, like the revenge idea.

So, now I'd like to do something a little more challenging. The Sermon on the Mount may or may not have been delivered as a single sermon by Jesus, but it certainly establishes the bedrock tenants of Christianity that go beyond Love God and Love Others as Yourself.

The sermon starts with the Beatitudes:

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:1-12. Compare the Sermon on the Plain in Luke.

It seems to me that the first four are not intended to be goals, but as comfort. The second half reminds me of the basics. Be merciful and pure. Make peace and be faithful. So far so good. (BTW, if you follow the link to Luke it is much harsher. For example it blesses the poor and curses the rich. I'm pretty sure I'm the second one.)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Here's the other thing

Today during the children's sermon, the leader started to tell the children a story about a rock falling out of the sky. Half of the rock landed on top of a mountain and the other half rolled down the mountain. The half on the mountain said, "You are loved." The leader told the children that the people believed only they were special, then one of the children said immediately, "They made a fight?" She said yes, and told the story about a girl from the village who found the other half of the rock making it say, "You are loved and so are they." The same little boy then said, "They made an accident."

From the mouths of babes. Oh that we might acknowledge that we made an accident.

The First Thing That Touched Me at Church Today

We are celebrating children this month. We read, "We Pray for Children. . ." The poem nicely reminds us to think of our children and those less fortunate. Here's an excerpt:

We pray for children
who sneak popsicles before suppers,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.
And we pray for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers.
who never "counted potatoes,"
who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.
. . . .
We pray for children who want to be carried
and for those who must,
for those we never give up on and for those who don't get a second chance.
For those we smother ... and for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.
Please offer your hands to them so that no child is left behind because we did not act.
It brought a tear or two to my eye.