Sunday, February 13, 2011
The Sermon on the Mount was more likely on a hill, like these hills of Galilee viewed from a boat on the Sea of Galilee, which is not a sea but a lake! The sermon is a collection of some of the things that Jesus said.
One saying is: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) That seems a ridiculous order, impossible to obey. But once I realize that I can't make myself perfect, that the Father is the one who will do that, it's not impossible at all. God lives in me and wants to share with me his perfection.
In 1st Corinthians St. Paul asks us, "Do you not realize that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?" (3:16) The Spirit of God within me can make me as perfect as my heavenly Father. I delay the process by putting sin and selfishness and self-centeredness in the way, but the Spirit can knock those down too, if I let the Spirit work.
In Matthew the order to be as perfect as God comes at the end of a short section in which Jesus says, "Love your enemies...so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain on the upright and the wicked alike." (5:44-45) I think this is the most important thing we believe about God, that God loves everyone the same. That means that I don't earn God's love. God's love is gracious, unearned, freely given. So the best way to see how close I am coming to the perfection of my heavenly Father is to check my way of loving and see if it is gracious, unearned, freely given to everyone, even my enemies.