Reading the Sermon on the Mount feels like a homecoming. I can get worked up about the events of the day, good and bad, but falling back onto these words of Jesus puts reality back in view. God’s way radically differs from my ideas of how things should work.
As soon as Jesus finishes his sermon, he comes down off the mountain and demonstrates what it means to live this new world order, this life of grace. Untouchables are embraced; faith and trust are rewarded above effort and getting things right. He breaches social, cultural and geographic boundaries to deliver and heal. He isn’t worried about what others will think or how they will respond. He stays true to the Father’s will.
The early church fathers imitate him despite heated persecution. People who never knew what it meant to be a chosen people, find themselves the target of God’s grace. Samaritans, once despised by the Jews, now embrace the good news of the Gospel so that the name of Jesus continues to heal and deliver, and “there was great joy in that city.”Acts 8:8 God uses Phillip to lead an influential Ethiopian eunuch to salvation. Immediately afterwards, Phillip finds himself miraculously transported to another region to share the Gospel. The favor of God which had found home in the lives of a few during of Noah and Ezra’s times, is now poured out unrestrained and with force. It is like a river roaring over and above its banks and covering a land knowing no borders.
Stephen’s admonishment to the Jewish leaders (from yesterday’s reading) challenges me, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?” Acts 7:49-59 How am I building my house, my life? There is this very large part of me that doesn’t want the status quo that the Pharisees held onto so dearly; that kind of self righteousness is stifling and squeezes all the fun out of life, but there is also the part of me that doesn’t want to take risks and wants to remain comfortable and secure in what I know. But I hear the call of Jesus and he invites me into something far greater, far more beautiful than the meager vision I have for my life. So I pray:
Dear Lord, relieve me of my imagined, personal world order and that illusion of control. Let me trust you and your ways. Thank you for the life you have given me, these eyes that you have opened to see your beauty and this heart that yearns to know you. Thank you for your unwarranted favor. Take my life and make it want you it want to be. In the name of your son, Jesus, Amen.