Approaching Life: But wait…there’s more!
This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, February 16, 2014.
Reading: Matthew 5:21-42
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear so that together, we might be inspired to speak and live your Word in the world starting today. Amen.
It’s something we’ve all been sucked into. Perhaps, you got up early on Saturday morning—your body not allowing you to sleep in after a long week of work. Maybe, its late at night and you couldn’t sleep and after hours of tossing and turning you get out of bed, head to the living room, and turn on the television. There you see it, the product you never knew you needed or wanted. After watching the Forever Comfy commercial for the fourth time, you’re convinced your derriere simply can’t put up with another car ride without the soothing support of this lightweight, portable, and machine washable seat cushion. And just as you are about to change the channel to avoid temptation, the announcer yells “But wait”—you put the remote down and move to the edge of the couch—“order now, and we’ll double your order and send you a second Forever Comfy as a bonus.” Plus, as part of our exclusive offer (which you know has been running every hour for the last month), we’ll include a mystery gift absolutely free. Just pay extra processing and handling! And like that, they’ve got us all hooked.
But wait…there’s more!
It’s the offer that hopes to convince you beyond a shadow of a doubt that this product—whether it be the WaxVac, P90X, the Thigh Master, the Potty Putter, the Shake Weight, the whatever… However, useless the product might be, it’s always better when you get more.
I’m not quite sure why, but when I read today’s Gospel lesson my imagination gave Jesus the voice of Billy “the OxiClean” Mays. Imagine: Jesus is sitting on a stool on a hillside, teaching his disciples. “Hi, I’m Jesus of Nazareth here. You’ve heard it said… But wait…there’s more!”
Similar to an infomercial pitch which offers to give us more, Jesus offers us more and abundant life, but the offer is coupled with Jesus’ steepest challenge: be perfect–“just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete” (Matthew 5:48, Common English Bible).
Over the last several weeks we’ve been looking at Jesus’ Sermon—perhaps better called the “Discourse”—on the Mount.
Two weeks ago, we looked at the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) where Jesus gives us the foremost description of what it means to be a follower. It’s a portrait of the internal transformation that comes from knowing and experiencing God’s love and grace.
Last week, we talked about what we, as we’re transformed inside ourselves, might become beyond ourselves for the sake of the world. As persons transformed by the love and grace of God, we are called to be salt and light. We’re called to provide flavor for and preserve the best within humanity. We’re called to be a beacon that directs people to the love we’ve found in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Up to this point in the sermon, Jesus has been painting with broad strokes describing what we might become inside ourselves and beyond for the world God so loved and came to save.
In today’s lesson, Jesus takes the portrait and makes it real. It’s here where Jesus makes his pitch: where we begin to learn the real life application of how we’re called to live as people who follow God’s Way, the Way of Jesus the Christ.
You’ve heard it said…
Don’t commit murder (v.21).
Don’t commit adultery (v.27).
Don’t make a false pledge (v.33).
You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (v.38).
But wait…there’s more!
Jesus now tests the old in light of a searching test… He brings everything to the bar of the question, What does it think of, and how does it treat a person?
The key to reading Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is to read it through the lens of Matthew 5:48: Be perfect—“just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete” (Matthew 5:48, Common English Bible).
Jesus reminds us that while we think we might be good to others… After all, we don’t murder, or commit adultery. We keep our word and only take what was taken from us. Jesus stands up and says, with the over-caffeinated excitement of Vince “the ShamWow!” Shlomi,
But wait…there’s more!
True love, the love with which disciples of Jesus are called to offer and embody—the kind of love God offered the world!—respects, honors, and lifts others up. True, Godly, complete love does no harm. It does not incite murder nor does it speak badly of others. True love is faithful and follows through on its promises without the need for public vows or solemn pledges. Love’s yes is a consistent yes and its no is always a no.
Love—true, Godly, complete Love—does not exact revenge. Love drops everything to make things right (see Matthew 5:23-24). Love looks at brokenness and says, “but wait…there’s more!” And then, it gets busy picking up and putting the pieces back together.
Faith continually calls us to do and be more for the sake of the world God so loved and came to save. Jesus reminds his disciples of that in our lesson for today. You say you don’t murder nor commit adultery. You say you keep your word and only take what was taken from you. That’s great, but don’t become too comfortable with what you’ve done, because there’s more! It’s not good enough to simply do no harm, now you must actively do good. Build others up so that they might come to know, experience and be encouraged to grow in love with God and others.
The kind of faith Jesus is trying to get us to live is one that makes an extra effort to demonstrate Love’s pure intentions. It walks the second mile (see Matthew 5:41). In our passage for today, we begin to see how the followers’ portrait that Jesus painted in the first part of his Sermon on the Mount might look in reality.
If we are going convince the world that God’s love is real, then we’re going to have to start living it into the world. Just as murder, adultery, revenge, and boastful pledges fail to convince others of God’s love at work in our lives. Our penchant for gossip, speaking badly of others, lusting after what we don’t have and taking revenge also fail to convince the world that God’s love really makes a difference. The challenge for us is to make the portrait Jesus paints, and the love of God Jesus lived, a reality for all to see and experience. For—in the words of Jesus—
14 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.
 Jennifer M. Wood, “10 Best-Selling Infomercial Products,” Gizmodo.com<http://gizmodo.com/10-best-selling-infomercial-products-486136913> Accessed February 15, 2014.
 Seth Brown, “But wait! There’s more to book about infomercial history” USAToday.com <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/books/reviews/2009-04-12-infomercial-history_N.htm?csp=usat.me> Accessed February 15, 2014.
 E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of the Mount (Nashville: Abingdon, 1931), 131.
 Matthew 5:14-16, Common English Bible.