Between Sundays for Week of February 13, 2023
In worship yesterday, we heard another excerpt from Jesus’ (very long!) Sermon on the Mount. Among the admonitions against murder, adultery and swearing, Jesus is really setting forth a vision of how the community of God’s people are called to live. As Pastor Amy reminds, at the heart of Jesus’ sermon, at the heart of the choice that Moses lays out in the reading from Deuteronomy, at the heart of the very being of the triune God, is a vision of building a lasting and a flourishing community!
When Moses says: I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity…, he is not talking to individuals but rather inviting the community to consider what their relationship to God will be. Will they choose the way of death – disobedience and turning away from God’s law? Or will they choose the way of life – obedience and observance of God’s law, “walking in God’s ways”? The death that Moses cautions against doesn’t come because of God’s punishment, but rather is a death of our own making when we fail to embrace the vision of community – loving God and loving our neighbor – that lies at the heart of the law. And that vision of flourishing community is one that’s rooted in trust and compassion. Jesus expounds on this same law – loving God and loving neighbor – in his Sermon on the mount as He seeks to build a lasting community reflective of God’s image among his disciples.
You might remember that we preached on Building Lasting Community that follows Jesus near the conclusion of our 100th anniversary celebrations last May. (And if you need a refresher, be sure to click here to listen again!) We did a series of podcasts on the topic this Fall as well. (You can listen to those here, here and here!) And along with our newly-elected Council, we are focused on cultivating the kind of community that Moses and Jesus describe (see the “Ponderings” below!).
As we move into God’s future, we are far from perfect. God doesn’t expect us to be. Instead, we give thanks to God that we are brought together by the waters of baptism to learn to live out our faith and practice obedience to God’s law, so that we might be formed into God’s vision of flourishing community.
P.S. Love for our neighbors means being moved with compassion when our neighbors experience tragedy. If you want to be part of the response on the ground in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey, donate to Lutheran World Relief here.
The focus of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount shifts direction from who we are to what means to live together in community. It’s clear that Jesus wants us to know the life-giving nature of flourishing in human community, and to understand that building us into a community that reflects Christ’s love is the work that God is doing in us and through us.
At our Council retreat last month, we focused on the essential element of trust in Building Lasting Community that follows Jesus. Trust among Council members, trust between the Council and the congregation, trust between God and God’s people. We learned from scholar and researcher Brene Brown, who has developed a definition of trust based on her research that she abbreviates with the acronym BRAVING. You can watch her full explanation here, but the essential elements of BRAVING trust are Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-Judgment, and Generosity. We reflected on our own trustworthiness and discussed where and how we can embody these characteristics as leaders as well.