Setting the stage for the sermon on the mount
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What Christ came to teach us: The sermon on the mount
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand
“The new world order is based on the experience of God who is experienced personally. Jesus seems to be saying that God is not a philosophical system, a theory to be proven, or an energy to be discussed or controlled. … Jesus believes that God is a Person to be imitated, enjoyed, and loved.”
- Richard Rohr
These are the first words of Jesus’ ministry, as related in the gospel of Matthew. We talk a lot about bringing the kingdom to earth, joining God in the work of the kingdom, and so forth. But how can we best understand the kingdom of God? The Sermon on the Mount is a good place to start, but it’s helpful to understand a few things first.
In the quote above from his book on the Sermon on the Mount, Richard Rohr explains that God’s kingdom - the “new world order” - calls us to experience, and then imitate God. But how do we know what to imitate? Rohr goes on to draw a distinction between the kingdom of God, and the kingdoms of the world.
“… There are three kinds of cultures today, each with its own bottom line: political cultures based on the manipulation of power, economic cultures based on the manipulation of money, and religious cultures based on the manipulation of some theory about God. … Jesus new alternative is not just another religious culture however.”
The new alternative as we find it in the Sermon on the Mount, is a subversive reality where the outcast is in the position of primacy; where motives for rivalry and greed have been destroyed; where ideas about family, possessions, status, and institutional religion are opposed or subverted.
Our journey through the Sermon on the Mount will reveal the extent to which we’ve been given a new lens to view the world.
(To help us on this journey, I’ll be pulling heavily from Rohr’s book, Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount. If you’re interested in going deeper into the sermon, this is a short, accessible book and I recommend giving it a read!)