Friday, July 18, 2008

Purity and righteousness beyond the normal

In my last post, I left this title phrase hanging - without conclusion: The Gate is open – it is narrow, requiring purity and righteousness beyond the normal.

Is it clear to you what I mean?

Some time ago, I asked for a sermon on the sermon. Poor old Secundus is pondering so deeply that he hasn't yet made it to the sermon on the mount.

I think people really get hung up on the righteousness beyond the normal -

Here are a few extracts from Matthew and Luke's rendition of the sermon: Luke is first, then Matthew's parallel. Matthew's colour is pink, Luke's is green-blue. It's tricky to read. If reading in Luke, Matthew's colour shows you what is shared with Luke. If you are reading in Matthew, Luke's colour shows you what is shared with Matthew. (It only gets worse with Mark.)

And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper.

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

I checked the Greek. Copper is not the same word as penny, a point respected by this translation (RSV) - but it really doesn't matter if you check the Greek. There is nothing magical about original tongues or autographs if you can't read anyway. As Jesus says - Judge for yourself what is right.

I know that is too frightening - we want rules because we don't even trust ourselves. What if my accuser is God? How will I make friends?

Now about the superior righteousness, it's in the bit just prior to the above:

Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Luke colour is not wrong exactly but it is a bit arbitrary how we might connect parallel passages (This connection is from Kurt-Aland in Synopsis of the Four Gospels, Greek-English Edition of the Synopsis Quattuor Evangelium). This one is perhaps unnecessary. I often repeat myself - as is shown by my wordle profiles. Why wouldn't Jesus repeat himself?

What are the commandments that must not be relaxed? I don't want to make this too easy - but let's talk about heaven and earth.

When do heaven and earth pass away? When God dies. That for a worm, a God should die ( a sixteenth century paraphrase of Psalm 8 - set by Henry Purcell, sung by Janet Baker). Behold I make new heavens and a new earth. It is done (Revelation). I could go on. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). And while we're at it, I would like to paraphrase Galatians 6:15 - for in Christ Jesus, neither is heterosexuality anything nor homosexuality, but a new creation.

You see - heaven and earth have already passed away in Jesus Christ - and they were recreated in his resurrection. He died and I died in him. My re-creation is not for anyone else to judge.

Let me tell you - when God matures a homosexual creature in Jesus Christ by his death, God does not make such a one 'straight' in the common sense of the word - but he makes such a one gifted in Christ without reservation as belonging to him. Reject such gifts at your peril.

For those who have ears, the exceeding righteousness - beyond the normal - is not to be feared. Though I or anyone else be 'least in the kingdom of heaven', we are in it. Our righteousness, vindicated by the Spirit, is greater than any human legal or moral attempt for it is accomplished by the work of God in us through his only Son in whom we have died and been made a new creature in a new heaven and a new earth.

Abraham, friend of God invites our friendship by faith - nothing more. It is a light burden. Jesus confirms his friendship with us. We have walked with our accuser and made friends. There is now no court case against us. The charges have been dropped. The narrow gate has been entered. We find ourselves in the Holy place.

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