What challenges you most in your life right now? When you think of your spiritual life, your life as a Christian in today’s world, where do you find your biggest obstacles? What challenges do you struggle with around your values, attitudes, and the decisions you make about your life? Challenging questions are laced throughout the Bible, but nowhere are they more visible than in the Gospel of Luke.
This week as we continue our Back to Basics: Luke’s Portrait of Jesus worship series, we turn our attention to a collection of the teachings of Jesus that don’t get as much attention as their parallel in Matthew. We’ve all heard about Matthew’s account of “The Sermon on the Mount,” right? Well, there was a version of that in Luke that was preached on a flat, open place, so it is called “The Sermon on the Plain.” This week we’ll be examining this somewhat parallel message — and the special challenges to us tucked within it.
These words of Jesus in Luke can be extremely challenging. You know, sometimes it is much easier to talk about Jesus than it is to really pay heed to his words.
This reminds me of a somewhat edgy but humorous recount by Fred Craddock, arguably one of the foremost New Testament scholars and preachers of all time. When told by someone, “I believe in the Bible,” Craddock would reply, “Do you tithe?” And, when someone said to him, “I follow a literal interpretation of the Bible,” Craddock would query, “So you’re going to give away everything you have to the poor and follow Jesus?” There would then be a pause, then the inevitable reply, “Well, not that part.”
The fact is, the teachings of Jesus do challenge us and stretch us — often beyond our comfort zone. We want to follow Jesus, but if we are honest, we find ourselves saying, “Yeah, but not that part.” In both the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain we are challenged to take a good long look at our lives, our decisions, our values and our day-to-day choices and see where we can do better to more closely follow the teachings of Jesus in our time.
I look forward to exploring the words and specific challenges of The Sermon on the Plain with you — and what we can do to meet the basics of these challenges today — this Sunday in the Sanctuary.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster