I'm reading Seeds of Heaven: Sermons on the Gospel of Matthew
by Barbara Brown Taylor. The first sermon in the book is called "Exceeding Righteousness
She talks about the idea that Jesus did not intend to break away from Judaism. He wasn't trying to start a new religion -- "he meant for his followers to become the most righteous Jews the world had ever seen."
Jesus applied a "hermeneutical principle of 'light and heavy' to biblical commands." She explains the "weightier matters of the law were justice and mercy and faith." He did not call his followers to ignore the other laws, but when a lighter law got in the way of following a heavier law, then his call was to follow the "heavier" law. Observe the Sabbath? Yes. What if observing the Sabbath meant that one did not heal a person? In healing the person, in dealing with the matter of mercy, one did the will of God.
Who decides? Jesus decided, and that is what got him "in trouble." It was a question of authority.
What does that mean for us today? There are still arguments in our faith as to what is weighty and what is light. How do we decide? For me, as I think about it, sometimes the deciding factor is comparing the one scripture to the entirety of scripture. It means comparing one verse to the wholeness of God as taught by Jesus. It means remembering that all of scripture was written for a certain group of people in a certain time. We hear the word of God in it -- God speaks through it, but we are not the original audience. For me it means that when someone makes an argument for a particular point of view, and supports it with one particular verse of scripture, there is a danger -- that we will not hear the whole of the Word because the one word is barring the way.
She closes her sermon by saying, "...righteousness has never been a matter of following rules but of honoring relationships....When we honor our neighbors -- when we love them as ourselves -- then, and only then, are we ready to discover what the law, the prophets, and the gospel are all about."
And to me, that sounds like whole Word.
Labels: Brown Seeds, Gospel