Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sermon Starters: Love the Whole Way (Matt. 5)

Wesleyan Publishing House had the idea of creating some sermon starter material to go along with some of the devotionals I've written, as well as some of the books on Jesus and Paul I've written. These will be available on their website for anyone who would, for example, want to preach a 6 week sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount.

So I thought I'd create one today on Matthew 5:43-48 with the possible title of "Love the Whole Way." It isn't exactly a three point suggestion, so I hope it passes muster with Lenny Luchetti. :-)

1. You might start with a story about someone who did pretty well with something but did not finish or did not go the whole way and thus failed in some key way. It could be an example from sports or history or the Bible. It could be a personal story. It could even be a hypothetical, like a product that was mostly finished but missing some crucial final component.

2. Explain the context of Matthew 5:17-48. See The Wisdom of Jesus, Week 2, and Jesus: Portraits from the Gospels, chapter 4.

1. Jesus calls us to love everybody.
  • You don't have to like someone to love them. Love is a choice in this context. When you are faced with Choice A and Choice B, love does the Jesus thing, not the unloving thing. This dynamic is especially important in the special case of the person who has wronged you in a significant way. Forgiveness and love, in this context, are not about feelings. They are about how you act toward others.
  • Illustration. Again, you can use a personal story, a story from the newspaper, history, sports, or the Bible. For example, a nice cross reference here is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus picked the "wrong person" to be the good guy in this story. Who is the person you most do not want to "love." That is the person you should picture in this parable.
2.  Examples Jesus gives (sprinkle with your own stories to drive the points home--each of these points could actually be a sermon in its own right, a four week series, for example)
  • Hatred: The first example Jesus gives has to do with murder and hatred. It's not enough just not to kill anyone. Going the loving way, going the whole way, means not acting hatefully, not only in our actions, but in the choices of our minds. See supporting material for more details. 
  • Sexual Faithfulness: Again, it is not simply enough not to commit adultery. (What is adultery, see supporting materials) Do you commit adultery with your mind? Some would divorce in order to try to commit adultery legally.
  • Keeping your word: Going the loving way in truthfulness is not simply telling the truths when you swear by God. It is being a truthful person, someone who is dependable in what they say. This is not a matter of legalism but a matter of being loving with your words. An important example is the person who is unloving while telling the truth--this person also violates the spirit of Jesus here.
  • Mercy over justice: It is common to think of these instructions as "making things even harder," but that is not exactly what Jesus is doing. Jesus is not being a legalist with Scripture (see supporting materials). In going the loving way, some of the Old Testament instruction gets shuffled (such as the "eye for an eye" instruction). "Fulfilling the Law and Prophets" (Matt. 5:17) sometimes means making exceptions to the rule. It involves the right priorities, with love as the chief priority.
3. This is what it means, biblically, to be "perfect" (Matt. 5:48)
  • "Perfect" here is not about mistakes or absolute perfection. It is not about performance. It is about an attitude. It is about acting in a "complete" way. (See supporting materials)
  • Illustration: Give a story that captures this principle, especially an example where someone is very "imperfect" at being "perfect."
Virtue is not simply about making the right choices. Give an example of someone who finds something easy. I know people who are thin, but they do not have to exert any effort to be thin. They could overeat every day and be thin.

Virtue is when it takes effort to make the right choices. "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (5:46). As Christians, we do not believe we either have to do it alone or even can do it alone. But we have the promise that the Holy Spirit will empower us to do the right thing, the loving thing (1 Cor. 10:13).

End with a call to commitment and a challenge to live accordingly this week.


Susan Moore said...

Dr. Schenck,
And "there is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out all fear... (1 John 4:18).

While I was still a student at IWU I looked at some of your online Hebrew Language videos, in happy expectation that I would soon be taking a Hebrew class. Well, it looks like I have exhausted all of my Ohio resources for this school year. My school cancelled the class today because of low enrollment.

These are the books I have amassed:
1.The Introductory and Book One/workbook with flashcards from URJ Press at the recommendation of a local Jewish Fellowship, from a Hebrew Language learning series It is the series that the fellowship uses to teach the Hebrew Language.
2.”Introducing Biblical Hebrew” by Allen P. Ross (2001) Baker Academic
3.Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, 2nd English edition (1910) Oxford University Press
4.The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1999) Hendrickson Publishing
5.Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1997)

The last 4 are the books that were going to be used in the class that was cancelled at my school. I have to learn Hebrew. So, if your videos are available, then it’s me and you and a bunch of books. If your videos are not available, then it’s me and a bunch of books.

Ken Schenck said...

Here are the ones I have uploaded. I have some others too: Hebrew videos

Susan Moore said...

God bless you!!!