Readings: Psalm 119:1-8 and Matthew 5:21-37
Jesus invites us to move beyond the limits of the Law and human religious traditions and into heart matters – to get to the heart of things. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day loss sight of the heart: their own heart, the heart of God’s holy Law, and the heart of God’s intended way of being in the world. Jesus is not teaching us to abandon God’s Law (Mt.5:17) but rather to see God’s Law as a way to live a humane life: a fully human, robustly life-giving and loving life as God intended.
- Begin your devotional reading by sitting and soaking in Psalm 119:1-8. What do you notice emerging from your own heart as you meditate on the words of the psalmist? How do the psalmist’s sentiments evoke reverence for God’s holy Law? What goodness does the psalmist envision for life by interacting with and living out God’s commandments?
- Sit with Matt. 5:21-37 reading it through a couple of times listening deeply to Jesus’ teachings as he corrects core misconceptions of Kingdom spirituality. Of all the real human and relational issues he addresses – anger, reconciliation, lust, marital relationships, truth-telling, lying, oaths – which one resonates with you? Why? How do Jesus’s teachings expand or correct your perspective of the issue? From his teachings, how do you understand the connection between the heart (interior condition) and behavior (external way of being in theworld, relating to others)? (For an alternate reading go to Mark 7:1-1-23 to assist you in thinking through Jesus’ teachings.)
- Take a moment to reflect on your own heart as well as your current relationships with others. Is there something you’d like to address with Jesus about your life or have him address with you? Open to the Holy Spirit in these moments, asking for the grace to hear truth, to desire God and his good instructions for life, and the courage to make changes if necessary in order to live in a God-honoring way in your relationships.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
– Elizabeth Khorey
Readings: Psalm 112:1-9 and Matthew 5:13-20
The heart of the Sermon on the Mount is the heart. Jesus’ teaching to his disciples revolves around Matt.5:17-20 and governs what came before and his remaining (through Matt.7:28). Jesus stands juxtaposed to the religious leaders of his day and expresses the real intent of the Law that was given to God’s people on Mt. Sinai (see Matt.22:38-40). Jesus’ criticism was toward a purely moralistic or behavioral oriented religious system without a change of heart. Jesus himself embodies the entire message of the Law and the Prophets: a self-giving love for God and others. His followers are invited into a different kind and quality of life that derives its reality and way of being in the world from a Person and relationship rather than a handbook for behavioral management or modification.
- As you sit with Matt.5:13-20 listen to Jesus’ vivid description of his disciples: You are salt…light…a lamp…a city on a hill. What one image captures your heart and imagination? Why? Is this how you see yourself in the world? If so, how does the way you see yourself in the world enhance your perspective and experience of life in the world? In what ways are you salt, light…etc…in your family, at work, in your church community, with strangers? If not, how do you see yourself, your life in God? How might these descriptive images expand or change your perspective of your identity in God and way of being in the world?
- As you think about your life and way of being in the world, take time to discern any inner struggles, circumstantial difficulties, or real people in your life that might be diminishing your experience of God’s kingdom and goodness, and your influence or way of being in the world? Have a conversation with God about these things.
- While reflecting on Jesus’ teachings, what invitations do you sense from God? How might you respond to God in concrete ways today? What changes might you make to live more fully into God’s kingdom life?
- Read through Jesus’ descriptives of his followers again. What assurances or encouragements do you receive to your heart and life, right where you are, just as you?
– Elizabeth Khorey