Sermon 10-18-20 The Rev. Sherm Skinner Matthew 5:43-48
I want to share two verses of Scripture with you. The first is from the Good News Bible, where Jesus said, “No pupil is greater than his teacher, but every pupil, when he has completed his training, will be like his teacher.” So, we who follow Jesus Christ, who are his disciples, his pupils, have, as a goal, to be more like him, to be more Christ-like.
And then, from the passage we just read, from the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Someone has pointed out that to be perfect, in this sense, is to be perfectly human, just as a tree is perfectly a tree, and God is perfectly God. It means to be fully what you are, fully human, to be fully like our teacher, Jesus Christ.
Professor William Hamilton once wrote, “Jesus is a figure of sufficient clarity. . . to be for us the center for Christian faith and life. . . .Jesus is the one. . .before whom I stand, the one whose way with others is also to be my way.
And David Woodyard comments: “I find here a clue to the shaping and styling of an authentically human life. . .I struggle with being a Christian in joy and humility, because, in the event of Jesus Christ, I find the depth and breadth of what it means to be a human being. And I find it nowhere else with the same clarity and contagion.” He goes on: “Jesus provides me with an image of what my life is called to be. . . .By standing over against me in all my imperfections, he stands for the person I could become.”
And then he has a passage of such stirring beauty that I have used it, on occasion, in worship, as a Litany of Confession and Faith: “Jesus Christ keeps me from being a lesser self, from falling short of the very humanness I could achieve. He stands against my impulse to hate another who has offended me, and challenges me to accept in another the defects I tolerate in myself. He stands again my indifference to the plight of others, and challenges me to confirm their goodness and sustain their dignity. He stands against my desire to possess everything for myself, and challenges me to share my abundance with others. He stands against my unruly love of self, and challenges me to love my neighbor with the same fervor. He is forever calling forth a depth and breadth of humanness, in a way no one else can. And from time to time in his claim upon my life, I recognize more than the action of a human being. I must confess to seeing “The glory of God in the face of Christ.”
That’s the kind of teacher we have on our hands and in our midst – this Christ, who stands over against those things that warp and limit human life and make us less than human, and who challenges us and frees us to live fully human, and loving, lives.