Monday, February 6, 2017

Let us Be the Fulfillment

Today’s readings Jesus is still speaking on the mount.  He has just finished the Beatitudes and is continuing to address the crowd.  “You are the Salt of the Earth”.  Now we all know what salt is and, this has to be metaphoric for he asks what good is salt if it loses its flavor?  What Good is it?

Peter woods in the Abingdon Press preaching annual of 2014 relays a story:
I stood on the barren piece of land where a vibrant community of people had lived.  The area is called district six, once populated by a multi ethnic community that was quintessentially Cape Town: colorful, exotically indigenous, and as spicy as Malay cuisine.
That was before apartheid came, the infamous system designed d by Christian, White South Africans to keep the races apart and favor the minority. During the implementation of apartheid, District six was systematically bulldozed to the ground and all sixty thousands of its residents forcibly removed.  Each race was taken to its allocated Ghetto.
When I stood on that barren piece of land, it was 1999 and the Parliament of World’s Religions had come to South Africa to celebrate the diversity of faiths of the world in this country that had recently been healed of the scourge of apartheid. Nelson Mandela was president. The parliament held many of its sessions in the area of old district six.  One session in particular was held on a still barren tract of land awaiting restitution claims to be concluded.
Jewish delegates of the Parliament created a large patch of salt about three by three meters that we had to walk through to get to the open land.
Salt on the land renders it barren for many years.  In South Africa, the salt of segregation created Bareness; created by Christians who had lost their understanding of justice for all.  We still worshipped on Sundays, but separately. We stilled Prayed, but only for our own concerns.  We had become bland, heartless, and barren.”[1]
Jesus is admonishing the Elders, the Pharisees, and the scribes for they have lost their flavor, their fire the thirst for justice in the world.
Then he goes on and states that you are the light of the world.  There is no point to that light if you hide it away.  Do not hide your faith.  We are called to be visible to stand out in the world but if we hide ourselves, if we have become good quiet Christians, maintaining a status quo, it makes no sense.  “In the same way your light must shine before others so that they may see your Good acts and that they may give praise to Abba God in Heaven.”  One of my Favorite Hash Tags in Face book or on twitter when our queer community starts bashing Christianity they see in the world, as if all practices of Christianity are the same, I hash tag it with #nothatkindofchristian
A conservative movement has hijacked Christianity and what it is supposed to be in the world and the only way to revision and let people know what Christianity can be is by being that proud, nonjudgmental, welcoming Christian we claim to be.  We have to be God’s unconditional love in the world.  We have to allow people to know the true message of Christ that Love does and can win and there is no place for prejudice or hate in the Kindom of God, not as we understand it.
Jesus then says I have not come to abolish the laws but fulfill them.  What does that mean, I don’t know why but the first thing I thought of is what happens when your order is fulfilled?  You are sitting at the restaurant and you order a lovely piece of Pecan Pie.  What happens next? Someone brings the pie, right? Then what?  Well most likely, you eat the pie.  Does the server bring you another piece?  No because that order has been fulfilled.  Maybe that is too simple, or maybe not.
Got questions dot org explains it this way;
In Matthew’s record of what is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount, these words of Jesus are recorded: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).
It is frequently argued that if Jesus did not “abolish” the law, then it must still be binding. Accordingly, such components as the Sabbath-day requirement must be operative still, along with perhaps numerous other elements of the Mosaic Law. This assumption is grounded in a misunderstanding of the words and intent of this passage. Christ did not suggest here that the binding nature of the Law of Moses would remain forever in effect. Such a view would contradict everything we learn from the balance of the New Testament (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).
Of special significance in this study is the word rendered “abolish.” It translates the Greek term kataluo, literally meaning, “To loosen down.” The word is found seventeen times in the New Testament. It is used, for example, of the destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans (Matthew 26:61; 27:40; Acts 6:14), and of the dissolving of the human body at death (2 Corinthians 5:1). The term can carry the extended meaning of “to overthrow,” i.e., “to render vain, deprive of success.” In classical Greek, it was used in connection with institutions, laws, etc., to convey the idea of “to invalidate.”
It is especially important to note how the word is used in Matthew 5:17. In this context, “abolish” is set in opposition to “fulfill.” Christ came “...not to abolish, but to fulfill.” Jesus did not come to this earth for acting as an opponent of the law. His goal was not to prevent its fulfillment. Rather, He revered it, loved it, obeyed it, and brought it to fruition. He fulfilled the law’s prophetic utterances regarding Himself (Luke 24:44). Christ fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic Law, which called for perfect obedience under threat of a “curse” (see Galatians 3:10, 13). In this sense, the law’s divine design will ever have an abiding effect. It will always accomplish the purpose for which it was given.
If, however, the Law of Moses bears the same relationship to men today, in terms of its binding status, then it was not fulfilled, and Jesus failed at what He came to do. On the other hand, if the Lord did accomplish His goal, then the law was fulfilled, and it is not a binding legal institution today. Further, if the Law of Moses was not fulfilled by Christ—and thus remains as a binding legal system for today—then it is not just partially binding. Rather, it is a totally compelling system. Jesus plainly said that not one “jot or tittle” (representative of the smallest markings of the Hebrew script) would pass away until all was fulfilled. Consequently, nothing of the law was to fail until it had completely accomplished its purpose. Jesus fulfilled the law. Jesus fulfilled all of the law. We cannot say that Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system, but did not fulfill the other aspects of the law. Jesus either fulfilled all of the law, or none of it. What Jesus' death means for the sacrificial system, it also means for the other aspects of the law.[2]
Now let me say this about that…It does not mean some of the law is not good as a practice.  If you do not want to eat, shellfish as a spiritual practice that is up to you.  Also, remember that what we understand as quote “The Law” unquote is nothing like what neither the people of Jesus’ time nor the Jewish people today understand as the law.
For example should you be interested in the complete Talmud you can buy “Complete Full Size Schottenstein Edition of the Talmud English Volumes (73 Volume Set)” for about 2000 dollars. That includes every word of the text which is then; “vowelized and translated Each phrase is explained so that the reader understands the reasoning and flow Each question, answer, proof and rebuttal is introduced so that the reader will know where the Gemara is taking him Notes expand on the explanation of the Gemara's points, and explain unfamiliar ideas without interrupting the flow of the text Detailed diagrams Introductions to the entire tractate and to each topic.”[3]
So anyone want to do that let us know when your done and we look forward to a brief summary.
Jesus actually goes unto say that every letter and dot and squiggle of the law shall remain until it is fulfilled. 
What are these laws?  What laws is he referring too? Well the first he says, “Unless your sense of Justice surpasses that of the religious scholars and the Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
“Jesus’ point in the Sermon on the Mount was that God sees the heart, and that we are actually held to a higher standard than external conformity to a set of rules. The Pharisees taught that, as long as you did the right things, you were “holy.” Jesus said not so, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
Jesus is teaching the necessity of having a heart to follow God. Putting on an act and going through the motions of serving God is dishonest. It is also futile, because God sees through the masks we wear (see Mark 7:6). A person who pretends to be holy on the outside yet nurtures a sinful heart is a hypocrite. The Pharisees, whom everyone thought were holy, were guilty of just such dissimulation. God does not want more activity that is religious; He wants a heart dedicated to Him. Holiness starts on the inside.”[4]
  This is why we gather as a community on Sundays, to energize our hearts.  To feed that which is our Holy connection to God and to energize ourselves for the week so that we may see and claim the blessings around us and seek to right the injustice that is so very plain to see in our world.
We, as Christians, are called to live out Christs call to justice and live out God’s call that is why as United Church of Christ our denomination is a Just Peace denomination.  Now this may seem like a tangent but it is one place where this denomination has excelled.
First let look at what Just war is. According to Wikipedia; “Just war theory (Latin: jus bellum iustum) is a doctrine, also referred to as a tradition, of military ethics studied by theologians, ethicists, policy makers, and military leaders. The purpose of the doctrine is to ensure war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. The criteria are split into two groups: "right to go to war" (jus ad bellum) and "right conduct in war" (jus in bello). The first concerns the morality of going to war, and the second the moral conduct within war.[1] Recently there have been calls for the inclusion of a third category of Just War theory—jus post bellum—dealing with the morality of post-war settlement and reconstruction.”
Just War theory postulates that war, while terrible, is not always the worst option. Important responsibilities, undesirable outcomes, or preventable atrocities may justify war.[2] But in contrast to that the UCC is a Just Peace Denomination.
“A Just Peace is grounded in God's activity in creation. Creation shows the desire of God to sustain the world and not destroy. The creation anticipates what is to come: the history-long relationship between God and humanity and the coming vision of shalom.
Just Peace is grounded in covenant relationship. God creates and calls us into covenant, God's gift of friendship: "I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore" (Ezekiel 37:26). When God's abiding presence is embraced, human well-being results, or Shalom, which can be translated Just Peace.
A Just Peace is grounded in the reconciling activity of Jesus Christ. Human sin is the rejection of the covenant of friendship with God and one another and the creation and perpetuation of structures of evil. Through God's own suffering love in the cross, the power of these structures has been broken and the possibility for relationship restored.
A Just Peace is grounded in the presence of the Holy Spirit. God sends the Holy Spirit to continue the struggle to overcome the powers ranged against human bonding. Thus, our hope for a Just Peace does not rest on human efforts alone, but on God's promise that we will "have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).
A Just Peace is grounded in the community of reconciliation: the Just Peace Church. Jesus, who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14), performed signs of forgiveness and healing and made manifest that God's reign is for those who are in need. The church is a continuation of that servant manifestation. As a Just Peace Church, we embody a Christ fully engaged in human events. The church is thus a real countervailing power to those forces that divide, that perpetuate human enmity and injustice, and that destroy.

Just Peace is grounded in hope. Shalom is the vision that pulls all creation toward a time when weapons are swept off the earth and all creatures lie down together without fear; where all have their own fig tree and dwell secure from want. As Christians, we offer this conviction to the world: Peace is possible. “
I bring this to you today to consider as a congregation might we want to consider to become officially a Just Peace Church and to answer Christs Law to bring our sense of Justice to surpass those of the Pharisees and be a Just peace Congregation.
It’s not an easy decision and there is study to go along with that, but as we move into our identity as UCC we have already of course claimed the open and affirming, we are a accessible to all church and we are the first Creation Justice Church.
Jesus said; “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). I hope we are getting there.

[1] Jenee Woodad, ed., The Abingdon Press Creative Preaching Annual 2014 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013), 42.
[2], What does it mean that Jesus fulfilled the law, but did not abolish it?, accessed February 2, 2017,
[3], Talmud Complete, Medium, accessed February 2, 2017,
[4], What does it mean that Jesus fulfilled the law, but did not abolish it?, Medium, accessed February 2, 2017, and the Law.

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