When Jesus talked and talked on top of that Mountain in long ago Israel it was a real life open air revival. No crooning worship band singing during the altar call. No slide projection for the announcement portion of the service. No commitment cards or taking of offerings. Just 12 blue collar workers scratching their heads, some irritated members of the current Establishment, and a crowd of everyday people. But why were they there?
Let's think about it like this. You're living in San Francisco, CA year 2009. International flights every hour, coffee shops on every corner, "cutting edge" liberalism and problems like homelessness raise controversy and advocacy groups that argue their points daily in a city significant in history and in the present. You hear opinions on every hand about how to solve the world's problems: legislate it, revolt, convert to my religion, just serve yourself. Yet, one day, a man appears and starts talking down town. People stop and listen. He leaves town. People track him down. His words are different, his ideas startlingly applicable. The powers that be hate him. He's different, threatens the status quo but ... but...why then do his words stir inside you as if you were remembering the rightness and safety of your mother's womb? Or maybe it feels like that jump inside you the first moment your lover's finger brushed your cheek?
This is the weird setting of the "Sermon on the Mount" recorded in the book of Matthew. He was as dynamic as Hitler, as hope-giving as Mother Theresa. What he offered was, "the Kingdom of God". God, whom these people had heard about since birth. The idea of God was inescapable. But the presence of God was unattainable. Until Jesus arrived. No wonder the priests were furious. Their status was built on their appearance of closeness to Heaven. But the to do list they offered the people had nothing to do with heaven, it had only to do with image. Jesus talked about real life: crushes on your neighbor's wife, the homeless person you walk past at the Farmer's Market, your grudge against that jerk in the cubicle next to you at work, that budget you can't seem to stick to. People's emotions were stirred with relief and hope that maybe just maybe the heavens had descended to touch the earth. Maybe just maybe The Eternal was relevant Here and Now.
I've been reading the book, "Divine Conspiracy" by Dallas Willard. His explanation of the Sermon on the Mount has been filling my thoughts, tantalizing my hopes that a Divine Being is truly at hand, at my hand, pressing in around me like oxygen. The ramifications of this in my life are endless. I've only just begun trying to understand. I'm excited.