There is a book for sale titled What is the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? It’s by a pastor named Martin Thielen, and the book is actually useful and helpful for those who want to know the essence of the faith. But a title like that seems to go against the teaching of our text from the Sermon on the Mount this week.
Jesus is raising the standard of behavior in this text. He is making it harder, it seems, to be a Christian, a follower of Christ. He wants us to go further, to go deeper. In short, he is asking us to not simply follow the rules, but to consider how our behavior and our choices and our attitudes impact the wider community around us. He is talking about our influence, on how Christians are called to influence their world in a positive way. It is a continuation of the salt and light idea.
So, we hold up the example of Christ in worship today. We sing of his ministry, his example, and his call on our lives. We hear the invitation to make the most of our lives, to take the narrow way and hold ourselves to a higher standard. We call upon the Spirit to strengthen us for the daily journeys of life and living. At the same time, we pray for those in our spheres of influence, those who look to us for guidance and for a sense of hope.
We also see in our text for this week a call to be forgiving and to work toward reconciliation in every relationship. Our prayers can include an openness to healing the rifts and grudges that exist between family or friends. If there is a need, provide a space for members to pray together, perhaps as a prelude toward full reconciliation.
Relationships within the body are important, but so is the relationship of the church with the wider community. How can you lift community concerns or needs in your prayer time? What acts of service within the community are already in place that you can celebrate? What additional needs could be met, or invitations issued? Who is missing from the body of the church? Jesus calls us to go above and beyond in our attempts to see all the people.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.