Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fear's the Way You Die, Part II

Great Blue Heron
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
The Sermon on the Mount is a practical guide for people to be perfect as their Abba in heaven is perfect. Hold on, you just said this was a practical guide! I can’t be perfect like God is perfect. Well, I agree you can’t be perfect is you are using Greek philosophy to define what perfection is. A few hundred years before the birth of Jesus, a Greek philosopher named Plato was all the rage and he believed that every thing on earth was a mere shadow, an imperfect imitation of the true form of that true and perfect thing in heaven. We talked about this last year when we studied the Sermon on the Mount, remember? To Plato, the perfect apple was only in heaven and it was without blemish or flaw, with the most pleasing shade of color, balanced just right in its sweetness and tartness, un-bruised and absent any worm or parasite. That’s the way the Greeks thought about perfection. And that’s the way we think about perfection, too. But that’s not the way Jesus thought about perfection. Jesus was a Jew and in Jewish thought, the perfect apple is the apple that does what God created to do, namely to nourish its seeds and create a new apple tree. The perfect apple does what it was created to do.

When Jesus commands us to be perfect as our Abba in heaven is perfect he is telling us to be what we were created to be. Nothing more. Nothing less. And the Sermon on the Mount tells us how.

All that to say, when the commentators started bashing and minimizing the message of Psalm 37, red flags started going up in my mind. You see, when I first started looking at Psalm 37, I was amazed at how it is similar to the Sermon on the Mount in its specific teachings and overall themes.

I don’t see it merely as a whiney psalm about how the wicked get away with stuff. I don’t see it as an unsatisfactory “pie-in-the-sky-bye-and-bye” kind of response to the problem of evil any more than the Sermon on the Mount is a set of rules that only apply “when we all get to heaven…”

Think of it. Psalm 37 is not about “Quit whining about the rich – you’ll get yours eventually.” It’s about participating right now in God’s kingdom, God’s reign. It’s about participating with a God who knows us and loves us, who delivers us and provides our daily bread, who delights in us and gives us the desires of our hearts! This is a much better theology, don’t you think?

One of the quotes I did like from the commentators was this – it was just a comment on the psalms in general – “Wherever you are in your spiritual journey, whatever emotions your heart may be feeling, whatever struggles you may be going through, you will find a place in the Psalms that resonates and draws you closer to the Lord.”

By Roger, but wait! There's more!


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