Community: Matt. 5:13-20
#Community is the Podcast for February 5, 2017. In the intro to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says some pretty important stuff to set the tone for the entire dialogue. What does this have to do with community, Pharisees, and us? Listen to this podcast to find out.: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Forgiveness #Fulfillment #MessianicCommunity
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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 2/5/2017 The 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 5:13-20.
There is nothing more exhilarating and nerve wracking than representing the boss at events. I remember when I was at the University, I used to represent the President at funerals of students and staff members when he could not go. I wanted to be sure to put the best foot forward, represent the university well, and convey probably an even deeper sense of importance to the person than even the President had meant. It was my way of being sure my representation would cause others to want to be a part of our community. In fact, I wanted to convey that there was something substantially better about our community than others. I wanted people to know, at the very least, that I intended to try to live a life that was markedly different than what everyone else was doing.
When I would mess that kind of role up, which has happened a time or two in my lifetime, thankfully not at a funeral representing the University, there was no one more disappointed in myself than me. This same kind of dynamic plays out in our faith.
A life of faith is much more than a spiritual self-help course. It is a mission and a task that is given to us by none other than the Father in Heaven through his Son, Jesus Christ. Although we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we have to live this faith out in these earthen vessels which are subject to all kinds of sin: jealousy, anger, envy, and so on.
We are to be the Messianic Community—we together and individually are a living sign of the way God intended humanity to live. So, that means that we are to have a full flavor of the Gospel. When one of us is down, the other lifts them up. When one is weak, the other is strong. When one is being a jerk, the other gently calls it to their attention. We are, together, a Messianic Community that is lit by the Holy Spirit. That fire causes us to go in the quiet of our room and pray to the Lord, then go out into the world to do things that shine before others.
There needs to be a marked difference between us and the world. It is to be a public existence. It is to say, “If you want to know God, I can show you.” It is to be the best person that we can be because we represent not only ourselves, but our community, and the Lord God Almighty. My son says that you should never judge a religion by its adherents, but who wants to be the one to admit that they are the one through whom a person was turned away from faith, the Church, and being part of the community?
In the coming weeks, we will hear Christ talk about what the actual qualities of being part of a Messianic Community are. There is one thing for sure, outside of the sacrificial laws of the Old Testament, Jesus did not come to rewrite the law and the prophets. He came that we would fulfill the Law and the Prophets. In fact, we are called to exceed the basics of the Law and the Prophets.
There was a priest who was known for keeping the Sabbath. He never did anything but go to church on Sundays. This priest was also trying to impress upon a couple that their attendance was needed in the community every week without being overbearing. One Sunday, before cell phones, texting, and email were common ways of communication, the couple called the church to say they could not read at Mass that day because the tire on their car had gone flat. The priest took the call. When he hung up, he looked at the clock and did something no one expected. He left the church, got in his car, stopped by his garage to pick up a couple of items, drove to the couple’s house, and began to jack up the car with his floor jack. This is when the couple came out of the house. They were stunned to see their priest in his collar undoing the lug nuts on their flat tire, especially on a Sunday.
The husband said to the priest, “Father! What are you doing? You should be at Church, it is going to start in less than an hour!” The priest turned and said, “The Sabbath is meant for us, not to be a legal hurdle to helping a member of the family. You are part of my family. You are too important to me. So, if you are inclined, would please join us today?”
This true story did several things. It showed that a Messianic Community is like a tribe: we have each other’s backs. It also showed that interpreting the Law is something that requires wisdom. Wisdom indicates which law has the higher value in a given situation. In this instance, the law of love and generosity overrode the gift of the Sabbath. I say gift, because the Sabbath is a built in excuse to say no to things so we can get a break from our phones, our email; our interrupted lives. The Gospel is always about loving God and loving the neighbor. If what I am about to do is going to cause the person I am with harm, it is usually a good rule to not do it. Sometimes, the rule to follow requires that we allow people to be hurt. This is why we have to constantly be in connection with the Holy Spirit.
I can tell you that the story of the priest changing a tire because a member of the flock was so important made a serious impression on the couple. It told them they were an indispensable part of the parish, the Messianic Community, that brings God’s love in palpable ways to one another. They did become regular attendees to the church. Their faith did increase. The priest was a living sign and then the couple became even more of a living sign of the Kingdom of God in this world.
This does not mean that Messianic Communities do not have their problems. 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, and Hebrews, just to name a few, were Messianic Communities that had incredible problems. Corinth had infighting. Galatia kept following the next misguided preacher who rolled into town. Colossae struggled with false teachers and the recipients to the Letter to the Hebrews were persecuted so badly for their faith that people were leaving the community just to get a reprieve. Sometimes, all we have left is to admit our wrong doing, confess it to the person wronged and to God, ask both for forgiveness, and then try not to do it again.
We will see later on, that another mark of a Messianic Community is mercy with forgiveness. The goal is always the restoration of our brothers and sisters. We will see next week that this extends even to our enemies. This mission, if you should choose to accept it, is to love the Lord, the world and one another in such a way that the Kingdom of God exists [here in this Messianic Community] in your Messianic Community.
There is a reason, more than just because it is Scriptural and Jesus said so, that we believe the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ. When we receive his body and blood, he is nourishment for our spirit, soul, mind, and body. In a sure and certain way, He comes into us to change us. It is a mystery. We really don’t know how He does it, but He does. He is the connecting principle. The Messiah, given to us all, transforms us into the Messianic Community.
We read the Scriptures daily because we are called to be the flesh on the bones of the Law and the Prophets. We are to have the blood of wisdom coursing through our veins. We are the Community of the representatives, the Community of the flat tire, the Community of love, the Community of the Messiah who laid down his life for the forgiveness of all sins. We may not be perfect, but we must have this kind of community as our goal. The renewal of the world starts with us. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2017.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian