According to Matthew the sermon on the mount opens the public teaching career of Rabbi Jesus. It is an upbeat message of mercy and divine love to the crowds of Galilean peasants who were, in fact, quite poor and rightly saw themselves as unjust victims of an oppressive political and economic system. . .
For such a crowd Jesus’ words [were] not only difficult, but . . . politically reactionary, for Jesus praises the very qualities that were no doubt seen as weakness and a source of shame by the political messiahs.
The beatitudes describe . . . the citizens of the new kingdom. Compared to worldly standards and expectations, the redeemed people are a contrasting community to the world community.
In the first four beatitudes, we hear of a people who live expectantly trusting in God, their anchor and source of hope. The next four portray a people whose lives are directed in the difficult present and who manifest an alternate attitude. . . motivated by the redemption they have experienced.
“Blessed”. . . is an eschatological term, portraying current existence in the light of future expectations. It affirms the reign of God’s new reality. It is present in the people’s lives and it attests to the special happiness that comes from all who share the grace God bestows on those who live in accord with divine sovereignty.
The location of the sermon “on a mountain” in contrast to Luke’s location of the sermon “on the plain” makes it clear that when Jesus teaches and heals the crowds from the mountain he is revealing himself as Israel’s Messiah. . .
The threefold infinitives “to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God” are the expected activities of the citizens of God’s kingdom. Not only is this passage important as the key to Micah’s entire message, but it contains the whole theology of God’s grace, of sin and of righteousness.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Paul’s hymn to the foolishness of the cross and the power of God’s weakness may leave us puzzled. What does this celebration mean for those who are not poor or fragile? We in the United States have massive privileges not available to other people in many parts of the world.
Matthew addressed his version of the sermon on the mount to Christians who were already suffering persecution. . . Those who have no future to anticipate on earth are given a splendid future to come. Those who are overwhelmed by forces totally out of their control, who can do nothing but endure the agony, are given the assurance of a wondrous life by someone who can do something. . . .
Those who have everything . . . are in the same boat as those who have nothing. Those who have a future have as little future as those who have none—they all shall die, after all. . . As prophets like Micah. . . remind the Israelites: Apart from the Lord and giver, the gifts evaporate. . .
We all stand on the brink of chaotic despair and meaninglessness. . . empty-handed before the throne of the only one who can bless us with a future. . . the kingdom of heaven and earth.
Blair Gilmer Meeks, was at the time of this writing, a pastoral minister, writer of worship-related resources, and leader of workshops on worship. Her four books include Standing in the Circle of Grief: Prayers and Liturgies for Death and Dying (Nashville: Abingdon, 2002).
Homily Service 38, no. 2 (2005): 43-50.