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A Uniqueness That Felt Rebellious

By: Sarah Dixon
Youth Ministry Intern
 
It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I’ve had a uniqueness within me when compared to my surroundings. Growing up in Flower Mound, a suburb of Dallas, I was often a lone liberal in a sea of red. My family was more liberal, I grew up in a PCUSA church, and my family was rooted in social justice and talking about politics. My grandma grew up in Germany during WWII and was a lifelong advocate for justice and Jesus’ vision for this world. I love telling her life story because I am proud of her, and her radical view of love and the world has set my family on a course for faith, justice-work, and love. My grandma, Christa Klingbeil, was cut from a different cloth because her family hid Jews in their German Christian home, then she was a German woman in the U.S. after WWII with a very German name. She then became a trailblazing woman in ministry. Because of her, I’ve wanted to be different from those around me.
 
In Flower Mound, I was a liberal, a Feminist, a Presbyterian, and an OSU fan. I loved being different in those ways! In college, I was also one of the few liberals involved in the evangelical ministry I volunteered with. I was basically the token liberal in one of my friend groups in college. I liked being different in this way. During my YAV (Young Adult Volunteer- volunteer year with the PCUSA) year in Denver I worked at a drop-in center for homeless youth, and I was not the only liberal this time, but I was a Texan and a Christian. I was the only church-going Christian in my work-place, I felt very unique and offbeat. Now as a seminarian at a PCUSA seminary, I am one of the few who has spent time in an evangelical ministry and doesn’t view the word evangelism with fear and disdain.
 
With all these differences I’ve brought into the spaces I’ve been in, there comes a feeling of uniqueness and rebelliousness, and also a lot of self-placed pressure. I often feel like I have to be the spokesperson for every group I represent. I had to be the not-too-extreme liberal, the not-crazy Feminist, the chill-liberal Christian, the *insert desired adjective based on the situation* liberal Christian woman working towards a life of ministry representing Jesus Christ and the Church, as well. I put this pressure on myself, and also recognize the privilege I carry in all these situations as a young white woman. I may feel like the odd person out sometimes with my beliefs, but I know that this pales in comparison to the degree of feeling “other” that so many feel in our country. I can blend into places because of how I look, and these differences I carry are things that I can choose to disclose to others. Also I’m sure when people disagree with me, it is done in a more gentle way than it could be to someone who was black, brown, LGBTQ, homeless, or an immigrant.
 
This self-imposed and society imposed pressure of being the token *blank* in a variety of spaces, makes me feel like I have to be the perfect representation of all these things because people who have held these labels have hurt others.

I want to help heal the
wounds that Christians,
evangelicals, and
liberals, have inflicted
on others.

 
It is when I make these things about myself, and not about Jesus’ full and affirming love, that they become crippling weights and parameters.
 
Jesus was and is the ultimate counter-cultural, unique, Christian, evangelical, progressive, feminist, rebel to ever be on this earth. Looking to him as my example in how to carry this load, and also the privilege of being a Christ-follower in a divisive world, is what comforts me. I don’t have to feel like I carry this burden of being the perfect person or representative of my differences in the spaces I exist in. It’s OK to be unique and rebellious because in these ways we can truly walk in the steps of Jesus, and find comfort in our ways of quiet rebellion.

Simple acts of love and
kindness are acts of
resistance.

I will remember this when I feel the societal pressures of perfectionism and capitalism. We are set apart from the structures of this world simply because we follow a divine being who showed us how to step in someone else’s shoes with grace and truth. May we give ourselves grace when we fall short, and know that a radical love holds us and dwells within us when we feel like we only have the energy to just “be”. Let that radical and pressure-relieving grace be enough for us today, tomorrow, and forever.

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Sin In The Camp: The Systemic & Generational Stain of The Sin of Slavery

By: Rev. Dr. Leon Bloder
Lead Pastor
 
In the Hebrew Scriptures’ book of Joshua there is a story that has always troubled me—from the first time I read it when I was a kid, until this day.  

In Joshua chapter 6 the Hebrew people have an incredible victory at Jericho when the Scripture tells us that the walls of the city fell miraculously, and the city was conquered by Joshua.  

It’s a violent text, to be sure. And there’s a lot of ink that has been spilled about the troubling nature of Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land. History is often written by the victors, as we ourselves have seen in recent memory. 

But there’s a lesson to be learned in all of it, in spite of the violence as evidenced in this story when  God commands Joshua to tell the Israelites that they are not to take any plunder from the city. 

You can tell that something bad is about to happen by the virtue of that command alone, and it plays out in Joshua chapter 7, which begins with these words: 

But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.

We find out later that he pocketed a really nice Babylonian robe , two hundred shekels of silver, and a fifty shekel gold bar simply because he “coveted them,” which means he broke #10 out of the Ten Commandments at the very least.

When you take a close look at that first verse, you might wonder if there’s a reason why a disobedient Achan’s genealogy is put on display (son of Marmi, son of Zimri, etc.) and then juxtaposed next to the phrase, “So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.”

If you did wonder, the reason is quickly revealed when the Israelites launch an attack on the city of Ai, which should have been an easy target, according to the Hebrew spies who went out to gather information on it.  Only Ai turns out to be anything but an easy target and the Israelites are routed. 

Achan’s disobedience results in a disaster for the entire group.  But it doesn’t take long to uncover what he did, which he finally admits to in front of the tribal leaders.  Then Achan is forced to pay the price for his disobedience—along with his entire family, livestock and all that he had.   

The troubling bit for me in that passage has always been this:

Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. 26 Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.

Like I said, it’s a violent text, and it’s texts like this that ended up turning me off to the Old Testament God, which I had been taught was the same God in the New Testament.  But what I didn’t realize is that both expressions of God were actually of the same God only viewed by different people in different stages of sociological development. 

In other words, they tended to “see” the God they could “comprehend.” 

But underneath the violent narrative, there is something important to be learned about systemic sin, and how it affects everyone in the community, and for generations.  And this lesson is one that we need to be guided by now in our current culture. 
 

————————-

 
I’ve had more than a few conversations about systemic racism over the past few months—fueled of course by the circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests all over the country, including here in Austin. 

In my experience, when you ask white Christians what they think about issues of racial injustice in America, the most often repeated response sounds something like this: 

“I know that slavery is a sin, and it was a terrible chapter in U.S. History.  BUT (there’s always a “but”) Nobody in my family owned slaves, so why should I have to pay the price for what some bad people did a long time ago?” 

I also hear things like this: 

“America is a land of opportunity—-everyone has a chance to make it.”

“There are laws against discrimination now, it’s not like it was in the past.”

“I don’t know why we need to only say ‘black lives matter’ when God loves everyone and all lives matter to God.” 
 

All of these kinds of responses neglect to acknowledge the generational impact of the sinful stain of slavery in America—a systemic impact that has been passed down from generation to generation until now. 

The systemic impact of slavery is America’s “original sin” or (more apropos to our discussion here) our own “Achanic” disobedience.  It is not something that can be legislated away, although changes in laws are a beginning.  It’s not something that can be protested away, although protests are a way of bringing it to light. 

The systemic racism created by slavery and it’s blight on our culture is something that is buried deep within our camp, and it must be uncovered, confessed and repented of—despite what such a confession might mean to those who have indirectly or directly benefited from slavery’s stain. 

There is pain in this process, and an acknowledgement of what systemic racism has done to us all, what it has cost us all, and how it has affected every aspect of our communal life together. 

Over the past several months, our congregation has been engaging in issues of racial injustice, holding discussions, having conversations, reading, listening, learning and also lamenting and repenting of our silence and complicity. 

We have come to realize that even if we believe ourselves to have clean hands and pure hearts when it comes to these issues, we will not turn away from the sin that is hidden in the camp any longer, come what may. 

Because in the end, this is our wrong to right—regardless of its origins.  And we must acknowledge and uncover at last how the systemic blight of this Achanic disobedience, has served to create these wrongs and do everything we can to make them right, or else continue to suffer the consequences of it—generation after generation. 

I hope that you will join with me in this journey toward wholeness and unity.  We will soon be forming a Racial Injustice Steering Team to help guide our church family on the way, and to keep these issues before us, help educate and inform us, and lead us to repentance, reflection and then action. 

If you are interested in being a part of this process, please contact me directly at leon@shpc.org. Let’s keep stumbling after Jesus together. 
 

Counting it all Joy, Pastor Leon


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A Pentecost Invitation

By: Rev. Britta Dukes
 

In beginning

Divine breath hovered over the deep

Generating shape and splendor from formless void

Calling forth creation

Authoring new life

Deeming it good

 

 

In Christ

Divine breath walked with humanity

Offering unconditional love and unforeseen grace

Calling forth followers

Ambassadors sharing the story of new life

Resurrection gift

 

 

In this moment

Divine Breath inspires us

Emboldening action and persevering hearts

Calling forth partners

Sent forth to establish new life

Kingdom flames

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Annie and Macbeth

By: Lindsay Lawley Rerecich

Leon mentioned Hamlet in his sermon last Sunday, but when I think of Shakespeare, my mind usually goes to Macbeth. Neither of these tragedies is my favorite among Shakespeare’s works, but I think I had to memorize a speech from Macbeth when I was in high school, and most of it is still firmly lodged in my brain:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
(Macbeth 5.5)

That’s a real pick-me-up, isn’t it? Granted, it’s beautifully wrought poetry, and granted, Macbeth, having recently committed regicide and usurped the throne, has ample reason to feel low, but still. Ouch.

Before I had to memorize these lines, I had a different association for “tomorrow” from the musical Annie. We had a version on VHS that I watched many times (it had Tim Curry as a bad guy), and at one point, the title character ends up in FDR’s office (I can’t remember why) and breaks into song with:
The sun’ll come out
Tomorrow
So ya gotta hang on
‘Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow, tomorrow!
I love ya tomorrow!
You’re always
A day away!

For many years now, I’ve thought it would be hilarious if there were a town somewhere running both of these plays at once, and one random night, Annie and Macbeth switched places for these scenes, so that some serious, Shakespearean leading man stepped out into the battlements of Dunsinane and sang “Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya, tomorrow!” while a bright-eyed, curly-haired little girl walked seriously up to FDR and said “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day… out, out brief candle!” The dissonance makes me laugh.

And to be honest, I need to laugh right now. Even in normal times, I’m not an optimist like Annie, and these are not normal times. This is not going to be an essay that tells you, “When you are isolating at home, trying to juggle work and childcare and family dynamics, and missing your usual support network and coping mechanisms and looking to the future with anxiety and confusion: be Annie, not Macbeth!” I’m feeling a lot more Macbeth. “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” has never felt quite so relatable as it does now that every day feels so much the same. I’m losing track of my usual markers of time, and the horizon at which things will feel safe or normal again is constantly receding.

In circumstances like this, the best wisdom I know is not to dwell too much upon tomorrow at all. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says: “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). I don’t think that is an exhortation not to plan or not to prepare—Jesus is big on preparation elsewhere, certainly. Rather, it is an exhortation not to fixate—not to ruminate—not to panic. Get through each day one at a time.

Neither Annie nor Macbeth get this. Macbeth is so depressed about what tomorrow may bring that he wants to snuff out the candle of today as well. Annie, on the other hand, is so confident that everything will be better tomorrow that she doesn’t address that today might very well matter in that outcome. Translating that to my life right now, on one hand, when the family tempers start rising in isolation frustration, I don’t need to exacerbate my frustration by thinking “and it’ll be the same tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that!” The future should not be a burden that makes today worse. On the other, when I sit down to plan out homebound activities, I shouldn’t just chuck my notebook out the window and say, “It’ll all be better tomorrow!” The future should not be an excuse to avoid doing what is necessary now.

Instead, I need to deal with today: today’s tempers, today’s actions, today’s anxieties, today’s joys. Today and today and today. No more, no less.

 
P.S. For additional ridiculous humor, you can read the title of the essay, “Annie and Macbeth,” to the tune of “Bennie and the Jets.”

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The Toll

An adaptation of John Donne’s Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation 17
By: Lindsay Lawley Rerecich
 
Perhaps the latest person added to the coronavirus infection toll is so sick that she neither knows nor cares where the toll stands. Perhaps I myself am an unacknowledged part of that same toll in greater ignorance: carrying danger around in my respiratory system while I feel no symptoms at all. Now more than ever, I am aware of our connectedness. What I do could infect or protect my neighbor; what my neighbor does could infect or protect me. We are one body.
 
I am used to hearing that sort of language from church. In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes that no body part can say “I am not part of the body” because they are all connected. But as the novel coronavirus first emerged, that is precisely what many of us did. News outlets, leaders, and individuals insisted that this disease was a problem for someone else, somewhere else. And yet, it spread—interpersonally, internationally, inexorably—and now the whole Human Body is sick, watching the toll climb.
 
English speakers did not start talking about a toll as an assessment of damage until fairly recently, in the late nineteenth century. Long before then, though, the tolling of church bells brought people news of births, marriages, alarms, and deaths… the latter, I imagine, ringing in a slow, solemn dirge. There is not an etymological connection between these two tolls—the funeral bells and the death counts—but there is an emotional one. Our smartphones and screens are the church bells now, relentlessly ringing fresh news of another case reported, another restriction passed, another shortage feared, another life lost. Who can shut their ears to so many bells?
 
Meanwhile, isolation and social distancing try to make us islands to and from which the virus cannot spread. This makes sense biologically, and by observing these practices, we may force the tolling bells to slow their clamor and the tolls of infection and death to slow their rise. But such isolation, important as it is physically, must not extend psychologically and spiritually.
 
No one is really an island, completely whole alone. Every one of us is part of the human mainland. When a wave washes away even a single grain of sand from our collective shore, we are all the lesser for it. Every increase in the death toll, every ring of the bell, reminds me that life is fragile—mine included. I do not need to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for me.
 
This might seem to increase my anxiety, but perhaps not. By recognizing that I share vulnerability as part of humankind, I affirm something beyond myself. Each individual affliction leads to a communal awareness that is often lacking outside of crisis. Every year, millions of people die of preventable causes like hunger and violence, and many people in privileged parts of the world never know. But the novel coronavirus, infecting us all indiscriminately, makes us all acknowledge our shared mortality. That acknowledgement can lead to fear: to panicking, hoarding, and treating others as threats to be contained, or it can lead to hope: calming, supporting, and treating others as fellows in this together.
 
I choose hope. Because ultimately, the coronavirus toll reminds me that life is precious, and it is bigger than me.

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‘Twas the Night After Christmas

‘Twas the night after Christmas, and all through the house;

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Except for me; I’ve slept nary a wink.

All I can do is lay here and think.

 

I lie in my bed, thinking back on the day,

And find myself wondering, “What would God say?”

What would He say about the money we spent,

On toys and baubles, some of which are now bent.

 

About the time we spent finding just the right present,

Fearful that otherwise things wouldn’t be pleasant.

About this year, which has been quite rough;

I’ve kept it from my family; they don’t know how tough.

 

I let them go on like nothing was wrong,

Even though much of our savings was gone.

We ended up taking on a bunch of new debt;

Just saying “Charge it!” was not our best bet!

 

Why must it be that we spend and we spend?

Does Jesus require that gifts we send?

Does God look down on us from above,

And ask for anything more than our love?

 

And yet here I am, with more bills to pay,

Not really knowing how I’ll find the way.

My credit card company’s just sent me a letter,

My interest rate’s up; how is that better?

 

I wish I was back at the beginning of December;

I’d know what I’d do, I’m sure I’d remember.

I’d start with a prayer to my Lord up above,

Thanking Him for His most wondrous love.

 

I’d ask Him for guidance and help carrying the load;

And to give me the courage to head down the road.

To share with my family chapter and verse,

So we’d all pull together instead of making things worse.

 

We’d not let our spending go all out of reason,

During this, a most wonderful season.

We’d check our wallets, purses and pay,

And stick to our budget, come what may.

 

We’d make sure there was some extra for our credit card debt,

And something extra for God; then we’d be set,

To really celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Whose gift to us was the ultimate price. 

 

And then when the night after Christmas came round,

I could sleep like a baby, not making a sound.

Because I would know that we’d done our very best;

And with God’s help and care, I could finally rest.


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The Merriest Bird

By: Lily Rerecich
 
When I wrote this poem, I thought of the creature that looks like it’s having the most merry Christmas, and the chickadee comes to mind. The chickadee is a small bird that stays the winter out in the cold, temperate forests. No matter the season, it’s always merry and joyful. The best Christmases are the ones when you choose to find happiness instead of waiting for it to find you.
 
The Merriest Bird
 
Most other birds have flown away,
They’re searching for a place to stay,
Where the weather is far more warm
Devoid of frigid ice and storm.
 
Yet hidden in tall evergreens,
A bird remains, as silence rings.
With lovely feathers, gold and white,
Its flight nimble and eyes so bright
 
So joyful is the Chickadee
Merry as anyone can be
Strong to survive the winter cold
With cheerful chirp and spirit bold.

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Ahhh… That New Car Smell!

AKA: Allen Gunter
 

Got the new car urge? It’s hard not to – ads are everywhere touting the 2020 models and all of their wonderful new features. And then there are the apparently great clearance deals you can get on a 2019. So if you’ve got the new car bug, here are some car-buying tips. (My next blog post will talk about leasing and how you can get to the point of being able to pay cash for a car – the cheapest way to buy!)

 

Look at it this way — who knows more about structuring car deals…the dealer who makes them daily or the car buyer who only makes one every few years? While it certainly is attractive to do everything in one place – buy your new car, sell your old one, get your financing – there are just too many moving parts. Some you won’t see until the very end when you’re tired and just want to get in your new car and go home, and some you’ll never see! 

 

To get the best deal, you have to think about more than just the monthly payment. Instead, you need to balance four financing factors: 

  • How much in total you want to pay for that car or truck (yes, that includes how much you’ll pay in interest)
  • How much of that you can pay today
  • How long you want to take to pay the rest, and
  • How much per month you want to pay.

 

Unfortunately, these four factors don’t always play nicely with each other. So…


Step 1:  Get Credit Where Credit is Due

Start by checking out your credit reports (free once a year) and scores (small fee; varies by credit bureau) at your preferred credit report site. You might be surprised by what you find! Most credit reports have errors, many of which are serious enough to affect the interest rate you’ll get. Clean those up and it could lower your rate. If the reports are accurate and your credit score is still low, there are ways to increase your score in a fairly short period of time.

 

Step 2:  Finance First, Buy Later

 

Even those dealer financing specials with really low interest rates or no interest until 2087 aren’t giving anything away – they’re making it back by not discounting the price of the car as much, by sticking in add-ons, etc. And the worst part is that when you go sit down with the dealership’s finance manager, the interest they have for you may be higher than the rate they will be paying their lending source. That’s right, dealerships can also make money by charging you a little bit higher interest rate and keeping the difference.

 

So before you ever step onto that car lot, check out the financing at a couple of credit unions and banks. You don’t have to be a current customer to get a rate quote, and you don’t need to know exactly what you’re going to buy. You’ll find the info you get about the effect of different down payments, length of loan, etc. is invaluable! 

 

The shorter the loan, the better:  42 months is great, but no more than 48 months. Yes, I know, there are a lot of car loans being written for 60 months and longer – I’ve seen as long as eight years! Anything longer than four years, though, and you’re just setting yourself up to be sucked into a never-ending money trap. 

 

The problem with longer loans is that you will owe more than the car is worth for most of the term of the loan.  Known as being “upside down,” it puts you in a real bind if you should need to replace your vehicle before the loan is paid off. Like when your insurance company declares it totaled after what seemed like a relatively minor accident.

 

Step 3:  Don’t Mix Old and New

 

Whatever you do with your old truck, don’t get it mixed up in the purchase of the new one. You’ll get the most money for your old car by selling it privately. Yes, that can be a hassle, so at least shop it around to several used car dealers. CarMax, for example, will make you an offer that’s good for seven days. Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, Nada Blue Book and CarFax are great sources for getting an idea of what your current vehicle is worth.

 

Step 4:  It’s The Total That Counts

 

With your old car out of the picture and your financing issues worked out, you’re ready to hit the dealerships. You’ve taken everything off the table except for one – the total cost. And that makes negotiations a lot simpler because…

 

You only have one number to think about, the total, bottom line “drive-out” cost. That cost should include tax, title, license, and any other little goodies the dealer wants to slip in like dealer prep, advertising costs, roadside assistance.  All you care about is the bottom line cost to take that truck or car home with you.

 

How that total gets allocated to various items in the dealer’s paperwork doesn’t really matter. And if you think you’ve agreed on that number but the paperwork comes back with something different, get up and walk out. (“That extra $75? Oh, sorry, I just found out from my sales manager that the shop had already applied leather conditioner to the seats.”) If you say, “Sorry, that’s not what I agreed to” and get up to leave, you’ll be surprised at how quickly that extra $75 disappears. 

 

Just remember: You have the power! That dealership doesn’t make a thing unless YOU say so! 

 

Step 5:  Enjoy Your New Vehicle!

 

And the peace of mind you’ll have knowing that you got a great deal because you made it happen!


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The Good Neighbor

By: Ellen Perkey
 

When we moved into our first house we slowly began meeting our neighbors. We had quite the mixture of people in our south Austin neighborhood. Across the street was a man I particularly remember because he’s the sort of person whom its difficult to forget. He loved to talk to everyone and kept an eye on things in his part of the neighborhood.  He invited Jason (my husband) over for beer a couple times and told us all about the neighbors who used to own our house when we brought over Christmas cookies. When Jason’s younger brother was in town visiting he went outside to make a late night phone call and sat down in the bed of our truck parked out front. Our neighbor marched over and began hassling him about what he was doing in our front yard late at night since he wasn’t used to seeing Jason’s brother around. I remember most of all his kindness and friendliness, the polite way he complimented me when he noticed I lost weight and the advice he gave us about our giant Texas Ash tree in the front yard. In many ways he was the picture of a good neighbor.

Our neighbor was an older Hispanic man who was a retired elevator installer. He was tattooed and a drinker and an ex-gang member. In many ways he personified the kind of person who is vilified in our current media. I’m sure he committed or assisted in crime as part of his life in a gang. I know he wasn’t a perfect man, but he was a good neighbor. Much like the Samaritan of the parable he was the opposite of where we expect to see goodness. God works and speaks in those places we least expect to see, and goodness is in people who have lived lives we’d like to classify as bad. Our neighbor passed away a couple years before we moved out of our home; and I will remember him as a good, imperfect person.


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The Spirit of the Law Trumps the Letter of the Law

By: LaDair Wright
SHPC Member
 

Jesus told the crowd at the Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17,20)
 
What exactly did He mean by this? The Pharisees were certainly teaching the Laws of Moses, so how was their righteousness lacking?
 

I think Jesus meant several things by this scripture. Obviously, He had come to fulfill the ancient prophesies regarding the coming of the Son of God. On a deeper level, He had come to explain the rationale behind the Laws of Moses and help us understand their deeper meanings. He pointed out that, while the Pharisees were teaching the letter of the Law, they were not always grasping the more important Spirit of the Law.

Scripture is full of examples in which Jesus essentially said, “The Laws are valid, but you are not looking beyond the words to determine their essence – the real reasons each of them was prescribed. You are not examining the context of the Laws, nor the logic for keeping them sacred.”

A prime example of this is the story of Jesus healing the man at the Pool of Bethesda who had been invalid for 38 years. The Pharisees chastised both the man and Jesus for working on the Sabbath – first the man for carrying his mat, and then Jesus for healing him. The Law said that the Sabbath must be kept holy, a commandment based on the creation story in which God rested on the Sabbath after six days of hard work. The letter of the law (resting on the Sabbath) was logical – one should follow God’s example and use the Sabbath as a day to praise God and to rest one’s body and soul for the work to be done the following week.

But the fallacy in the Law rested upon one’s definition of “work”. Work for personal gain was contrary to the Law, but work for God’s glory was in complete accord with the Law. Working for the glory of God entails praising and worshiping God and doing Godly deeds.
 
In response to the Pharisees scolding, Jesus told them: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17) 
 
We must not only consider the letter of God’s Laws, but their deeper meanings – the Spirit of the Laws – when deciding how to live our lives. Have you considered that the phrase “Spirit of the law” may refer to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is our counselor, our advocate – the presence of God that Jesus left behind to guide us when He ascended into Heaven. We must listen to the Holy Spirit and be guided on how to obey God’s Laws, and not blindly follow the directives of others who interpret the Laws for us.
 
Our righteousness must “surpass the Pharisees and teachers of the law” if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. May it be so for you, and may you dare to examine the Spirit of the Law, and not just the letter of the Law.

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