Summary: The hard commands of Jesus are best understood as being directed to the church, which should be a Community of Grace. This sermon addresses Jesus’ teaching on lust, sin and adultery.
The Examined Life in the Community of Grace
Our key scripture today suggested to me the sermon title, The Examined Life”. You may have heard of this saying by Socrates, an ancient philosopher: “The unexamined life is not worth living." It struck me that, in some very strong language, what Jesus was getting at was the importance of guarding the heart, keeping track of our impulses, of not taking our freedom for granted.
But then I thought some more, and I thought about the
community of disciples that were with him on the Mount of Olives, I thought about us.
We are The Community of Grace. All that we have in life, all that we enjoy in God, all that God has done for us in Christ, is his grace. And grace is unmerited favour.
I think it’s near impossible to even really hear what Jesus says in this passage, on our own, without a community of Grace to work this out in. We can quickly, on our own, become quite legalistic.
[Frenetically] “O.K. this means that just to let my eye wander or to think a lustful thought means that I committed adultery, which means that I committed a horrible sin, which, basically means I’m toast...And so I need to gouge out the source of this problem. My eyes. Man, I’m going to miss my eyes.”
Henri Nouwen, a catholic priest and friend to the mission until his death in 1996, said this: “How do we befriend our inner enemies lust and anger? By listening to what they are saying. They say, "I have some unfulfilled needs" and "Who really loves me...Instead of pushing our lust and anger away as unwelcome guests, we can recognize that our anxious, driven hearts need some healing. Our restlessness calls us to look for the true inner rest where
lust and anger can be converted into a deeper way of
A deeper way of loving. That is what Jesus is pointing to. And the community that Jesus was creating when he spoke these words is the community of grace.
So what does it mean to belong to community of grace?
A community of grace understands that we all make
mistakes. We are all sinners. There are no super-saints among us. In this kind of community we can be who we truly are, and develop into what God wants us to be.
In Foundations we’ve talked a lot about church culture. Sometimes in church we feel we need to wear masks to protect ourselves. We sense a pressure to act more together than we really are. We try to pretend we don’t struggle with sin. We pretend we don’t get angry. We don’t have doubts.
But the community of grace is a culture where you are who you are and I am who I am, warts and all, and still we find love and acceptance in each other’s presence.
There’s a story in the bulletin today that I’ll read to you:
“I once knew a very old married couple who radiated a
tremendous happiness. The wife especially, who was
almost unable to move because of old age and illness and in whose kind old face the joys and sufferings of many years had etched a hundred lines, was filled with such a gratitude for life that I was touched to the quick. Involuntarily, I asked myself what could possibly be the source of this kindly person’s radiance. In every other respect they were common people, and their room indicated only the most modest comfort. But suddenly I knew where it all came from, for I saw those two speaking to each other, and their eyes hanging upon each other. All at once it became clear to me that this woman was dearly loved. It was not because she was a cheerful and pleasant person that she was loved by her husband all those years.