The heart of the matter for Mennonites - Matthew 5-7. This sermon on a mountain is referenced by many Christians, but it has become a cornerstone for Anabaptists, including Mennonites. Instead of focusing on belief or belonging, Anabaptists focused on behavior. To think things with your mind, and articulate words with your mouth were not enough. The Anabaptists wanted more than just belonging to a spiritual society or a culture of Christendom and cathedrals. Anabaptists wanted to learn the heart of God and listen to the words of Jesus in a way that prompted repentance, change and actual daily deeds of love, peace, salvation and reconciliation. Catholics and Christians had already been doing this in previous generations, but it was not always the primary purpose of the priests and mass. Anabaptists in the 1500s, and Mennonites now, desire to keep actions and relationships as the primary role of believing in Jesus, following God, and being part of the kingdom/empire/nation/people of God. Salvation cannot be a confession and a prayer to God if it fails to continue with actions of change/repentance. Again, this continues the themes of John the Baptist, and Jesus in the wilderness. John invited people to baptize towards obedience to God, and Jesus called disciples that would turn from the ways of Satan, towards God.
The Sermon on the Mount is often related to the Ten Commandments during the time of Moses. Jesus does not disregard the commandments from Exodus, but makes sure that they understood for the core issues, and not as a to-do list devoid of context and relationships. They are not a way to get ahead of people, nor are they a way to separate people. At their core, they were meant to be used as a way for people to live peacefully together. They were meant to keep the peace, to continue peace, and to continue relationships with people, the earth/nature and God.
What is your favorite part of the Sermon on the Mount? If you don't have one, read it through again beyond Sunday morning and consider whether or not this is still central for Mennonites and for your faith. If it isn't, what is more central today?
Our prayer this Advent continues to be Mary's song:
46 And Mary* said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’