Matthew 5:1-2 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
Too often church becomes about the show. It is right to work to ensure that everything we do during a church service is done with excellence. While I agree that no one should be simply winging their worship. I am afraid that this orchestration often goes too far. Each service has a set script. In the high church they call this the liturgy and but the Evangelical church would be horrified to realize that they have their own liturgy. Because I speak at a multitude of churches I see pretty much the same thing though the order typically varies slightly
Opening praise song (Usually lively) In most of the churches there is clapping.
Then announcements and greeting of each other. (I am sure the greeting will change in the light of the plague)
Then there are more praise songs and a subtle change to worship music (Lively toward more somber and focused music)
Then there is the offering
Then a sermon that must not last much longer than 20-40 minutes so everyone can get out in time to get to the restaurants before they get crowded.
As we get ready to discuss Jesus’s most powerful sermon the thing that stands out to me is that Jesus did not seem to be expecting to preach to the crowds. He was there, they were there so He began to teach them.
Jesus is just going about His day and he decided to seize the opportunity. He saw them. I have no doubt that He saw their physical forms. Man, woman, boy, girl, goat, chicken, ox or whoever or whatever was there. But He saw them. He saw their need. Socially, emotionally, mentally. He saw the whole person.
Later He will give a parable that we often call the Good Samaritan. In that story Jesus points out that the Samaritan saw the man. He did not just notice him. He saw Him as a man of need.
Jesus will also later tell the story that we call the Prodigal Son. The Father there saw the boy a long way off.
When we have the show planned seeing the people will throw off the script. Each person coming to the church service has their own need. Notice I said they have a need. Too many come to church to check the box, feel good and go home unchanged. Every single person that walks into the church service has a need to connect with their Savior. Sometimes that connection fills us full of joy as He commends us for serving Him faithfully. Other times though we feel the pain of correction. He loves us enough to correct us so that we will stop hurting His children.
Many months ago now I confronted someone who obviously misunderstood the Scriptures and attempted to delicately show him how his teaching was hurting people. He dismissed me. He demonstrated that he could not see the people’s need. All this man could see is that his teaching was popular and that was how he was going to go forward. He could not see that he was not seeing the entirety of Scripture.
But the truth is most of us can not see the fullness of God. We must do like Jesus did if we are going to call ourselves disciples. It must start with being teachable. Our verse for today tells us the disciples came to Him. They had learned from Rabbi’s and fathers before this. But they were open to learn directly from Jesus. Are we?
Jesus looked around the crowd and saw that these men and women had needs. He does not start out with an entertaining video or flashy introduction. He sits down and addresses the people out of love and compassion.
Out of Love and compassion the body of Christ needs to learn what does the Gospel look like at work. What does the Gospel look like when my dad is abusive? What does the Gospel look like at home? What does the Gospel look like at the playground when there is a bully?
The church must start answering the question. What does the Gospel look like at the hospital, on the highways and to the guy sleeping in the doorways of the church building?
What would the modern church look like if we took our focus on the “Church Service” and focused on the Church being a service to our community?
What if the church saw the need beyond music, offerings and preaching?
Again there is nothing wrong with worship services. The problem is that we don’t let the translate from the church pew (or chairs mostly now) to the living room couch. The church must help people figure out how to become Christ followers no matter what life throws at them.
It will be another three chapters before Jesus gets to the conclusion but it all begins with his compassion for the crowd. The conclusion that is spoken of by Jesus by His actions here is that there will be storms and only through the love of God will you survive. We must build our lives on His love. We can’t do that if we ignore the need.