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Counter Culture           Matt 5:1-2

You’ve caught a wave stumbled to your feet and most likely ridden the whitewash to the beach after a number of failed attempts. This sport or activity has fascinated you for a while and you’ve given it a go. Perhaps you were introduced via a family member or a friend into surfing. This initial tentative time of humble beginnings can start a lifelong journey into a lifetime of ocean adventures. Like any tribe, there are expected norms behaviour language values that are shared across the culture. For that is what surfing is a tribe a culture or a subculture one that is not the predominant or mainstream but rather his other to that.

Jesus in Matthew ch 5 – ch 7, what is often called the sermon on the mount is laying forth his manifesto on culture the culture of the kingdom of God the follower of Jesus culture and it is a Christian counter-culture, it is apart and often opposite to the mainstream. 

Jesus sits down with his disciples (not just the 12) and outlines for them his teaching. This is sometimes called his Yoke. The teaching of a rabi is described as a yolk that a follower would take upon himself. thus it controls decisions and shapes direction for the follower. The religious Jews and Pharisees wore the Yoke of the Torah (the first 5 books of the bible) and the yoke of their Rabis interpretation of it. 

‘The followers of Jesu were to be different; different from the normal church and the secular world, different from the religious and the irreligious’ J Stott.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 – For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We will find as we explore the manifesto of Jesus that it has as much relevance to us today as it did then. That indeed we too can take upon ourselves this yoke.

It is easy though to distill the teaching of Jesus down to a list.  A list is made up of things to do and things to receive by doing. To interpret this as a new law is to negate Grace. and to miss interpret the first beatitude which we will look at in-depth. But to explain here it is 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Blessed or happy are those who recognize the poverty of their own spiritual efforts.

The manifesto of Jesus is not a recipe to bake the ‘perfect blessed Christian or even to deliver ‘your best life now. It is a picture painted by God of how his people live and look.

Tolstoy believed as many do that the sermon on the mount was feasible, while on the other hand, his own mediocre performance at adherence told him it was not.

The standards of Jesus’s manifesto are neither readily attainable for every person, nor totally unattainable by every person. To put them beyond anyone’s reach is to ignore the purpose of Christ’s teaching; to put them within everyone’s reach is to ignore the reality of sin. They are attainable all right but only by this who has experienced the new birth described to Nicodemus. For this new righteous described by Jesus is an inner righteousness that manifests itself outwardly. Visible in words deeds and relationships. It still remains however righteousness and a new birth of the heart.

Ezekiel 36:26 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

John 3:3 – Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

To render Jesus teaching as anything other is to apply a new Law and negate grace.

So just like the surfing culture this new Christian culture is a lifetime journey. An exploration of the soul that involves both mountain tops and valleys. 

The law works fear and wrath; grace works hope and mercy.   – Martin Luther

My worth is what I am worth to God; and that is a marvelous great deal, for Christ died for me. Thus, incidentally, what gives to each of us His highest worth gives the same worth to everyone; in all that matters most are we equal. – William Temple

I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am. – John Newton

“Grace cannot prevail…until our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed.”  Robert Farrar Capon 

“Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world. It is a floating, cosmic bash shouting its way through the streets of the universe, flinging the sweetness of its cassations to every window, pounding at every door in a hilarity beyond all liking and happening, until the prodigals come out at last and dance, and the elder brothers finally take their fingers out of their ears.” Robert Farrar Capon

“Grace cannot prevail...until our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed.” Robert Farrar Capon