I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: Gospel Matthew 5:1-12
C. Other texts for Year A, All Saints Day
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
1. c.f. Theophany scene with Moses and the elders approaching God on Mt Sinai.
2. Joke based on the apostles’ response to this passage. Do we have to write this down? Will there be a test? … What are your cognitive goals?
3. Who are the “poor in spirit”? Could this literally mean that God loves those and will call home those who find no hope in this world? That God will save even those who are not rich enough spiritually to call upon the name of Christ for salvation?
4. Is there more to this than assurance of a life to come? Does this recommend mourning?
5-6 Meekness versus striving for righteousness. Meekness sets a bound as to what constitutes a just use of force.
6-7 Righteous vs. mercy. When do we seek justice and when do we grant mercy?
7-8 Mercy vs. Purity. Being merciful means compromising one’s purity. e.g. Pope advocated giving up capital punishment even of those who do terrible things.
6-9 & 10 Righteousness vs. Peacemaking. Seeking righteousness may result in strife.
11. Attacks often include a shred of truth, twisting truth, combining ignorance with a different perspective of how to live out these tensions.
II. Literary Study.
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
- Luke 6:17, 20-23
C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms
/makarios/ ‘blessed,’ ‘fortunate,’ ‘happy,’ ‘well-off’: Trait of being god-like. Trait of being dead (having escaped the bounds of earthly existence. Trait of being wealthy in possessions or relations. BUT, Jesus says it is those who struggle in this earthly existence who are blessed. The prophets and apocalypses pick up the theme of eschatological blessedness.
III. Question the text.
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
M. Eugene Boring (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Matthew,” Abingdon, 1995.) interprets Jesus’ ascent up the mountain as theological to link Jesus with Moses for whom mountains were places of revelation. He notes the reversal from the usual practice of associating blessings with those fortunate circumstances. He concludes that rejoicing when persecuted should not express a martyr complex, but as acceptance of the “badge of belonging to the eschatological community of faith.”
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond