We are here look­ing at ways to prac­tice the Ser­mon on the Mount. What is giv­en below is mere­ly my way of jump-start­ing your think­ing with the hope that you will take it from there, dis­cov­er­ing ever new ways to apply the Ser­mon on the Mount to your dai­ly life. One warn­ing: space allows me to use only iso­lat­ed say­ings, and to tru­ly under­stand the height and the depth and the breadth of the teach­ing we must see it in its full con­text. But then, that is the task of our study for the months and years to come.

1. In the beat­i­tudes” Jesus takes up var­i­ous kinds and class­es of peo­ple that in his day were thought to be unblessed and unbless­able, and he shows how the King­dom of God is avail­able to them and how they too can be blessed. No won­der the poor heard him glad­ly! As the Simon and Gar­funkel song goes, Blessed are the sat upon, spat upon, rat­ted on.” In The Divine Con­spir­a­cy Dal­las Willard gives con­tem­po­rary expres­sion to these unblessed and unbless­able- – the phys­i­cal­ly repul­sive … the bald, the fat, and the old … the flunk-outs and drop-outs and burned outs. The broke and the bro­ken. The drug heads and the divorced. The HIV-pos­i­tive and her­pes-rid­den. The brain-dam­aged, the incur­able ill. The bar­ren and the preg­nant too-many-times or the wrong time. The overem­ployed, the under­em­ployed, the unem­ployed. The unem­ploy­able. The swin­dled, the shoved aside, the replaced.…” (pp. 123 – 124). Ask your­self: How can I make the king­dom of God avail­able to indi­vid­u­als who are human­ly hope­less? Then as you go about your days, learn to take time to point out the nat­ur­al beau­ty of every human being.

2. Take an after­noon to trav­el through your town on pub­lic trans­porta­tion. Observe those who use this ser­vice. If you are not nor­mal­ly depen­dent on pub­lic trans­porta­tion, con­sid­er how you would have to rearrange your life if you were always depen­dent on a bus sched­ule. As you ride, pray about being open to some­one you meet on the bus. Being open” might mean strik­ing up a friend­ly con­ver­sa­tion, show­ing con­cern, offer­ing help of some kind, pray­ing for some­one or shar­ing the good news” with them. (Adapt­ed from Dal­las Willard’s Study Guide to the Divine Con­spir­a­cy, p. 47.)

3. Jesus had some very strong words to say about human anger (Matt. 5:21 – 26). Ask your­self: What sit­u­a­tions in my life set off recur­ring angry impuls­es? After you have iden­ti­fied sev­er­al sit­u­a­tions, take the most press­ing one and con­sid­er how you might respond dif­fer­ent­ly in light of the real­i­ty that your well-being, your blessed­ness, comes from God and your life in the King­dom of God. Then, for the next few weeks focus on this sin­gle sit­u­a­tion and seek in the pow­er of the Spir­it to react to it in new ways. Watch this devel­op a new response pat­tern in you. Do all you can to nur­ture this new holy habit”.

4. In the Ser­mon on the Mount Jesus says, Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Any­thing more than this comes from evil” (Matt. 5:37). This teach­ing urges us to state what is actu­al­ly the case with­out embell­ish­ing or dis­tort­ing things in any way. Jesus knows that all our lit­tle embell­ish­ments are attempts to manip­u­late sit­u­a­tions or coerce oth­ers. In fact, many today get hand­some salaries by learn­ing ever more clever and attrac­tive ways to say yeses that are not yeses and noes that are not noes — we call them spin-doctors.

In your place of work, per­haps from now until Christ­mas, try out Jesus’ coun­sel to sim­ply state what is with­out embell­ish­ment or dis­tor­tion. Keep a jour­nal record of the time. See what you learn about your­self, about oth­ers, about your work­place, and more. Espe­cial­ly note your grow­ing ease with telling the truth. It is one of those habits of the heart that we take to like a duck takes to water, for, indeed, we are cre­at­ed to tell the truth! To be sure, it is hard at first for we are so accus­tomed to rely­ing upon decep­tion, but watch and see how much freer and alive you feel telling the truth.

5. In Matthew 6:9 – 13 we are giv­en the Lord’s Prayer, the grand­est prayer of all. Try what C. S. Lewis called fes­toon­ing” as you pray through this Prayer. To under­stand fes­toon­ing think of dec­o­rat­ing a Christ­mas tree: the Lord’s Prayer is like the tree itself; the var­i­ous orna­ments and tin­sel is your festooning.

So now, pray the Lord’s Prayer allow­ing each phrase of the Prayer to move you into prayers par­tic­u­lar to your per­son­al world. For exam­ple, pray­ing, Your king­dom come” might move you into tak­ing up the needs of neigh­bors and friends and work asso­ciates, pray­ing that God’s king­dom will come in them and in the cir­cum­stances of their lives. And the fes­toon­ing will change from day to day, match­ing the chang­ing par­tic­u­lars of your world. 

Text First Published October 2017 · Last Featured on Renovare.org May 2021

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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