Emanuel United Church of Christ
An Open and Affirming Congregation of the United Church of Christ

2628 Fillmore Street, Philadelphia, PA  19137
"A Warm, Welcoming Church in the Heart of Bridesburg"

Pastor's Page

Dear Friends -

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12 - The Beatitudes)

The Beatitudes, cited above, are the opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount, which takes up three chapters of Matthew’s gospel. The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of Jesus’ teachings, ranging over a wide variety of topics. Beginning with the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount goes on to call on Jesus’ followers to be salt and light in the world, cautions that Jesus came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it, counsels disciples to cut off all attachments that lead to sin, presents Jesus’ teaching on relationships (abstain not only from murder but from lesser forms of physical and verbal violence and from the anger that motivates them all, abstain not only from adultery but from lust and from divorce, be faithful to commitments without relying on oaths for enforcement, demonstrate love not only for friends but for enemies), instructs that acts of charity, prayer, and fasting are to be done in secret and not for the praise of others, counsels Jesus’ followers not to worry but to trust in God, not to judge others but to persist in prayer to God, and to do unto others as we would have done unto us. The sermon ends with Jesus’ caution that those who hear and obey Jesus’ teachings are like those who build homes on solid rock, while those who hear but do not obey are like those who build castles on a foundation of sand. The sermon’s overarching emphasis is on inward transformation, not outward conformity to external authority.

The teachings of the Sermon on the Mount point to the importance before God of the quality of our relationships. Anger, lust, being untrustworthy and undependable – all of these damage relationships. While on the surface, much of the Sermon on the Mount may look like a collection of rules, it was relationships – our relationship with God, our relationships with one another – that were crucial to Jesus.

Love is at the very heart of God’s being. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity states that the persons of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are united as one God through an eternal relationship of divine love. Jesus wanted our words, our actions, our relationships to reflect God’s love and to be guided by God’s love. Jesus wanted us to value our relationships, and to live in ways that strengthened them. By letting anger, lust, and a lack of commitment intrude, we trivialize our relationships, treat them as disposable, treat those with whom we relate as disposable. Jesus wanted us to treat one another as persons created in God’s image, to value one another as carrying some spark of the divine within us – in a word, to love one another as God loves us.

Blessings for Epiphany and Lent!

See you in church!

Pastor Dave

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