Sunday, October 11, 2009

Breeding - We Hazs It (Matthew 5:7-12)

My name is BlahBlah. And i am a yoghurt addict. My fermented milk of choice is La Fermière's Nature. Unlike most commercial brands, this trumps Nestle's La Laitière in the Proustian associative stakes - thick, creamy, tart, very good with morning muesli before heading for the slopes. But at S$8.90 a hit (S$4.00 if only 2 days to go to expiry), regular expenditure on sandstone pots was not a viable lifestyle choice.

Homemade Yoghurt in Old La Fermière Sandstone Pots
Thanks to Harold McGee however, we've been breeding colonies of the stuff in old pots with a minimal outlay of Meiji full cream milk (which tastes so good that one wonders if the made-in-Thailand ladies at Patpong give sufficient warning mutatis mutandis wrt this other Thai export).

1. Sterilise old yoghurt pots in boiling water.
2. Double-boil almost a litre of full-cream milk until bubbles start to form at the edges and it is steaming (83-88 degrees celcius).
3. Bake random snacks while waiting for the milk to cool to somewhere between very warm and hot (46-49 degress celcius).
4. Stir in two tablespoons of starter yoghurt of your choice into milk.
5. Pour defiled milk into sterilised pots.
6. Cover pots with original cover/foil, place in heavy-bottomed pot, tuck in kitchen towels, stick whole lot in still warm oven.
7. Go to sleep.
8. Stick happy fermented milk pots into fridge until yoghurt is needed.

Very good seed on fertile ground. Probably just like Jesus' description of the members of his kingdom:
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:7-9)
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matthew 5:7) presents a further stage in Jesus' description; a breeding of a different sort from milk-made-bad but just as inevitable. A member of Jesus' kingdom is defined more by who he is, his character and disposition, than what he does. Logically, his being and his attitude will affect his actions. But Jesus' emphasis has been on the being. Therefore, the point is not to act in a Christianly manner but to first be Christian so that our actions are the outcome of that state. So perhaps it is less helpful to be primarily concerned with finding the main point of the passage so that one can apply it to one's life and more important to be so thoroughly convinced and dominated by the truth that it controls us and we cannot help but apply it thus.

So far, Jesus has been describing the sort of person who is given the kingdom of heaven, he is the man who has seen the truth of his own poor condition before God and is painfully conscious both of his need to be right with God and his own inability to satisfy such a need. And to this helplessness and desperation, having no righteousness of his own yet having to face God in his perfect righteousness, gloriously, Jesus says, because the king has now come, those who are truly objectively hateful yet hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be filled.

He is now given the free gift of righteousness for no good reason other than the generosity and mercy of God. This mercy isn't an easy-going flabby mercy that smiles indulgently at naughty-naughty sin and winks then turns a blind eye to injustice. God is merciful yet righteous, holy and just. His mercy does not come at the expense of truth and law or his Son would not have had to die to pay for our transgressions. Rather than ignoring the muck and evil around, mercy looks upon the miserable consequences of sin and desires to relieve the suffering (see occurrences of "mercy"). Pity + action = mercy.

There are some people who are naturally kind-hearted and given to doing works of charity. These are not the people Jesus has in mind. Rather, it is those who are bred this way because of the mercy that they have already. The parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35, cf Matthew 6:14) illustrates this well. So Jesus is not promising mercy to aspiring Mother Teresas (cf Exodus 33:19) but those who, as an inevitable living out of their great conviction of the mercy God has shown them, do their acts of mercy. They see the world with Christian eyes, not as people whom they like or dislike, not with a smug superiority, but victims of their own sin, slaves of Satan cluelessly recklessly bound for hell; they see everyone who is in a state of sin as someone who is to be pitied and are moved to help them out of this dire state.

"Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I wanna see you"? Jesus implies this is no further step from being Christian: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8). Is the Christian necessarily pure in heart? Aren't they poor in spirit, mourning etc precisely because purity of their very beings in relation to God is severely lacking, because they know the wicked and deceitful tar in their hearts and the ?
Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the LORD
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. (Psalm 24:3-6)
Purity of heart in view here is not keeping God's commandments perfectly and never thinking an evil thought because people have isolated themselves in monastries and lobbed off stumbling bits of flesh to no avail. Neither can it be reduced to a mere matter of decency, morality or intellectual interest in the Christian faith. Rather, it is about single-minded-ness and holiness (Hebrews 12:14) that has been given to us, about our whole being seeking God from whom we will receive righteousness of his salvation (Psalm 24:5 - therefore this is not reading too much into Matthew 5:8), by whom we will be cleansed now and at the end of days, which happy ending makes us eager to do good works here and now (Titus 2:14, Hebrews 9:14, 1 John 1:7, Revelation 19).

This complete change of mind from me!-centredness to God-centredness comes as no surprise because the Christian is far too aware of the sheer good fortune of his undeserved salvation. If his only concern now then is the glory of God amongst men, then he would not be embroiled in the sort of useless quarrels and wars that stem from lust, greed, self-interest and self-centredness. He is not concerned about the effect on himself or his reputation, nor about covering his ass and defending himself. But being a "peacemaker" (Matthew 5:9) does not mean his motto is "anything to avoid trouble". He is not concerned with appeasement at all costs (the League of Nations and its spawn, the United Nations, proves that the cost of such appeasement is more conflict anyway). Jesus was the "Prince of Peace" but no one would have awarded him Obama's Nobel Peace Prize for extraordinary efforts at international diplomacy, relations and co-operation amongst people. Just as the Christian would after him (Matthew 5:7), Jesus pitied his fellowmen because he saw that they remained in the clutches of death, and his mercy included healing the sick, the blind and the lame (which made him rather popular) and also warning people to repent and proclaiming that he was the king who would save them (which did not go down as well). So for the Christian, facilitating the making of peace between God and men will actually include an element of conflict. Actually, scratch that: conflict and persecution come highly anticipated:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when others 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 so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)
Our breeding (Matthew 5:1-6) must inspire a certain lifestyle (Matthew 5:7-12) centered around Jesus (Isaiah 61, Matthew 5:11), so the Beatitudes cannot be taught as a secular moral code. If we won't turn to Jesus in faith (Matthew 5:11), it is because we don't consider there is anything wrong with us - we are poor in spirit, mourning sin, or hungering and thirsting for righteousness
. If we are not merciful to others, or single-minded about God, or concerned with making peace between man and God, then we have not had our sin dealt with.

A Trundle Through Sermon on the Mount
Earth Moves Under Feet, Kingdom Comes (Matthew 5-7)
This is the Sound of Inevitability (Matthew 5:1-6)
Breeding - We Hazs It (Matthew 5:7-12)
Coffee, Salt and Light, and the Essence and Use of the Christian (Matthew 5:13-16)
And the Missing Link is Jesus (Matthew 5:17-20)
Perfect Laws for Perfect Relationships (Matthew 5:21-48)
Cakes for Kierkegaard and Sermon on the Mount as Existentialist Answer Perhaps (Matthew 6:1-18)


Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, D.A. Carson

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