In the music industry, when an artist or their record label want to capitalize on their fan base with something new to share and an easy way to drive up some extra sales, they’ll often release an album of “greatest hits.”  Much of the music I enjoyed growing up that was created by already well-established artists was by listening to their “greatest hits” releases.  I can still remember the cover of Swedish pop-group ABBA’s album, featuring the four bandmates on a park bench wearing super groovy clothes (well 10-year-old Peter thought they were pretty cool at the time).

Yesterday we read the final verses of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.”  Matthew’s retelling of the teaching of Jesus read like the makings of a compilation album:

  • The Beatitudes – “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (5:3)
  • “You are the salt of the earth.” (5:13)
  • “You are the light of the world.” (5:14)
  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (5:43)
  • The Lord’s Prayer – “Pray then in this way…” (6:9-13)
  • “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (6:20)
  • “No one can serve two masters.” (6:24)
  • “Do not worry about tomorrow… today’s trouble is enough.” (6:34)
  • “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (7:3)
  • “Ask and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.” (7:7)
  • The Golden Rule – “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (7:12)
  • “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing.” (7:15)
  • “Be like a wise man who built his house on a rock.” (7:24)

These three chapters of Matthew’s gospel (5-7) are jam-packed with familiar nuggets.  Many of these verses we could recite with little external prompting because they are so often quoted.  While it’s possible all these teachings were in fact delivered in one continuous extemporaneous sermon, it’s also more likely that Matthew was building a “greatest hits” album for Jesus to share with his community of early followers of the way.

Which of these teachings do you especially appreciate?  Do you think all of these passages make sense to be read together?  What might be missing from this list?  If you had a greatest hits album made of your life, what would your fans expect to find on it?  And here’s maybe the best question of all… what would your album cover look like?

May God’s hope embrace you today. -Pastor Peter

Let us pray… Teaching God, your wisdom has been poured out for us to absorb for millennia. May Jesus’ teachings feel comfortable and worn, just as they continue to inspire us to discover anew the kingdom of heaven come near each new day. Amen.