Millions of sermons have been preached since the days of Jesus, but only one of them could be known as “The Sermon.” Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) is probably the most well-known of all the teachings of Jesus. The Sermon isn’t just counter-culture—sadly, in some ways, it’s counter-Christian culture. And that’s putting it mildly.
During the recent Advent season we followers of Jesus were reminded once again of the epicenter of our faith: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory” (John 1:14). This astounding message changes everything, and that includes prayer. But let’s be honest—the busy-ness of the new year tends to wipe away the afterglow of our Advent experience. I suggest this year we resist our tendency to forget Advent by pondering how the story of Christ’s birth impacts how we pray. Prayer can never be the same after God’s ultimate revelation, the incarnation of the Son of God. We need to pray with our minds set on Christmas.
The history of the Bible in Italy is instructive. Early reformists and later protestant reformers exemplify the clash between the reformed view of the sufficiency and clarity of the Bible and the practice of magisterial authority by the institutional church. Where do you stand on this question?
So, here we are with winter coming on, COVID infection rates rising, and hospital rooms filling. In most places in the USA this year we’re not even supposed to gather with our families for our traditional Thanksgiving celebration on November 26. Our politicians on both sides of the proverbial aisle are blustering contradictory messages about the situation because that’s what politicians do. These are not exactly the kind of circumstances that stir us to give thanks. But where does it say that thanksgiving is only based on favorable circumstances?
Insistence on awareness of contemporary culture begs a crucial question. How can we apply the Bible to current cultures if we are ignorant of the ancient cultures from which the Bible originates? The text doesn’t mean today what it never meant then. As the publishers of BIBBC put it, We are far removed from the time and culture of the biblical world, and this distance easily leads to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Our understanding and appreciation of God’s Word increase exponentially when we know the historical and cultural context in which the biblical books were written.
Giovanni Diodati (1576-1649) may be the most important reformer you’ve never heard of. At least that was the case with me until several weeks ago when I was preparing for a Zoom seminar with believers in Italy on how to study the Bible. I soon learned of the importance of Diodati’s translation of the Bible into Italian. In fact, Diodati’s entire life and ministry exemplified Sola Scrittura, the basic protestant thesis that the Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice.