There are several reasons that Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church is about to spend 10 weeks with the Sermon on the Mount.
Certainly, Jesus' longest and most famous sermon is rich in practical theology. In the Beatitudes, Jesus describes those whom God favors ("the meek," "the merciful," "the pure in heart..."). He instructs us on how to behave in the world ("Be salt! Be light!"). He even teaches us how to pray, gifting us with the words of the Lord's Prayer.
A Faith That Blesses—the new sermon series that begins Feb. 2—will dig deeply into these particular details in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5. Several sermons will be devoted to a single verse or two.
"Christians have come to view the Sermon on the Mount as central to understanding how to be a disciple of Jesus," says Senior Pastor Scott Black Johnston. "But it also describes what sets Christians apart, what has distinguished us throughout our history, as people who bless. We are going to explore what it means for FAPC to be a community that blesses."
There's yet another reason we will pay particular attention to the Sermon on the Mount at this particular time: It is the foundational text for FAPC's new strategic plan.
Following 10 months of research, surveys, interviews and constructive debate, FAPC's Strategic Plan Task Force presented its work to a joint meeting of the Elders, Deacons and Trustees of the church in November. The plan—complete with a new vision and mission statement, and seven strategic initiatives for the next five years—was formally adopted in January.
"The task force began its work talking about FAPC's mission—why we are here, and whom we are called to serve," Scott says. "That led very quickly to a conversation about discipleship. What has Christ called us to do? He tells us, very clearly, in the Sermon on the Mount."
The language of Matthew 5 infuses FAPC's vision of discipleship in 21st century Manhattan: "We will be Christ's light, leaven and salt in New York City and beyond."
"In these coming weeks, I hope we will not only reflect on how Christ calls each of us to be faithful disciples, but also on how all of us, as a community, will live into this vision," Scott says. "If the strategic plan is our blueprint for the next five years, the Sermon on the Mount is our soundtrack."
The mission statement, vision and values articulated in the strategic plan are online now. In the coming weeks, the congregation will have the opportunity to read and discuss the full plan as implementation gets underway.
A Faith That Blesses continues through April 6, the fifth Sunday in Lent. Visit the Worship Calendar for details on the sermons and texts, and join us for worship!
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