This vivid depiction of the Sermon on the Mount makes this wall plaque an especially meaningful gift for almost any event or occasion. The Sermon on the Mount makes up chapters 5, 6, and 7 of the Gospel of Matthew. The “Sermon” on the Mount of Beatitudes is the first discourse Jesus gives early in his ministry after he has been baptized by John the Baptist, completed his 40 days of fasting in the desert, and begun to preach in Galilee. The Sermon is the longest continuous discourse Jesus gives in the entire New Testament and been quoted more widely than any other passage in all four Gospels. The Sermon on the Mount contains some of the most familiar teachings of Jesus, such as the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father” or Pater noster). The Sermon on the Mount also emphasizes the central tenets of Christian discipleship.
A Decorative Wall Plaque with Biblical Depth
Measuring 8.5 inches high and 6.5 inches wide, this plaque has a notch on the back to allow for easy hanging on any wall at chapel, home or office. Conceived and cast in Germany by a world-renowned master of bronze sacred art, this wall-mounted plaque is a truly unique gift for that special person on that very special occasion.
The Subversive Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount is far from being anodyne and filled with platitudes. It is, in a word, subversive:
The Sermon on the Mount is a call to resistance. It has always been subversive and counter-cultural. Because of its core ethic of nonviolence and its insistence on the blessing of the powerless, it can be misinterpreted as a dissuasion from action, a plea to settle down and accept authority. Yet it uproots and overturns a conventional order built on and maintained by violence. The Sermon on the Mount calls on us to repent. Repentance is the first step of resistance. Before the powers of exclusion, greed, and coercion sweep us along in their destructive path, we are called to repent — turn around — and resist the tide that threatens to drown us all.
The Sermon on the Mount catches us in the current of our cultural violence and turns us around first by drawing our attention to the victims swept under the wave of human violence.
How are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the ones who hunger and thirst for justice, blessed? Jesus blessed the people on the margins of his culture by embracing them, showing solidarity with them, building a community in which those who had always been shunned were welcomed and loved. As the body of Christ, we are called to be that blessing.
Suffering far outlasts any administration, and our commitment to the needs of those suffering must transcend partisanship. One problem with connecting advocacy to partisan political outrage is that often the needs of the people get lost in the desire to “win.” Jesus’s vision of healing a world in pain begins with blessing, not blame, so that we may keep our focus on those in need of comfort.
This is not to say that Jesus leaves us with nothing to say to those who wield powers of oppression and violence. Acknowledging the victims of oppression, meeting them at the margins and building community upon their inclusion and well-being is the first step toward subverting and transforming oppressive systems. But Jesus has specific instructions for our encounters with those who wield the powers of coercion and domination:
Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. (Matt. 5:38 – 41)
Peace and justice theologian Walter Wink has famously exegeted this passage to explain that what has been translated as “do not resist” is more accurately “do not resist violently,” and has shown that turning the other cheek is a form of resistance. It is hard to strike the right cheek with the right hand unless you are giving someone a back-handed slap, a gesture of superiority. Turning the other cheek rejects the power-dynamic that suggests that the one who was slapped is inferior and asserts equality. The same principal is at work in the other examples Jesus uses. Neither acquiesce to evil nor return evil for evil, Jesus instructs, but reject oppression by asserting your own dignity with firm compassion, refusing to participate in or perpetuate the cycle of violence. In doing so, you refuse to be either a helpless victim or a heartless monster, reaffirming not only your own humanity, but also that of the one who would dehumanize you.
When Jesus finally comes around to the injunction to love our enemies, that is the natural culmination of teachings that refocus us from enmity to compassion. He teaches us never to lose sight of the human face in front of us. First we must see the humanity in those trampled by systems of power, and then we must see the humanity in those who wield those systems. Forces of exclusion, greed, and violence transcend even those who seem to control them, gripping humanity in their thrall. Striving to overturn oppressors through violence leaves systems of oppression intact, at most switching the places of victim and victimizer. But Jesus teaches us to overturn systems of violence with active inclusion and compassion.