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Jesus ascended the mountain and preached a sermon that was evocative, provocative, world-changing—and by now, so familiar that it’s almost impossible to hear. This poetic paraphrase renders Jesus’ strange and startling words afresh.
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Hardly any text of the Bible has shaped the church—and indeed, Western civilization—more deeply than the Sermon on the Mount. That’s certainly a good thing… but it also makes the Sermon a victim of its own success. How even to hear it anymore? It can read like a string of aphorisms, too familiar to provoke anymore.
Hence this “poetic paraphrase”: not a strict translation, but an attempt to render the familiar fresh through a variety of strategies. In these pages you’ll find rhymes subtle and overt, rhythmic and stylistic patterns, parallels and chiasms. Some passages are expanded, others chopped down to the bare bones. Sometimes the underlying Greek shines through, sometimes colloquial English wins the day. The result is a Sermon on the Mount that you’ll encounter as if for the first time.
Here’s a sample, paraphrasing Matthew 6:25–30.
Which is why I say:
Don’t pull yourself apart with
“what’ll I eat?” or “what’ll I wear?”
Isn’t your soul greater than its sustenance
and your figure than its finery?
Sparrows don’t sow.
Robins don’t reap.
Blackbirds don’t build barns.
Yet your Father in heaven
harbors the birds of heaven
under his wings.
Aren’t you worth more than a warbler?
Does pulling yourself apart
add height to your heels?
And concerning clothing,
why pull yourself apart?
Learn from the lilies,
which without spinning or sewing grow.
What I’m saying is,
even Solomon in all his fancy finery
couldn’t compare to a simple speedwell
or a plain old pink.
So if God decks out
the dandelions and daffodils
that are blooming today
and mown down tomorrow,
won’t he do more for you?
Such feeble faith!
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Sarah Hinlicky Wilson writes, walks, cooks, and podcasts in Tokyo, Japan, where she lives with her husband and son. She’s associate pastor at Tokyo Lutheran Church, a Visiting Professor of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France, and an Affiliated Faculty Member at the Johannelund School of Theology in Uppsala, Sweden.
Sign up for her quarterly e-newsletter Theology & a Recipe and follow her other work at www.sarahhinlickywilson.com.
Or, have a listen to her podcast, Queen of the Sciences: Conversations between a Theologian and Her Dad, with Paul R. Hinlicky.