Breaking it Down: The Sermon on the Mount Part 1

By Jenna Walmer

Week 1: The Beatitudes

“Now Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.  His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:  ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be show mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’”

The challenge was set for us… have you been living up to it? I know I haven’t been living up to the call fully.  I’ve been putting some time in here and there to delve into the Sermon on the Mount, but now I have decided to study the message in its entirety. Throughout the Sermon, Jesus asserted his feelings toward the law of his era. He also expresses the unimportance of money, authority, and status in the heavenly kingdom. Instead, being faithful to the Lord and having an obedient heart is what matters, which is why Jesus repudiates and challenges the leaders of the day.

In my current studies, Clarence Jordan has sparked my interest for many reasons, but one idea caught my eye during my readings: he based his theology on the Sermon on the Mount.  Clarence Jordan is the focal point for my year-round research project for a history class.  He has written a few books, and has also re-written a majority of the New Testament in terms of Georgia during the Civil Rights Era.  He even wrote a book titled, Sermon on the Mount, which details his perspective of the teachings.  Jordan started Koinonia Farm, an interracial community that began in 1942, survived the Civil Rights violence of the Ku Klux Klan, and is still alive today.  His radical ideas of having a common purse, challenging authority in peaceful ways, and living in community with anyone despite what the public thinks, always leaves me thinking about Dunker Punks.

In Jordan’s Sermon on the Mount, he transferred the last two verses of the Beatitudes to, “You are all God’s people when others call you names, and harass you and tell all kinds of false tales on you just because you follow me.  Be cheerful and good-humored, because your spiritual advantage is great. For that’s the way they treated men of conscience in the past.” Also, Blessed are the Peacemakers was translated to “Men of peace and good will are God’s people, for they will be known throughout the land of his children.” These two verses reflect the era that Jordan was living. Despite all the harassment the community was being dealt, he returned their hate with peace and continued to love his neighbors.

So what are the Beatitudes telling us to do?  This first section of the Sermon of the Mount starts us off with certain people shall be blessed and will receive such and such.  The first three verses even seem to contradict themselves! People who wouldn’t live by the Sermon on the Mount would think, why should the poor in spirit receive the kingdom in heaven?  To be precise, God’s teachings usually contradict what the world assumes, similar to when we love when others hate. These statements that contradict the world’s views exemplify how we are to serve others.

Next, we are to take the Beatitudes as a whole, not choose one or two to follow, but follow every one of them, because it is Christ’s description of how we are to be as followers. Since Christ wants us to build up our treasures in heaven, some of the verses show the contrast between kingdom values and worldly values; it portrays what is temporary versus what is eternal. The Beatitudes is the preamble to the Sermon of the Mount, so we should take it in one swallow, not in baby bites.

Also, the Beatitudes teach us how one qualifies, per say, to be in God’s kingdom.  It describes what we are to seek.  For example, we are NOT to seek earthly possessions, such as money, authority, and power.  However, seeking different ideas such as humility and righteous behaviors will reflect attitudes of Kingdom seekers.

Lastly, and the hardest of them all, Jesus wants us to rejoice when we are persecuted. Rejoice when we are mistreated?  This is beneficial because it takes us away from earthly rewards and strengthens our faith.  Our attitude to serve also grows!  Leaders and prophets in the Bible have been persecuted because of their beliefs; be strong in faith and people will notice.  If you are going unnoticed that is a sign of weak faith.

The Sermon of the Mount is a long passage to study deeply and to understand thoroughly, let alone memorize.  As I go through and read what Clarence Jordan has to say about the Sermon on the Mount and study it myself, I challenge you to do the same and understand it in your own terms.  Maybe rewrite it, or start memorizing it! Be bold in your faith and challenge yourself! You never know what you can to until you try.

Jenna Walmer - Palmyra COB, Altantic Northeast DistrictJenna Walmer is from Lancaster County and is currently in 12th grade. In school, she loves to research historical events. If she were to live in a specific time period, she would want to be a hippie and live in the 60s or 70s. Her favorite past times are swimming and playing her trombone. If you want to know more about her random life, follow her on twitter: @jaymarie2100
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DunkerPunks: Changing the World, One Smelly Foot at a Time

The way that we change the world is not through power but by washing feet.

– Greg Boyd

Greg Boyd was the first plenary session speaker at the Missio Alliance conference that I’ve mentioned before. He said a lot of great things that stuck with me for various reasons, but nothing that he said stuck with me as much as the quote above.

The way that we change the world is not through power, but by washing feet.

I like this for a number of reasons.

First, the Obvious Reason:

We talk a lot on and in the Church of the Brethren about peace and nonviolence. We study the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings and accounts of Jesus, and it’s clear to us that Jesus preached and practiced nonviolence, so we must do the same. Building peace and practicing nonviolence fit into the larger picture of following Jesus.

Second, I Love the Humility of It:

There’s something about humility and the practice of mutual submission that is incredible at diffusing power. Something to remember about Jesus: yes, he came from humble beginnings, but as an adult he was a rabbi. As far as Jewish society goes, this is about as good as you can get. To be a rabbi meant you were the best of the best of the best. You were the smartest of the smartest of the smart. And if you were a good, inspiring rabbi (like Jesus), you could develop a large and loyal following. As a rabbi, Jesus could have been incredibly powerful.

Also, keep in mind what the people of Jesus time were looking for when it came to a Messiah: They imagined a warrior king, a politically powerful revolutionary, someone mighty. And they got Jesus.

Jesus had a way of turning power on it’s head. He was in every position to be incredibly powerful. He could have led a violent revolution against the Roman Empire. He could have incited his followers to pick up weapons and attack. They would have done it. Peter did do it. He attacked a Roman soldier, cutting off his ear, and what did Jesus do? He put the ear back on the soldier’s head.

Jesus could have used his power, but instead he girded himself and washed his disciple’s feet. Including the feet of those who would betray him and reject him. I love the humility of it.

Third, I Love the Smallness of It:

I realize that Boyd was speaking metaphorically, but let’s think literally for a second.

A question for those of you who have ever washed feet before: How many people’s feet can you wash at once?

The answer is obvious: one. Often, people frame nonviolence as simply not being violent. That’s not the case. That’s not was Jesus preached. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, 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.”

This is so eloquent and so packed that you can expand it in a number of directions to demonstrate how nonviolence is active. I’m sure I will in the future, but for now I’ll just expand in one direction.

All three of the actions Jesus describes are interactions between two people. The formula is the same for each: a person in power abuses a person with less power. The person with less power submits to the abuse nonviolently, and then responds not with violence or with inaction, but by subverting the power by actively submitting even further. No longer does the abuser feel powerful, but cruel. No longer does the less powerful person appear inferior, but gracious and human. No longer does the power dynamic seem righteous, but unjust.

And it all happens on the tiny plane between two people. When we practice nonviolence, we get caught up in imagining that we’ll be nonviolent one day, and the world will be saved the next day. It doesn’t work that way. The kingdom of heaven doesn’t expand from the top down, reaching from heaven and enveloping the whole world. It spreads from the bottom out, like a mustard plant.

Every time you look someone in the eye and show them the love of Christ, you are planting the mustard seeds of the Kingdom.

Every time you wash someone’s feet, you are showing them what it means to worship a God of love.

And that’s how we change the world. One smelly foot at a time.

Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a sophomore Creative Writing; Professional Writing; and Ethics, History, and Public Policy Major at Carnegie Mellon University. His passions include reading about, writing about, and snuggling with pugs. Emmett is the founder of, and he wants lots more people to contribute! Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and join the conversation! Follow Emmett on twitter @emmetteldred and follow Dunker Punks on Twitter @DunkerPunks and on Facebook.

“Jesus is (Not) Stupid.” A Challenge to Build Peace on #PeaceDay and Every Day

Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren’s Pastor Marlys Hershberger delivered a sermon today about Peace Day that was so good and so challenging, that I can’t help but share her thoughts in my own words.

She began by saying, “Jesus is Stupid.” It’s the church version of a well crafted “click-bait” title. The thought “Jesus is Stupid” is inflammatory, but it makes you listen, doesn’t it? Of course, neither Marlys nor I nor most Christians think Jesus is stupid. Quite the opposite. But oftentimes our actions tell a different story. Marlys says that another way she’ll say this is: “Do you think Jesus is stupid? No? Then why act like what he says is stupid?”

As Christians, we claim that we follow Jesus. We claim that we love Jesus. We claim that Jesus is the core of our faith.

Then why don’t we actually listen to what he tells us to do? Why don’t we listen to him when he says to be generous with our material self and with our love? Why don’t we listen when he says to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and visit the imprisoned? Why don’t we listen when he says to love our enemies, and to overcome evil with good? Wy don’t we don’t we listen when he says to bring the kingdom to earth as it is in heaven? Why do we act like Jesus is stupid?

At every stage of our relationships with people – interpersonal, communal, national, global, and everywhere in between – Jesus says to treat one another with grace and love, and to overcome conflict with humility, meekness, and nonviolence, not domination.

It reminds me of the way we treat children. Has a child ever come up to you with something they were excited about, and you dismissed them by saying, “That’s nice,” with a pat on the head, and maybe pinning something to the fridge. The unspoken implication to “That’s nice,” is “but the world is complicated in ways that you simply can’t understand.”

Don’t pin the cross to the fridge. Don’t pat Jesus on the head and say, “That’s nice.” Don’t patronize Jesus.

Listen to him. And follow him.

Jesus was asked “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and he replied: ““Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18: 3-5)

When we talk about peace, the impulse is to say, “That’s nice, but the world is more complicated than that.”

Do you think Jesus is stupid? Or do you think Jesus is wise in a way that our complications of the world fail to understand.

Happy Peace Day everyone! Follow Jesus.

Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a sophomore Creative Writing; Professional Writing; and Ethics, History, and Public Policy Major at Carnegie Mellon University. His passions include reading about, writing about, and snuggling with pugs. Emmett is the founder of, and he wants lots more people to contribute! Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and join the conversation! Follow Emmett on twitter @emmetteldred and follow Dunker Punks on Twitter @DunkerPunks and on Facebook

I Didn’t Choose the Hug life, the Hug Life Chose Me.

I’d like to take a moment to share what was probably the most meaningful experience from NYC 2014 for me.

NYC was full of amazing, life changing things. Inspiring speakers, like Roger Nishioka, who brought us to tears and to our feet. Challenging speakers, like Jarrod McKenna moved us to action in incredible and various ways, including inspiring me to make this website and leading all of us to become Dunker Punks.

We saw amazing displays of faith and talent. We heard Jesus speak to us and stir within us. We attended workshops that ignited our creativity, we got our hands dirty, we immersed ourself in God’s creation.

But the most important moment for me was

And harder.

Here’s a picture of me and some really awesome people wearing an incredible, terrible shirt:

And here’s an example of what will happen to you when you wear a shirt like this:


Sounds good right?
Unless you’re me.

Something about me:
I. Am. Not. A. Hugger.

So here I am, wearing this shirt to morning worship, and we decide that we’re going to each stand in front of an entrance and offer hugs to people as they filter by.

So here I am, awaiting the first hug, arms outstretched, filled with thoughts like:
What if they smell bad?
Or are sweaty?
Or crush me?

Or what if I smell bad?
Do I smell bad?
Oh great I think I smell bad.

And here someone is, coming in for a hug, approaching as if in slow motion.

And here I am, wrapping my arms around them.

My life will
Be the same.

Ever. (If you’re wondering what made me so passionate about being a Dunker Punk, it was somewhere around hug #4, before I’d ever even heard the phrase “Dunker Punks.”)

And as more and more people hug me, I find this smile building on my face that, no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get rid of. All of the sudden, I’m not just a hugger, I’m a hug monster.

There are moments when you overflow with Jesus’ love. This was one them.

There were a lot of life changing moments for me and for everyone else at NYC, but the day I wore my “Free Hugs” shirt will be a day I never, ever forget.

Remember the passage the Jarrod taught us to study in earnest: The Sermon on the Mount. Part of the Sermon, Matthew 5:43-48, reads:

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (The Message)


It’s easy to hug the people I love: my family, my closest friends, my girlfriend, etc.

It’s not so easy to put on a “Free Hugs” shirt and hug complete strangers.

And you know what, I bet it wasn’t always easy for those complete strangers to approach me for a hug.

But when you break down the walls you build up around yourself, when you resolve to live and love generously, amazing things can happen.


Have You Taken the Dunker Punk Baptism Challenge?

Check out these Dunker Punks from Manassas Church of the Brethren who are taking the Dunker Punks challenge, literally!

Whether you go about it by splashing a bucket of ice over your head, or by plunging into the Sermon on the Mount and Lord’s Prayer, and doing whatever it is the spirit inspires you to do from there, understand that becoming a Dunker Punk means that, from the moment you dive in, you will never be the same. And rejoice in the new you. 

Being a Dunker Punk is not about being baptized. It’s about living baptized. 

Click here to read the whole story.