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    Plough Quarterly Summer 2014: Living the Sermon on the Mount

    Plough Quarterly No. 1: Living the Sermon on the Mount

    Summer 2014


    Featured Articles

    All Articles


    Purity in a Porn Age Even your teenager, safe in his or her bedroom “doing homework,” has the world’s vices just one click, swipe, or tap away. So what can we do? Against this backdrop, how does the two-thousand-year-old teaching of Jesus apply? The Jesus of the Four Gospels “We must place the Jesus of the four Gospels in the center of our faith and life. This Jesus has become unknown. His words have been distorted and disfigured, his work weakened. We must rediscover this Jesus and hold him up before all the world...” Love in a Leper Colony When Damien and Maria made their wedding vows fifty years ago they were under no illusions. A life of poverty compounded by an incurable sickness promised mostly hardship. Today they love each other more than ever. The Martyrs of Alcatraz Newly discovered letters from World War I pacifists imprisoned for refusing military service shed fresh light on a long-suppressed chapter of American history – and on the meaning of religious liberty today. Becoming a People What will happen to our churches if we get serious about the Sermon on the Mount – not just as a discussion starter, but as a roadmap for our life together?


    Eberhard Arnold’s Unsettling Message Eberhard Arnold lived, believed, and thought in the revolutionary situation of Germany after World War I – amidst Spartacus-style uprisings by Communists, assassinations by nationalists, soaring public debt, inflation, and general confusion. The Hard Work of the Gospel We pray for an end to war. But unless we combine this prayer with giving to the least of God’s children, and fasting in order that we may help feed the hungry, and penance in recognition of our share in the guilt, our prayer may become empty words.


    Poem: I Cannot Love What You Are A translation of Patrizia Cavalli’s poem, "I cannot love what you are," alongside the original Italian text. Poem: For One Bereaved Read a sampling of Jane Tyson Clements poetry that explores the varied emotions of life: love, longing, and loss; memory, sacrifice, and desire; struggle and frustration, joy and resolve.


    The Dragon and the Coffee Pot In a dark forest there lived a terrible dragon. He spat poison, breathed fire, and ate people and animals in a way that was sad to see. Of course, everyone was terrified, but they did not reckon with a little girl and her guardian angel.


    The Best of Classic Children’s Bibles An illustrated Bible can be a wonderful way to introduce scripture to a child, but it can be challenging to find one that portrays the glorious drama of God’s history with reverence and realism. Here are some classics. Was Bonhoeffer Willing to Kill? A review of a new book, Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking questions the assumption that Bonhoeffer renounced pacifism. Digging Deeper: Issue 1 Books on the Sermon on the Mount abound, but here are six volumes that deserve special attention.

    Editors’ Picks

    Editors’ Picks Issue 1 While not all will feel at home with Deirdre Cornell’s deeply Catholic spirituality, some may find many Patrizia Cavalli’s poems anything but Christian.

    Family and Friends

    Family and Friends Issue 1 People the world over try communal living in varying degrees. Though each one deserves its own issue, here we profile several projects focused on community and justice.


    Pete Seeger Pete didn’t want a fan club in life, and I bet he wouldn’t want one in death. What about keeping his legacy alive through song instead?


    Insights on the Sermon on the Mount Thoughts on putting the great teaching of Jesus into practice from Mother Teresa, Søren Kierkegaard, Henri Nouwen, and John Wesley.


    We Are Not Bystanders An interview with Cardinal Donald Wuerl on discipleship and politics, and on Pope Francis’s advice to pastors (and the rest of us). Alarmed by Jesus Russell Moore speaks about the increasing relevance of the Sermon on the Mount, testifying to the truth about marriage and the marginalization of Christianity.


    Käthe Kollwitz’s Pietà Also known as “Mother with Her Dead Son,” this sculpture gives expression to the mourning of mothers everywhere, from the Middle East to the Congo. In this way, it draws us into the heart of Jesus’ cryptic beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn.”


    Fighting Drought with Trees Trees teach us to take the long view, to willingly sweat for the benefit of children yet to be born, to mark the miracle that is all growing things.


    Katharina Hutter “I hope that God’s fire will be so brightly kindled and his work so well established that even great floods and torrents of rain will not be able to quench the fire!”

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    Plough Quarterly Summer 2014 Cover

    About This Issue

    Dear Reader,

    How close do we dare to get to the Sermon on the Mount?

    The scene is a Galilean hill thronged with people. “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them. . . .”

    So begins the biblical report of the extraordinary manifesto now known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7). It’s widely considered the key to understanding who Jesus was and what mission he strove to fulfill. For two millennia, countless people have wrestled to apply it, from Augustine to Luther to Tolstoy to Gandhi.

    Alongside much wisdom, there has been much evasion, prompting Jewish theologian Pinchas Lapide’s tart comment: “The history of the impact of the Sermon on the Mount can largely be described in terms of an attempt to domesticate everything in it that is shocking, demanding, and uncompromising, and render it harmless.”

    There’s good reason for this: Jesus’ teaching is deeply disruptive, as Eberhard Arnold makes clear. It demands a top-to-bottom reordering of life, work, and social relations – that’s what “repentance” means – starting with radical economic sharing, nonresistance and love of enemies, lifelong marriage between one man and one woman, and unconditional forgiveness. Remarkably, Jesus seems to really expect his followers to put his words into practice.

    In this issue, we focus on people willing to get their hands dirty living out the Sermon on the Mount. Their ranks include Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Wesley, Henri Nouwen, Mother Teresa, and others you’ll meet in the following pages. Their insights are not to be consumed passively. Rather, they should inspire and equip each of us to roll up our sleeves and get to work as “doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.”

    One other note: We’re thrilled that with the release of this issue, Plough’s magazine is back. Founded in 1920 in Germany, Plough – which also publishes books and online content – has a history full of dramatic plot turns. After a twelve-year hiatus, we are re-launching the magazine as a quarterly, with upcoming issues focusing on justice, children, community, peacemaking, and more.

    We cordially invite you to subscribe (if you haven’t already), and to urge others to do the same. Please keep the responses coming – we’re on this adventure together.

    Warm greetings,
    Peter Mommsen, Editor

    Thanks to Scot McKnight for the reference to Pinchas Lapide’s remarks.

    four issues of Plough Quarterly

    About Plough Quarterly

    Plough is an award-winning international magazine of stories, ideas, and culture that appears weekly online and quarterly in print. We also publish a line of books, including literary nonfiction, fiction, and graphic novels. Founded in 1920, Plough asks the big questions: How can we live well together, and what gives life meaning and purpose in a complex world?