Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
- Matthew 5:21-22
Frasier Crane Seattle’s most famous radio psychiatrist was having the worst day ever. Frasier’s day began by running late to work. Only for when Frasier to arrive, he discovered that someone had decided to park in his clearly reserved space. Frasier ends up having to park six blocks away, so that he has to sprint the whole way to the studio to proceed not to look any more foolish than he did already in being late for his radio show.
Frasier after work than proceeds to a local video store to try to find a copy of one of his favorite classic movies that he had been unable to enjoy at the theater on the previous night due to older woman in front of him talking the entire time. Frasier waits patiently for only for a clerk to continually ignore him. When Frasier begins to ask a clerk about this movie, a woman overhears him talking about this film, so she decides to check it out upon hearing Frasier’s recommendation before Frasier had a chance to rent it.
Frasier then proceeds to drive around Seattle to three video stores before finally securing a copy of the movie so he can have a nice relaxing night at home. Right when Frasier proceeds to put the tape in the VCR, windows start to rattle; walls start to shake, as Frasier had recently acquired a new upstairs neighbor who proceeds to blast his music as loud as he can. Frasier then decides that a calm, reasoned discussion with his neighbor will get him to stop playing such racket. Only for the music to start up again once Frasier’s phone call to his neighbor ends.
Frasier then decides he needs to go out for some peace, so he decides to meet his brother Niles at his favorite restaurant. The restaurant is seat yourself, so Frasier and Niles wait patiently at the counter for a table to open up. Frasier and Niles keep rushing to every table that becomes available only for someone else to be a half-step quicker in getting there. Finally, after standing over a couple waiting for them patiently to leave, a man sneaks in behind Frasier to claim his table. Frasier finally snapped as he had witnessed display after display of ill manners throughout the day.
Frasier decides to confront the man; he grabs the rude man by the collar while escorting him out of the restaurant lecturing him on his lack of etiquette. Frasier’s escapades are witnessed by a local newspaper columnist who proceeds to single out Frasier the next day for standing up against such rudeness. Frasier then begins to be lifted up as a folk hero amongst the people of Seattle. Frasier’s macho father Martin had never been prouder of Frasier for daring to stand up to himself.
People then all throughout Seattle start to follow Frasier’s example. Frasier’s radio show quickly is filled up by callers who had followed his example of standing up against rudeness. A caller named Mitch had a neighbor running a leaf-blower at 7 AM, Mitch decided to go grab his neighbor’s leaf-blower and smash it against a tree. Another caller had shoveled rotten shrimp into his neighbor’s air-conditioner; another called and had put 100 scorpions in his neighbor’s fed-ex package.
Finally, a woman named Rochelle had a neighbor who refused to clean up after her dog’s messes, Rochelle then proceeded to set her neighbor’s lawn on fire. Frasier is then aghast at Rochelle’s extreme reaction. Rochelle couldn’t believe that this was possibly wrong. Rochelle then proceeded tell Frasier that she was just following his example of confronting the rude patron at the coffee shop earlier.
Rochelle’s words provided an epiphany for Frasier Crane. As he proceeds to tell:
“What I did to the gentleman was just as wrong. I mean who am I to draw the line at the acceptable level of force? Because the next person moves a little farther, and the next person, a little farther until we finally end up with scorpions flying through the mail like Christmas Bundt cakes!”
The story about Frasier Crane brings us to our Gospel lesson for today. The third part of a sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount. Two weeks ago, we studied the nature of God’s blessings and how they extend to those who are down in life: the mourning, the meek, and the poor in spirit.
Last Sunday we learned about the nature of a Christian’s existence in an increasingly secular world as Jesus proclaimed the Disciples to be “salt” and “light”. We learned about how the Christian outlook on life can be radically different from normal human expectations.
This Sunday’s sermon is on the nature of sin. It’s based on the nature of Frasier Crane’s realization as he kept hearing about people’s bad behavior in response to his example: “Who am I draw the line?”
Today’s lesson has Jesus making some very strong statements. Our lesson proclaims that anger is the same as murder. Our lesson proclaims that lust is the same as adultery.
Yet Frasier Crane realized the meaning of Jesus’ sermon here. If we are the ones who draw the line as to what constitutes acceptable behavior, then the next person is going to keep pushing it further until the point where our neighbor’s lawns are set on fire over a dog’s bowel movements.
While we would never argue that murder and adultery are equal to anger and lust in their destructive consequences for one’s neighbor. Both anger and lust are the sins at the heart of murder and adultery’s creation.
What Frasier Crane eventually realizes is that the nature of sin is such that not one of us can ever be deemed righteous or without fault. I hear too many Christians speak of the sins that they have committed. Yet Christians don’t merely commit sins, or a series of individual bad decisions that can hopefully be learned from in the future. Christians sin a very rebellion of human nature in thought, word, and deed.
As Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount to set the stage for the rest of his ministry. He is seeking to make the point that the standard of holy living that we often like to cling to is impossible to fulfill.
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus seeks to let the Disciples know that unless they can exceed the standards held by the most religious, most judgmental men of the day. They shall never enter the kingdom of God on their own.
This is why our righteousness must come to us, outside of us, in spite of us. This is why the Sermon on the Mount points the way to the Resurrection.
Second story, first time, I stepped foot in Bockmann Hall at Luther Seminary to see my new dorm room. My next door neighbor had multiple empty beer cases outside his door.
Seminary culture was really no different than a college with Alcohol serving as the primary social unity force. So, I would go out drinking with people then the night would get longer and longer. My 24th Birthday is the only time that people bought me so many drinks that I ended up throwing up from drinking, let alone feeling beyond awful the next morning. I quickly realized how harmful this way for not only my sense of well-being but my sense of calling.
Yet everywhere else I looked, I kept seeing behavior even more extreme than what I had been doing. There were nights that people came back to the dorms so drunk; they needed to be carried up the steps. There were classmates who would get angry and violent through their use of alcohol. There were classmates who would hook up with anything that moves after their use of alcohol.
Seeing other people act this way without consequences for their life began to create an internal anger in me. I began to hold a lot of anger as I saw these people coasting through life without any regard to how their actions affected others. I began to hold anger because these people weren’t making the sacrifices of behavior, I felt I needed to make. I started to wish that a lot of these people would get their comeuppance, so I celebrate as some sort of hollow victory.
What eventually changed my outlook on life and faith was the Seminary sent me out on Internship within a congregation. Internship was a terrible, terrible experience. If my only experience with Christian people was through my Internship, I would probably declare myself to be an Atheist as I learned how nasty so-called “Christian” people can be.
What I learned is that as much as you will often be in a justified position to look down on people, you will always encounter people who can find error in you, and point it out at every opportunity driving people to sake of hopelessness.
In the midst of the darkest moments of my faith, I came to a realization not dissimilar to Frasier Crane that “who am I to draw the line”. Who am I say to say someone’s sins are worse than mine. What I learned about Christian Community out on Internship is it should be as real and as honest as beggars trying to explain to other beggars where to purchase bread. There’s no point to stand before a congregation trying or pretending to be something that I’m ultimately not. Christian community should be about building people up in the midst of their struggles rather than delighting with selfish pride in people’s inevitable downfall.
So, when I went back to Seminary, my attitude had changed. I still witnessed plenty of the same behavior that I did before. Only this time my response was different. My response was not to get angry. My response was to be comforted by the promise that what I am today is not what I will eventually once be. This is the promise of resurrection. That the old shall indeed become new. The power to ultimately change others is one that I do not possess. Yet I ultimately cannot draw the line over whom God is capable of saving through my own biases or prejudices. Nor can I draw the line over who God can possibly use to lead. All I can do is be comforted by God’s Grace and wish to extend that promise of grace to others at those moments in their life when they need to hear it. All I can do is speak to how my neighbor’s actions affect the world around them from a place of my own brokenness.
Jesus’ sermon today is warning us about the nature of sin.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
- Matthew 5:29-30
These words remind us how even the seemingly most minor of sins eventually bring destruction to the world where we reside. Yet in the midst of these harshest of words there is a word of hope. We hear them from the one that went through hell on our behalf, the one whose body was battered for our sin. Sin is serious. Sin is destructive. Sin is deadly. Yet sin will one day be wiped away forever in a “new heaven” and a “new earth”. The line between “our” sin and “our” death was drawn on a cross.
 This line is quoted from the script of the Frasier episode “High Crane Drifter” which originally aired on NBC on March 12, 1996. A copy of this script can be found at KACL780.net
 This sermon is inspired by analysis of this episode provided by Lannon, Nick. “Frasier Crane: Lawgiver? The Good Doctor and the Sermon on the Mount.” Mockingbird. Christ Episcopal Church. Charlottesville, VA. 10.Sept.2011. Web. Feb.9.2014
 Revelation 21:1
 Romans 6:23