A Gospel for a New People: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
Herb Kopp. Winnipeg, MB: Kindred, 2003. 216 pages.
Herb Kopp, a longtime Mennonite Brethren pastor and recently retired Manitoba Conference Minister, conducts the reader on an insightful journey through Jesus‚ Sermon on the Mount from the gospel of Matthew. Kopp approaches his study with the assumption that Jesus “fully expected his disciples to obey his words” within the transforming context of grace (8-9).
Following the Luminaire Studies pattern, he begins each chapter by describing the flow and form of the text, often highlighting significant underlying Old Testament connections. Kopp’s explanation of the meaning of the text, while brief, is a helpful reflection that includes a discussion of key Greek terms. He proposes practical ways for following through on Jesus’ Sermon in the application/teaching/preaching section. Kopp points to nuggets that need to be mined further for their relevant expression in the reader’s specific situation. While succinct, these proposals perceptively suggest very helpful directions that reveal the depth the Sermon holds for contemporary readers. The personal response questions are particularly thought-provoking and draw the reader into further reflection regarding the significance of Jesus’ teaching.
Kopp’s study provides an accessible guide that engages readers, not only in reflecting on the meaning of Jesus’ words, but more significantly wrestling with what to do with them in their own lives. Kopp even suggests that Jesus’ Sermon provides a model for how his disciples can emulate his interpretation and application of Scripture in their own teaching (79-80). The strength of Kopp’s study is his articulation of the challenge of the Sermon on the Mount for faithful discipleship today.
Ordinary people in the church are Kopp’s intended audience, and his book would provide an excellent guide for small group Bible study. I also recommend A Gospel for a New People, by Graham Stanton (Westminster/John Knox, 1994), as a helpful resource for preaching and teaching on the Sermon of the Mount, and Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, by Glen Stassen and David Gushee (InterVarsity, 2003), to supplement Kopp’s study.