Lord, our lives are full of distractions. We ask that you would give the next several minutes as a reprieve from what is going on in our country, our state, and our communities. Let us take a deep breath and for the next several minutes breathe deep of your life giving spirit. Open our ears to hear your message to us; our eyes to see your work in our midst; our hearts to feel your love for us and our neighbor; and our souls to share that love with all. Bind distractions from us as we seek you here in this time. Speak Lord, for your servants are listening. We ask this in Jesus Name, AMEN.
I want to begin this morning with our Scripture. Our Scripture this morning comes from Matthew 5:3-12, it’s the Beatitudes from Jesus Sermon on the Mount. These are Jesus Words:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The Word of Our Lord.
Thanks be to God.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found this pandemic thing as the creator of a very long to-do list. I’m at home all the time - and I don’t like being in one spot very long so I go outside, and I’ve spent more time in the yard these past 3 months than I think I have in the past 3 years. And this is what would happen.
I’d sit out on the porch or the back patio and I’d look at the grass. And I noticed there were some bare spots. They were mainly caused by mole hills so I tapped those down. Then I had flat bare spots and I noticed there was a lot of moss, so I put down moss out and then began raking. Even after raking I was getting moss so I de-thatched my lawn. Now I had hardly any lawn left, so I put down seed. IT didn’t grow, so I put down more. It didn’t grow, so I put down more with those little cocoons around each seed. Didn’t grow. Then a friend said it needed more water. So I began watering it. Boy howdy! Now I’ve got a lawn that I have to mow at least twice a week! That’s just the lawn!
Then the back fence was crooked, so I fixed that. There were no rocks in the front flower beds to match the parking strip. So I picked up the rocks in the bare spots of the lawn and put them in there. There was no color. Well, Home Depot was having a sale so I bought a bunch of flower baskets.
We had birds, so now I have a bird feeder. On and on...
And then there’s the inside. Staring at the same walls day after day you begin to notice the paint’s not quite right here, and there’s a crack in the window there. Need a new screen in that window. You have time to take all the shelves out of your cabinets and clean them.
That floor board is out of place, the edging isn’t straight, the door doesn’t fit right, the doors don’t match, and the list goes on! I’ve fixed what I can, and now I think I need to win the lottery if I’m going to finish all the projects I’ve imagined. Which will be a challenge because I haven’t bought any lottery tickets - but my odds are still about the same.
This whole thing is sort of a domicile introspection. I’m looking much closer at my house and reflecting on where it is now and what I want it to be.
Being at home this long its easy to see how we can all get a little stir crazy. We turn on the television or the radio for some noise in the background. But we can also take the time to reflect on our own lives. When it comes to our lives as we look inside are things as we would want them to be?
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
As I’ve considered the Beatitudes in my life I’ve often wondered, “Was Jesus speaking of different people and the qualities they had, or all the qualities one person was supposed to have?" Personally, I’ve come to believe Jesus was saying his listeners were supposed to possess all these qualities. I say that because of the conclusion in verse 3 and verse 10: “for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Also when I compare the list “poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and persecuted for righteousness” that doesn’t seem to be a great difference to not be the same call to “Be Holy for I am Holy.” God’s command to the Israelites (Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:26; 1 Peter 1:16).
Some Bible scholars translate the word blessed here as “Congratulations!” Or “Happy”. I like that, because it puts the worlds perspective on its head. Perhaps it’s a reason for joy! The Joy of James 1:2
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
And if it’s a reason for joy to be poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, while also being persecuted for being so, doesn’t that fit with what we know of the fruits of the Spirit Paul talks about in Galatians 5:22 & 23?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
I believe it does. As we look into our selves, we have the time to seriously consider the call of Jesus Christ. Are we living what we say we believe?
E Stanley Jones had a conversation with Gandhi. He asked,
“Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is it that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?”
“Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your christ. If Christians would really live according to the teaching of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”
One of the things that I believe this time has been good for me personally is time digging in God’s Word. Spending time seeing where God is calling me and Praying. Repenting. Confessing. And as you take that time for introspection, that can lead you to repentance, confession, and transformation. That change is visible to others. This striving to be holy does not remove us from our world, but it causes us as transformed beings to look outside ourselves at the world.
During the past two weeks we have all scene the world seemingly explode in protests around us. Call for racial equality once again are being heard in our streets and on our televisions - around the world! In our country where people are already so divided over so many different issues, many have described it as a powder keg waiting to explode.
And we feel the pain, our spirits are grieved, we mourn, we feel powerless, we hunger and we thirst for righteousness. I would also hope that we are merciful as we listen. That we would approach every conversation with a pure heart, and as the church be working for peace and reconciliation. Where all God’s children are lifted up to life in Christ.
There is pain in the world. It’s all around us.
I hear the questions being asked, “Who will win?” and “How will they be defeated?” (where they is defined as those you disagree with). It’s not just about George Floyd. It’s not just about the police. It’s not just about confederate statues. It’s not just about oppression. It’s not just cultural differences. It’s not just about inequality. It’s not just about criminal justice. It’s not just about poverty. It’s not just about systemic racism. It’s not just about Black Lives Matter. It’s not just about white privilege. I realize in even listing these elicits a reaction in people.
It’s also not just about emotions. It’s not about right and wrong. It’s not just about any particular ethnic race. It’s not about you. In fact it’s not about you at all.
I’ve been listing these things Jesus calls us to be: Poor in spirit, people who mourn, meek, etc. But we haven’t talked about why - what does that do? What does it do for us? What does it do for others?
The list is positive for the most part:
Theirs is: the kingdom of heaven, comfort, the earth, satisfaction, mercy, to see God, to be called sons of God, and a great rewards in heaven.
This sounds very much like what Paul wrote to the church in Colossae. We read in Colossians 3:1-2.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Later in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, we read:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Back again to Colossians Paul writes:
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
He goes on:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
and vs. 14
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Christians are called to live counter-culturally. We have to live counter to our own sin. From the beginning sin has been a source of fear. In the garden Adam and Eve heard the Lord walking in the garden and they were what? They were afraid.
A friend recently went up to Seattle not to protest, but to pray. He and a few friends went not to be heard, but to listen and to pray. They prayed with protestors, with police, with firefighters, with people just hanging out. One of his friends was praying with a firefighter when another Christian approached her and joined in the prayer. When the prayer was done he said to her, I was praying this morning, “Where are all my brothers and sisters in Christ?”
I want to encourage you to keep your eyes fixed on Christ. You as a follower of Jesus, as a disciple of Jesus, YOU ARE THE DISCIPLE JESUS LOVES. This is what Jesus says to you:
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
And I’m going to close with these two verses from Matthew:
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Let’s not live in fear of COVID-19, or the unrest we’re seeing in our world. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus. Spend time praying for God to be glorified in all that is happening around us. Pray that you might be an instrument of God’s peace in a fractured world. Take time to listen - it’s not about you.
You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Be blessed; Be happy.
The Word of our Lord,
Thanks be to God.
Lord, we lift up our eyes to you for you are the source of our help. You are the one who knows us deeply. We are you servants Lord. Help us to put away our old selves, to put to death what is earthly in us and put on, as God’s chosen ones, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love. Let us shine your light to a world lost in darkness. We pray this to you our Lord and our God.