In the nearly five years I've been blogging here on Crosswalk, I've never posted anything on a Sunday, because doing so always felt just a tad irreverent: it made the day, to whatever degree, about me, instead of God. But six or so weeks ago, on my personal blog, I began publishing (the speaking notes of) sermons written and delivered by my friend Pastor Bob. I also simultaneously published two or three of Bob's sermons here on Crosswalk. The response to the sermons all around has been great. So I thought on Sundays I'd start regularly sharing Pastor Bob's sermons here, as well as on my own blog. I hope you find them a welcomed addition to your Sunday mornings, as I have certainly found them on mine.
“Caught in God's Blessing: The Beatitudes"
A sermon by Pastor Bob
November 6, 2011
Text: Mt 5:1-12 (The Beatitudes)
Now when 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 shown 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.
--My question for you this morning: “Are you caught in God’s blessing?” --As many of you may know, I was raised in a household that did not believe in God.
--And my father in particular proclaimed himself as agnostic.
--He didn’t believe in God, let alone the church. He did not have any use for either.
--He regarded Christianity as foolish, and Christians as hypocrites.
--That they were prone to lift themselves up as being better than others, yet they were not always good to others, let alone to other Christians.
--As you can imagine, I had some good conversations with my father. He kept me honest. And though he passed away last January…he still keeps me honest.
--I remember very clearly some twenty-four years ago telling him that I was going to be baptized a Christian.
--He supported my decision.
--When I felt called to go to Seminary to train to be a pastor,
--He met me there and helped me settle in.
--And particularly, when I introduced him to my soon-to-be-wife (now a pastor whom you all know)
--He said, “Good job!”
--My Dad may not have had faith, but he wasn't stupid…
--So are we fools for believing in this God?
--Are we simply fooling ourselves?
--I think that there are times in all our lives when we ask ourselves this question.
--It may happen when we are a teenager or young adult trying to figure out what we really believe amidst so many choices and diversions.
--Or, we may also question God’s existence when we experience profound loss.
--The loss of a loved one, divorce, even the loss of a job.
--We may wonder in the darkness of night, “Why? How could this happen to me?”
--“How could God let this happen?”
--Sometimes we may literally question God’s existence, by our own distance from God.
--Too busy to think about our creator.
--Too occupied to worship.
--Too full to let anything else in.
--I wonder if any of the people who gathered around Jesus on that mountain top almost two thousand years ago were asking the same questions…
--Who is this God? How could God be working in my life?
--We can imagine them surrounding Jesus on what was really more of a tall hill.
--All sitting, waiting, wanting something from this man from Nazareth.
--The one who healed with his word and his touch.
--The one whose words seemed to challenge who God was, and whose very being seemed to convey God’s presence.
--I can guarantee you that they were not there because they felt themselves blessed.
--Rather, they knew that they were hungry.
--Hungry for something that they did not fully understand.
--But Jesus understood.
--He knew that they were all caught in God’s blessing---and he proclaimed this reality in a series of “blesseds.”
--Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek; and blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
--These first “blesseds” proclaim a startling reality:
--That those who suffer now will someday be blessed.
--They will inherit the kingdom of heaven and inherit the earth, they will be comforted, and they will be filled with righteousness.
--Jesus declares that the people who suffer now are caught up in a future blessing.
--It is not that because they suffer that they are blessed; but rather, their suffering will one day end.
--As it says in the book of Revelation, “all tears will be wiped away and death will be no more.”
--God does not desire suffering.
--There will be an end to it.
--However, God is not content to simply allow us today to be without hope, to be miserable or powerless, or to experience only the injustices of this world.
--God wants more for God’s people, and he blesses them.
--Yes, God blesses them with the promise that in the future things will be different.
--But more importantly, God blesses them with help in the present.
--Help, which comes from the next four “blesseds.”
For God is not just about blessing in some far off future. God’s blessing is also about the now.
--And being caught in God’s blessing is also to be caught in the blessing of the now.
--In the next set of "blesseds", Jesus identifies those who are to help others who are suffering.
--They are the merciful: healers who seek to put right that which has gone wrong.
--They are the pure in heart: those people who care for this world with integrity.
--And they are peacemakers: those who work for the wholeness and well-being that God wills for a broken world.
--Finally, they are the people who advocate for those in need to the point that they are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
--They, like those who suffer, are caught up in God’s blessing.
--But their blessing comes not so much in being blessed, but rather in being caught up in God’s blessing of others.
--When we are caught up in God’s blessing, we become instruments of God’s healing in this world.
--Of a loving and caring that is not our own.
--In an awareness that we are caught up in something greater than ourselves.
--It is in those moments when we allow ourselves to freely care for our neighbor that we witness the most beautiful thing imaginable: the face of God.
--We literally become the conduits of God’s grace to them, of God’s unfathomable love…
--Finally, we turn to the most startling and last “blessed” that Jesus proclaims:
--“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
Now up until this point Jesus has seemingly been speaking about other people.
--“Blessed are the so and so.”
--But on the last blessed, Jesus makes it clear that he is speaking directly to the people who are listening to his words.
--To the surrounding crowd. To his disciples.
--“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you, and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
--Here is the really hard part about being caught up in God’s blessing:
--Sometimes when we allow God to work through us to be a blessing to others, we ourselves can be caught up in their suffering as well as their blessing.
--When we give ourselves so profoundly to those who suffer we may literally take up their suffering, we ourselves may be persecuted for righteousness sake.
--Therefore, to be caught in God’s blessing is to enter into the brokenness of this world with our time, our possessions, and sometimes our very lives. --And I think that this is part of the reason we question God’s existence.
--Our faith is no mere intellectual exercise.
--It is not even a decision.
--Rather, it is a relationship that transforms our very existence.
--For this God dared to enter into our existence, our broken relationships and our fragile mortality.
--To be utterly with us in all things, in all suffering. Even unto death.
--Maybe my Dad was right.
--We aren’t a perfect people.
--We do not treat each other as graciously as we could or would want to do.
--Yet, at the same time, my Dad was sadly wrong.
--It is not about us and our behavior.
--It is about someone who dearly loves us, who sees our broken lives, and yet, at the same time, sees us as whole.
--May you be caught in God’s blessing.
--May you know both what it means to be utterly hungry and ultimately filled.
--May you find blessing in those around you.
--And, in all of it, may you know the love of God.
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