Sermon Epiphany 4 January 29, 2017
Micah 6:1-8 Psalm 15 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 Matthew 5:1-12
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
In his letter today Paul continues the theme from last week’s readings saying that Christ’s Crucifixion was foolishness to the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, a stumbling block, for the reasons I presented last week, including that humiliation and execution are not signs of God’s presence, quite the opposite, they are signs of a curse. Jews believed by signs, which was not unexpected since YHWH had given them tons of signs, during their history, signs of His presence and beneficial activity in their lives. Gentiles on the other hand having no experience of YHWH looked for reason and logic in their beliefs. We still do but that has been tempered by our own understanding of God’s presence: God is not easily explained but easily believed. Paul is saying the world is not really the way we see it, we are looking for the wrong things and the Gospel lays that out clearly as Jesus preaches what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. What seems like foolishness to us really is not. Jesus says: –
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. You’d think the kingdom would belong to the staunch believers, after all aren’t they the one’s with all the faith ? But it will be the seekers, those who are looking for answers who are the ones. Of course, it would be right that the always convinced, devout, Christian will land-up in Heaven, they will not be excluded, but those who really don’t know and perhaps have given-up, Heaven is there for them too. God is patient, He has all the time in the world, He will wait for a yet-to-be-believer. We object to that because only those who deserve should get, but remember the lazy workers in the vineyard they only worked for one hour and got a full day’s pay (Matthew 20:9). Unfairness seems to be a problem because the world is upside down !
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. If you have lost a loved one and deeply mourn, comfort is the last thing you want. You want to show that you are angry and disappointed, perhaps even with God. Comfort doesn’t cut it, because you are desperately angry, with life, death, even God. But we do know what eventually happens – comfort. Comfort in the knowledge that our loved one is secure in Heaven and then we realise that the focus has turned from us to our loved one, where it should have been in the first place. Our world is upside down !
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth. But you have to stand up for your rights, being a wimp will get you nowhere. Perhaps all those confrontationists will eventually wipe themselves out, and guess who’s left ! That’s not the solution ! But, meekness is not being weak-kneed, instead it’s being disciplined, controlled, full of care and real service to others, the blusterers will learn a new way of life. Until then the world is upside down !
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst, for they will be filled. Is that just going to happen ? Not in this world – millions starve and are desperate for clean water ! But unless you’ve been without, you will never be filled. You can’t understand the pleasure of a full belly, if you’ve never had an empty one. Our world is obese in many ways, it is upside down indeed !
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. It seems that the good deed you do can come back to bite you, so why not follow the politics of “me first and to heck with the rest”. Well if you want to perpetuate anger and violence and bad feelings – go right ahead, that is often the way of the world and it seems headed more that way today. The world is upside down !
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Now that sounds right doesn’t it ? Perhaps there is hope but how do we become pure ? We are continually bombarded with temptation and even if we pick out all the bad things, and wash away our sins, being human we know they will re-emerge, this Fallen World is not big on purity. This world is upside down !
Blessed are the peacemakers. Our Canadian experience shows that when we act as Peacemakers we often get hurt or killed. Have you ever interfered in an argument and got caught in the middle. It doesn’t feel much like being a child of God does it ? The world is upside down !
Blessed are you when you are persecuted or reviled. Have you ever been down that street? We are back to fake news again. Your reputation is shot. You lose your friends. Inheriting any kingdom is far from possible. The world is upside down !
And it’s upside down because it operates in the expected way, just the way it always has, in a very human way, that is, any action will usually get the same response except Good isn’t always answered with Good but if you harm me, whether I am an individual, a society or a nation, I will get you back in spades. We need a whole lot of turning the other cheek. If we learnt not to react in the usual way and instead walked the extra mile all these things that Jesus spoke about would come to pass (Matthew 5:39). I ask you to think of a world where spirituality reigns, where we comfort each other, where we serve each other, where we are satisfied with our lot in life, where we respect each other, where our motives are pure, and we live in peace. That sounds a lot like Heaven doesn’t it and that is the point Jesus is making. The Kingdom of God here on Earth will operate that way if we follow Jesus’ hopes for us. The Kingdom of Heaven operates that way already. Wouldn’t it be good to get away from all the braggadocio, all the deceit, all the jealousy, all the upset. To do that we have first to upset this world – turn it onto its feet because it is upside down now. The only way that will happen is if we turn ourselves first and then help others to do the same. I know it will not be easy but it is possible. Maybe you have achieved one or more of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, if so well done, but more importantly you know the rest are achievable too, for all things are possible with God (Mark 14:36). Amen.