Monday, January 30, 2017

Blessed are You!

Blessed are You!

You are Blessed in Boston!
You are NOT Banned in Boston!

Jesus began his ministry by recruiting some ordinary working people; like fisherfolk as you may remember from last week. Folks like us and he said plain as day; “Let’s go fishing.” 

Mind you he wants us to go fishing for people. After all, we’re spending way too much time walking in the Darkness. It is time for us to proclaim the Gospel of Light!  You will remember how we put it last week; 
Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again.
In the darkness there is much too much violence, bigotry and hatred. In the light we die to sin and rise to newness of life.
We are forgiven
We receive the gift of eternal life
We are filled with the unbounded joy of Jesus
This Gospel message then gives us the kernel of a Gospel life
Love God
Love one another
Love yourself.

No need to complicate the Gospel. Jesus didn’t; neither need we.

So then, he called his working folk to him, his fisherfolk and then Jesus went public with his ministry. 

He began healing the sick. Jesus wanted to make sure that everybody had access to Universal Health Care through his sacred and holy touch. This is first and foremost. He gave us power and commandment to heal the sick. Why then is this matter of Universal Health Care so controversial? For Jesus, the was of the highest priority.

Of course the crowds followed him wherever he went. They longed for his healing touch. And there they were today gathered with him up on the mountain. He begins his first campaign speech; the one we call “The Sermon on the Mount”.

He begins with a blessing. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”. Jesus knew what it was to be exhausted and oppressed by the burdens of his life. He had sense to withdraw in moments when he was spiritually spent. We may not think of Jesus as “spiritually spent” but the scripture tells us exactly that; 
“But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” ~Luke 5:15,16

In the Lucan version of this sermon, the one the biblical scholars call the "Sermon on the Plain", Jesus says "Blessed are the poor." Period. 
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh." ~Luke 6:20-21
Jesus goes on to say this of the rich and powerful
"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep." Luke 6:24,25
Notice how Jesus comforted the afflicted; but afflicted the comfortable. 

In both sermons Jesus begins with a blessing. In fact, he begins with many blessings: A blessing on the poor and those whose hearts are torn with grief. He blesses the meek, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  The merciful and the pure in heart; these folks obtain mercy and they shall see God. Blessed too are the peacemakers, they are God children. And then there is this. Don’t forget those of you who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Blessed are you too! When they revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you Jesus wants you to rejoice and be glad because this is how they have always treated the prophets in times gone by.

Oh my God!

How prophetic are these words. Its still the same now! What kinds of things do we hear now in public about all the above? Where are the blessings from our public leadership at the very top of our nation’s Capitol? Rather than blessings, we hear bullying at the very least, and at worst nothing less than persecution.

How tragic that in these United States of America among those persecuted are folks singled out because of their religion. Just because you are Muslim! In our history, you might be persecuted because of the color of your skin, you may be discriminated against because of your gender, you may face violence, rejection and hatred just because of your orientation. This is not to be among Christian folk. 

Jesus begins with blessings on the people. All the people. So much so, he seeks out those the rich and powerful reject; you know who they are; sinners, the despised, the rejected and the outcast. Jesus blesses those banned by the rich and powerful.

In the person of Jesus, God’s love extends well beyond those accepted in polite social circles. He goes to the sick in body, mind and spirit. He seeks out the sinners; the prostitutes and the unclean lepers, the despised tax collectors, the foreign born Samaritan; Jesus loved them, forgave them. Jesus blessed them!

Contrast these blessings with the language we hear now from the halls of power and the extremist managed media. Jesus tells us that the truth shall make us free. Now we have well funded executive leadership that makes up the truth as it goes along particularly about voter fraud. This is an attack on our very democracy. 

Ah but calm yourself Fr Paul! There I go. I too can get so easily caught up in all the negative talk! We can easily fall prey to the darkness these days if we focus too much on all the hateful speech.

Rather, let us begin our ministry as Jesus began his; with the blessings of God. In Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word for blessed is “makarios” which means 
“You are the ones who are supremely blessed and holy in God’s eyes”
“You are the fortunate one”
“You are the well off in God’s eyes!”
“In fact, you are the ones God admires!”
Makes sense, doesn’t it?

We order our lives with a blessing first and foremost. Make it a rule in your families. Make it a rule in your church. In fact, lets make it a rule of heart to bless God the Holy Trinity. We can get too easily caught up in finding fault, God knows there is much to find fault with.

But Jesus knows that's a trap. This is the darkness of the world in which we live and we are way too much caught up in it. In our politics, God knows. There is so much to find fault with in our church or in our diocese. Good Lord we can find fault with each other, without so much as taking a sober look at ourselves.
Jesus pointed that one out very clearly, remember? In the same Sermon on the Mount that begins with today's, Jesus said;
“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” ~Matthew 7

Jesus began his every waking moment with a blessing. Good lord, there is so much to be grateful for. You have your life, your family, your friends, your work. We have God at the center of our lives, and an indelible picture of who God is in the person of Jesus. By God’s grace and through the generosity of so many we have this church. 

Oh yes, blessed are you for your generosity and your pledges for without them we could not prepare this year’s budget, which, by the way, we will be doing directly following this service. I’m sure you have all pledged. You have, haven't you?

Which brings us back to where we began; “Blessed are the poor”. I’m confident in saying none of you is rich. If you were, then I’d know somebody’s holding out on God’s work in this place.
Let me will tell you this. The biblical standard for giving is the tithe. That means we are called to give 10% of what God gives us. Everyone has some income. This is God's gift to you.  And this is God’s church and we want to be certain that we make provision for the ministry of God’s church in and from this place. Don’t we?

Let me ask you, do you give 10%, 5%, 4%, 2.5% or some other proportion your income? If any of you have difficulty with decimals or percentages, I know somebody here can help you.figure it out. Oh yes, I know about the poor widow who only gave a few copper coins in the Temple Treasury out of gratitude for something God had done for her. But let me ask you, what percentage of what she had did this poor woman give, according to God? 10%? No! She gave much more than that my friends, she gave everything she had. That’s 100% folks! ~Mark 12:41-44.

Finally, “Blessed are you” you are God’s blessed people. You have been blessed. 
“You are the ones who are supremely blessed and holy in God’s eyes”
“You are the fortunate one”
“You are the ones well off in God’s eyes!”
“In fact, you are the ones God admires!”
Now, you are to go forward to bless. 

So then in our first two weeks together; what is it that Jesus is teaching us?
  1. Let’s go fishing!
  2. Let's go blessing!

In the Name of God, the Most Holy, Blessed and Everlasting Trinity. Amen.
Fr Paul

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