Tuesday, November 5, 2019

How to Be Blessed



The Beatitudes are Jesus parallel to Moses giving the 10 commandments. These eight Beatitudes are Jesus laying out the introduction where it led to his Sermon on the Mount. For All Saints Sunday it's traditional for us to use one or the other of the accounts of the Beatitudes. The actual one in lectionary for today is the one from Luke, which has four, but some words are a little different and it still has eight, but four of them were positive and the others are reversed to the negative. So four Beatitudes and four woes in the Sermon on the Plain.

Preached extemporaneously at Briensburg UMC on November 3, 2019.

So there's some parallel similarities, but just like the King James version being more familiar to me than some others. So the Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount and all is kind of more familiar, I guess, in a way, or we think about it more as the Beatitudes. And it begins with this verse that Jesus saw the crowds and went up the hill where he sat down, his disciples gathered around him and he began to teach them.

So that begins the real blessing, I think. Just think how it would feel to be in this crowd, depicted in the picture here, of people gathered around Jesus to hear him lay out his plan for humanity. His vision for the kingdom of God. We have his law that is recorded later, but you kind of can see as you read the scriptures, that he was mixing that into the whole of his teaching all along, how we love God and love one another, and that we do this the way that Jesus did it. And we follow his example of love, not just any body who has some kind of way of thinking about it, but the example that Jesus set.

So we're following him and we're hearing his teachings, and we're just sitting there and Jesus' feet. Well, what price is he really inviting us to? I think one of the main reasons why this is important for All Saints Sunday is that we're invited to sit there spiritually right now. We're all gathered around the feet of Jesus wherever we are. We don't have to go over there, climb the mountain. Wherever we turn to Christ, we find that he's there and we can learn from him and look at his example.

We can see how he lived out these teachings, the Beatitudes and the teachings that emanate from them in the Sermon on the Mount as they filled them up and fulfilled the Old Testament law and build on that with the new covenant and the New Testament that we share. Not only Christ, but also all those in Christ. We have a small congregation here and yet we're vastly outnumbered by the ones in this room that we see by the ones who are here with us that we don't see.

Who we can feel their presence as they look in on us and as they join us in the spirit, and as Wesley put it, they seen the lamb in hymns above and we in hymns below. Every once in a while I mention that during the time when we'd sing the doxology every Sunday and it says, "praise him above your heavenly host," you know, I could do some visualize several of those people, my mother, different members of the congregation that have come and gone to be with the Lord, other family and friends that have been important in my life. And I can just see them, Cheryl's dad and mom, different ones, you know, just to start, I probably shouldn't of started making a list. Everybody's family and friends, all of them.

It's just a beautiful feeling to know that we are all family. Whether we can see each other or not, that we're present. We have eternal life. They have eternal life. We're all a part of who Christ is, and Christ invites us and everybody into that kind of an internal spiritual fellowship that is not dependent on our physical state. But instead what we're willing to live into, and we see in his life the example of how he lived out those Beatitudes.

Then he invites us to try to do that ourselves and live into those conditions and receive those blessings. So I put on there the word as it appears in Greek, and of course it's all Greek to me, but "makarias" is the word that's translated blessed, and another way is just happy. But it's a supreme happiness that we all are looking for. It's heaven. It's the glory of God, the Chicana glory of God that he invites us into, to live into, and to grow into, which might take an eternity, but he's been around for a long time with his happiness and he wanted us to be as happy as he is. God wants us to be as happy as God is.

So that we would have the fullness of our joy. So that's when we talk about being blessed. It's just Christ is inviting us to the ultimate in his blessings, and blessings that we enter into a little bit of joy and then it just keeps growing and becomes more perfect, throughout all of this life and the life of the world to come.

One of our prayers at the grave side is that we would grow, that the person who has led upside their earthly tabernacle, that now they have returned to God who gave it, and they're going on from strengths to strength in that service to the heavenly kingdom. And another predator that we have at the funerals is that we pray that our beloved will live in perpetual light. And these are all ways of expressing the divine glory of God that is there for us, it waits for us, not just in the life of the next world, but in this life and on into the next life.

We see these as one continuum and we don't... Our body is laid aside and maybe the promise is that one day our bodies will be restored, but whether they're laid aside or whether they're restored, we still are in Christ, and Christ in us. And our life is eternal. And our families and friendships and fellowship that we share is eternal. It makes changes in this life all the time, you know, as people move to another part of the country, and people go through different situations in their lives and all, and then it changes in the next life too.

So there's a lot of ways that we... The way we relate to each other changes according to our circumstances, but it's all one life, a life in Christ. And that Christ is inviting us into perfect blessing. The blessings that we see him expressing in his life and in preaching about in his life. And then each of these Beatitudes has a condition with it, and it's not the kind of condition where it's transactional. It's not something that well you do this and you'll get that.

But it's rather the condition is the condition of your soul, the condition of your relationship with God and with the people around you. This is the condition your condition is in. This is your state of being. What kind of person are you? This is your character. What kind of person are you? How do you relate to the people around you? How do you relate to God? What's important to you in life? Those aren't just transactions that you can turn off and on. Those are like a switch or something. Those are something... Those are that the way you're growing in life, the trajectory of your life, the direction you're headed in, and the condition of your heart and your mind.

What kind of things... How do you think about people? What kind of things are on your mind? What kind of feelings do you have? What kind of thoughts do you have? That's what Christ is getting at and so that requires a lifetime of growth, doesn't it? As we grow into the likeness of him who filleth all in all. The Bible is always calling us and inviting us. Paul wrote, "Whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are pure." And to think on those kind of things.

That's what Christ is inviting to in the Beatitudes. Look at the Beatitudes, see how Christ manifested those in his life and then see how best it can every day be growing into that likeness, and be more like that. Most of them are like contradictory to the ways that we normally think would make us happen. And so that's an extra step of growth because we have to by faith say, well this is Christ and this is how Christ is inviting us, and I believe that and that's what I want to be like and that's why I want my world to be like, so that's what I'm going to grow into. I'm going to work on that and try to become that way.

Then as we become that light, the more we are that way, then the greater the blessings that follow. And we're sort of always on a little continuum, probably somewhere, nobody that I know of is at the very opposite of the Beatitudes. Some seem like they might be for the moment, you know, but they're not really that way, but sometimes we get to thinking that some people are completely the opposite, but nobody's actually completely, they don't think, you know? But anyway, somewhere between the complete opposite, but nobody I know is the complete absolute reflection of Christ either.

So somewhere in there we all find ourselves, and everybody else is in there somewhere too, in that mix, always growing on the spiritual journey. And as we grow into that condition, as we grow into that character, that reflection of Christ, then we also grow into the promises that are included in the Beatitudes. If you're this common person, then this is going to be the kind of blessing that you're going to get out of it. And the more you're... These kind of people that are here, then the more those blessings will... those promises will come to fruition in our lives, is that we live into the promises of God.

We live into the image that God created us in the first place. We're really just becoming who we really are. I guess it's like, you know, we want to be the fullness of who we were made to be, to reflect fully the image of God. That is the image in which the Bible says we were created, male and female. Everybody created in this image, image of God. That's what we're going into, and the promise is we can do this. The promise is it's an invitation and then Jesus goes on in the Sermon on the Mount to kind of explain how, and he goes on in his life to demonstrate how.

The church through the ages, including all our family and friends that have handed the faith down to us, and others through the ages who have handed this faith down to us, the mighty times witnesses have been showing us how, and have been helping us come into the glory and the joy and the victory and the wonder of true happiness.

Then we also have that as part of our opportunity to pass on, not only to the other people around us of this generation, but to the generation and generations yet to follow. They would be a part of that mighty throne. The crowd throughout from history, from eternity upon eternity. We're a part of that. We're just kind of in this little niche in the flow right now.

Charles Wesley on the other hymn wrote about all the mighty number of people that have gone on before. Many have gone on and have already crossed the river. Some are partying now, and some will cross later. That's us. We're in that number.

So that's the Beatitudes that Christ invites us into and it's the same part of the same promise and the same invitation of the great invitation. When he said, "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest. Come take your yoke and learn of me. For I am meek and lowly and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls."

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Painting: Béatitudes by Joseph Matar, www.Lebanonart.com