Archive for February, 2014

So We’re Blessed 2-2-14

This sermon is based on the Beatitudes, the opening portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5:1-12. Jesus lays out a series of statements regarding those who are named blessed by God.

You can listen to the sermon here:
http://soundcloud.com/revdalen/so-we-are-blessed-2-2-14

You can follow along with the text of the sermon here. As usual, disregard the indications to pause and the odd punctuation.

People of God, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Who here ever has to deal with insomnia? (wait for them to raise their hands). Those of you who are immune to this scourge of the modern age…I envy you…Those of you that have raised your hands…we stand together.
Insomnia is a crazy thing…the inability to sleep…for whatever reason, being unable to do exactly that which your body and mind want to do.  Insomnia can be caused by a wide variety of different things.  Sometimes its stress related. Something in your life has you so worked up that you simply can’t switch off, and you’re up.  Other times, insomnia can be chemically induced…any night time coffee drinkers? Caffeine will do it…been there done that. Other times, it can be a physical problem like chronic pain or restless leg syndrome. (pause)
But sometimes…sometimes, insomnia just catches you and for whatever reason, your brain just will not shut off and you are wide awake regardless of how exhausted you feel.  Last Wednesday night…I found myself in that boat. I simply could not wind down from the day and so my normal bedtime of approximately 10-10:30 stretched to 11:30, and then midnight…and then 12:30 and finally about 12:45 I felt like it was time to turn off the light…and I did…only to have my daughter wake up needing to go to bathroom at 1.
Needless to say, it was a long night, and once I finally did get to sleep, the alarm went off WAY too soon. After dragging myself around to get ready for the morning, I found myself sitting at my desk, admittedly lacking any motivation, and I actually said to myself, out loud…well, at least I’ve got coffee. (pause) In moments like this, we take our wins where we can get them…we find ourselves blessed where we can.
Now blessings are obviously a key idea in today’s Gospel lesson aren’t they. Most of the time when Jesus is teaching, he pretty much gets to the point. Sure his parables can get a little lengthy from time to time, but his direct teachings…they’re usually shorter, but today we find ourselves at the beginning of a pretty major block of teaching on Jesus part.  The Sermon on the Mount…encompassing 3 entire chapters of Matthews Gospel…111 verses…approximately 2500 words…no wonder we see Jesus sit down at the beginning…his body language almost seems to be saying “take a load off, we’re gonna be here awhile.” And then, when everyone’s situated, he dives in.
And what is the first thing we hear? Probably one of the better known sections of scripture…commonly known as the Beattitudes…statements of blessing…And in a lot of ways, Jesus seems like he’s being REALLY repetitive here doesn’t he?
Each statement starts the same way…blessed are…I talked about this passage with the high schoolers earlier in the week, and we pretty much agreed on two things about this passage…first off, that Jesus preaching repetitive statements from a mountain sounded an awful lot like Moses preaching the 10 commandments…and then second, that these statements pretty much sound like Jesus is telling us Blessed are those who have it lousy now because its gonna get better. (pause) And if we take these statements by Jesus at face value, well, maybe that’s what its telling us.
Let’s think about who Jesus calls blessed here…the poor in spirit…those who mourn…the meek…well jeepers…doesn’t that apply to all of us at one time or another? Sounds like it covers about 100% of humanity…but then Jesus goes on…blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…and the merciful…and the pure in heart…and the peacemakers…funny, that sounds like a lot of the ways that we are called to live our lives as followers of Christ…so it appears that he’s got the religious people covered even more in depth.
Well then Jesus throws in blessed are those persecuted for righteousness sake…interesting, sounds like anyone who’s ever been martyred, or that’s ever been picked on or singled out because of what they believe…and then, in a bit of a twist, Jesus changes up who he’s talking about…he switches from generically listing those that are blessed, which as we’ve seen covers…pretty much everyone as a whole…and he aims his final statement at you…Blessed are you when people revile you…blessed are you when people persecute you…and blessed are you when people utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (pause)
As I read all these statements…these declarations of blessings…I can’t help but think that Jesus must have some warped sense of humor or something, because it really seems like the high schoolers have it right…blessed are you when life stinks…and that sounds like sour grapes to me. (pause)
But maybe…just maybe, we need to stop trying to figure out who is blessed…because as we’ve already figured out…everyone is…because everyone is poor in spirit at times…and everyone mourns…and everyone is meek…and we all show mercy…and we all seek peace…and at times we all feel persecuted…and as we see Jesus says Blessed are YOU…and so, if we all fall under the blessed category…then maybe we need to stop paying attention to the question of WHO…and start paying attention to the WHEN.
All 9 Beattitudes…every single one of them start off exactly the same. Blessed are…ARE…the blessing is here now, regardless of the circumstance…but if the blessing is already here, where did it come from?
Are blessings self generated?  I sure hope not because if they are, God’s got a funny way of showing it doesn’t he? Make yourself poor in spirit…get down on yourself…then you’re making yourself blessed…no…I don’t think so…it doesn’t work like that.
You see, blessings, come from someone else…that’s what makes it a blessing. Now it could be something physical. It could be a present that someone unexpectedly gives you…or it could be financial, like when a random utility rebate shows up in the mail out of the blue…or it could be personal, like when a random person says just the right thing at the right time to cheer you up…those are blessings aren’t they? But as well all know when we stop to think about it, we are blessed in many ways…and there is no limit to the blessings that flow from our Father that loves us when we really slow down enough to think about it.
But unfortunately, there are those times when it REALLY doesn’t feel like it…and those blessings can be really hard to see…and that voice in the back our heads gets really loud…you know that voice…the one that tells us we aren’t good enough…or we aren’t smart enough…or we aren’t pretty enough or we aren’t rich enough…that stupid voice that at times just won’t leave us alone…and continues to harp on us that we just aren’t good enough…that voice is the enemy…the one that hates the fact that God choses to love us.
But as loud as that voice can get…and as much as the enemy hates the love that God has for each and every one of us…that voice cannot overcome the truth spoken by Jesus when we calls someone blessed…because Jesus is God and that which God has declared CANNOT be proven false…and so if God calls you blessed today then guess what, your circumstances don’t matter because the BLESSING…is already here…even in those times when our own sinful nature listens to that evil voice and blocks out the blessings around us…even then, the blessing is real and its present and we find it in Christ himself….for as he says two different times in this passage…blessed are they…for theirs IS the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom is here…now…today…whether we want to realize it or not…and whether it feels like it or not…despite our inability to recognize it, the kingdom is here…and despite our inability to see the blessings, God has decreed it…he has called you blessed…
And so, if you find yourself today in a situation where any of the beatitudes really sound familiar…remember this…God has called you blessed, and in any way that you can muster…rejoice and be glad.
And if you find it difficult to find anything to be glad about…and I know that those times happen…ask God to shift your focus just a little bit…because somewhere…somewhere…that clouds got a silver lining…all it takes is a little flip.
Maybe that little flip is a hot cup of coffee when you’re droopy…that’s where I found mine the other day…or maybe it’s a little bit more like this prayer I heard recently. (pause)
Dear God, I did not sleep well last night, but I did wake up. My muscles are sore, but they work. My wallet is not full, but my belly is. I may not have all I want, but I have all I need. My life is not perfect, but my LIFE…is good. Thank you God. (pause)
Blessings come from others…that’s what makes them blessings…and we have a God who showers blessings upon us, even when we fail to recognize it…so today, let’s offer him our praise, knowing that he gave us the greatest blessing by offering his only Son to die in our place…and by doing so, brings the blessing of the kingdom of heaven…even if we can’t see it yet.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow…Praise Him all creatures here below…Praise him above ye heavenly host…Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost.
Amen.