January 29th, 2017: "Blessed Are We!"

Text: Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15;                        4th Sunday after Epiphany                  Sandy Nuernberg

1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12         4th Sunday in Ordinary Time                Pastor

Title: “Blessed Are We!”                                   

1st Presbyterian Church                                Sunday, January 29th, 2017                 Pardeeville, WI


Please pray with me, Lord, as we hear your Word and discern its meaning for us this day, bring your Spirit right into our arms. Allow our eagerness to want new and different things, not the same arrangements forever and ever. Help us to make familiar things become anew, in our reforming and always being reformed. In your Name we pray, AMEN.

            Last Wednesday I was leading worship/communion at a facility (Attic Angel Place, 1/25/17, 3:00pm) and these familiar texts in Micah and Matthew reminded me of job descriptions; what does it mean to be a disciple? As we encounter and discern the words in the text for us today, though, I get ‘embroiled’, I mean I get testy (defensive) about that question someone asked me, “As Christians how much more impractical can you get? You know we as a people can’t possibly abide by these words, don’t you?”

            These are fine questions of us, aren’t they? In God’s Word to us in what some scholars call the ‘Second Golden Rule of the O.T.,’ and given to us by a minor prophet (Micah), we hear of ‘doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.’ Follow this with Jesus’ quiet time on the hillside with God, and his teaching moment (his Sermon on the Mount) with the disciples about the ‘Blessings of Happiness’ (the Beatitudes), and we have a true Matthew picture of the character of God’s people ( Making Disciples, J. Brannstrom, 2017, p.8). The texts today could be thought of as a disciple’s job description to say the least! And then some might say in a word, foolishness, plain and simple.

           For all those following Jesus at this time in early Christian history, and for their being with ‘the most popular person in town’ it is not what these ‘fisher-people’ (least of all the disciples!) probably had in mind! What also comes to my mind from these texts is a kind of remembering/reflecting on the real essence ( the fragrance/flavor) or true character of Jesus’ power in His words, and God’s will for God’s people.

          If you have been following along with me and reading Matthew’s gospel this month (on Jan. 1st I suggested this---a chapter a day) we are finished with the book (yesterday was Chapter 28!) and we remember the final words of Jesus who said,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of

the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them

to obey everything I have commanded you. And

remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

                                                                                                Matthew 28:19-20, NRSV


            I think of it this way: as our texts today indicate, and as this familiar text closes the gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ mission was clearly for all people (also 25:35-36). We are called to be disciples, AND to call and help make other disciples in God’s Name. In other words we’re called to learn together. We are called to learn new things about our habits of living. And if we learn together, we live more faithfully as Christians.

           I wonder, if these words, intangible as they seem to be (you can not touch them), like: doing justice, loving kindness, humbleness, and also in being blessed in helping the lowly, meek, poor in spirit, the peacemakers, and those who are hungry and thirsty, teaching obedience in all that is commanded to us; are these responsibilities of Christians as important as a job description? Perhaps, yes, they are. Yet like the early disciples, we are always learning! In our life-time, we’ve heard these ‘God commands’ often; at least every three years in the lectionary as we study our gospels. We might pass them off as routine in nature. I’d hope not, and that we’d learn something new each time we hear/read them.

           Do any of you read ‘Parade’ magazine (the insert) in the Sunday paper? It just so happens that (show your issues, ‘Parade’ 1/1 and 1/15, 2017, also parade.com) they began the New Year with this front-page article: “Let’s Make 2017 the ‘Year of Being Kind’”(1/1, p.8-10). They give examples of love, kindness, compassion, and how we might make this a monthly kindness challenge for 2017. Last week was ‘Does history shine brightest on Presidents who are kind?’ (…tell examples of Lincoln, Truman, L. Johnson, Ford, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, 1/15, p. 18-19).

            In today’s world, I was discerning examples of hearing these words in Micah and Matthew as if we’d never heard them before and then applying them anew: in practicing tough love with our children, siblings, grandchildren, being an enabler for whatever we know in our heart is not right (alcoholism, gambling, drugs turning to violence), having a heart-to-heart conversation with a loved one who is in disagreement, discipline of anykind (cheating, bullying) for what we believe in, immigration in neighborhoods, immunizations for children, and the list goes on. We must ask ourselves what it means to be pure in heart? Are we the ones who are meek, mourning, or the poor in spirit, or are we peacemakers? How does walking humbly with our God lead us in unpleasant or   troublesome areas? Are we foolish? Are we blessed? Can we rejoice in knowing God’s commands of us?

            Because we are people of faith, and in these most contentious and changing of times, you and I need reminders of being kind, compassionate and humble in our ways. Yes, it is our responsibility to call-upon/remind others in being kind and loving and having concern for others. I think Jesus is telling us that we are blessed if we have been in any of these situations, and we can rejoice that Jesus taught us the lessons of loving our neighbor, and treating our friend as how we’d want to be treaded. It’s nothing about foolishness or impracticality at all. It’s about Jesus’ teachings being in the middle (the centerpiece) of all of who we are and what we do, and who we become. As Christians we can rejoice as to whom we belong! (I told you I can get testy about this- was flushed writing it!)

            I believe Jesus wants us to be aware; the tension and testiness in which we live and breathe and attest to is of what’s happening now and what blessings can bestow upon us for the future in our obedience. A pure heart sees God differently, and peacemakers become children of God in their new roles as feeling blessed. It reminds me of our giving confidence and praise to those who need it. We all need it sometime, somewhere in our lives. In God’s peacemaking, there are restorations of relationships with each other; it is God’s will and work at hand. We’ve all experienced this is some way.

            There is not so much impractical here in these blessings we receive; there is trust in the practicalities of knowing our walk with God, personally, effectively. In our loving God as ourselves, loving-kindness from God to us is our sharing that love, giving that kindness to others. All in all, it is the good news of our gospel that we recognize, trust, rejoice, and be glad in the blessedness of our earthly, real world. There is newness, change in the making, and yes, Lord knows, temptations for us. The more that God is in our lives, the deeper we can see ourselves and what all is happening around us. Our eyes/ears are open to God’s Spirit; God’s loving-kindness has no end. God loves us; there is no partiality, in any way, shape, or form. That’s comforting as we walk humbly with our God.     


                                                                        Thanks be to God.          AMEN.

  August 2018  
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