Discovering a Beatitude Filled Life, “Blessed are you when…”, by Rev Steven R Mitchell

By on April 13, 2014

Discovering a Beatitude Filled Life

“Blessed are you when…”

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 4/13/2014

Based on Matthew 5:11-12 & Matthew 7:21-23

 

I love Palm Sunday!  I love all the motion that comes with this day!  I love the moving around and waving our palm branches, the special music, and the use of video clips all of which makes for a special celebration.  It is the day that we call the Triumphal Entry, a phrased set aside for a king.   This day of celebration is the start of a chain of events that ends not in triumph but in disgrace and defeat at the end of the week.

In Matthew 21 we read about Jesus riding into town on a young donkey, the streets lined with followers of Jesus waving palm branches saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  This of course attracted people who didn’t know Jesus or who hadn’t received the e-mail to come and welcome Jesus into Jerusalem.  Hosanna has become a word of “praise” over the centuries, but the original Hebrew meaning of the word was “save” or “rescue”.  So if we were to change these words to what the crowd was actually saying, it would read something like: “The son of David who saves!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “The one who is highest in heaven is the rescuer!”  When you put this with the tradition of how a king is greeted into the city by his subjects, riding on a horse along streets filled with waving of palm branches, you can see why Caiaphas and Pilate were concerned about Jesus and his agenda!  The whole understanding of the word Messiah in Hebrew is the king who saves his people from foreign powers, who makes Israel safe to live under it’s own rule.

But this is not the teaching Jesus gives in his Sermon on the Mount; for his teaching of the Beatitudes does not speak to peace through force, but rather through having a poor spirit, the ability to give mercy, and be peacemakers.  In Jesus’ last beatitude he says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

In this morning’s dramatic reading, “Are We Clapping For The Wrong God?” there is a piece that says, “Today we are the crowd, screaming: He’s agitator,” at those who are speaking up for humane treatment of non-documented immigrants.  “Today we are the crowd, screaming: He’s a revolutionary,” of those who advocate equal distribution of resources for all, that there is enough for everybody.  “Today we are the crowd, screaming: He tells them to love God, Yet he breaks the Sabbath laws,” How dare the pastor and worship team, want to sing new modern songs and use instruments that you would find in a show tune.  “Today we are the crowd, screaming: He tells them to do good, Yet he dines with sinners.”  “Hey Edith, are you aware that the woman sitting over there is a lesbian, and that couple behind us live together and aren’t married, and see that college student over with that really weird dyed hair color, I’m not sure I feel comfortable having visitors thinking we accept those kind of people.”

In the second part of the ninth Beatitude Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad {when these negative things happen to you because of me}, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  We in America have been greatly blessed by God with a modern day prophet by the name of Rev Dr Martin Luther King, and his courage to speak out for justice for people of color in a society of white privilege.  For me, the 1960’s have to date been the most turbulent decade that I have lived through, but life changed dramatically because of Dr King’s prophetic voice.   As the followers of Dr King readied to march in Selma, Mississippi in 1965 he said: I can’t promise you that it won’t get you beaten.  I can’t promise you that it won’t get your home bombed.  I can’t promise you won’t get scarred up a bit – but we must stand up for what is right.  If you haven’t discovered something that is worth dying for, you haven’t found anything worth living for.  Because of the courage of many who stood up against racism during the 1960’s, life is better today, when you think about Jesus telling us that the “kingdom of God is among us,” then you can understand what he meant in the 9th beatitude when he says “great is your reward in the kingdom” for it is in part the physical.

On the wall of Shishu Bha- Van, a children’s home in Calcutta operated by Mother Tersa’s order, the Sisters of Charity, are these words, which capture the heart of all the Beatitudes as brought into focus by the this last Beatitude.  People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.  Love them anyway.  If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Do good anyway…  The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway….  What you spent years building may be destroyed overnight.  Build anyway.  People really need help but may attack you if you help them.  Help people anyway.  Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.  Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.”  The Beatitudes For Today by James C Howell, chapter 12

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday.  But where will we be come Good Friday?  Are we willing to stand up against the insults, the bad things that come with standing for justice, for mercy, for peacemaking?    We wave our palms this morning but are we wanting to follow a Jesus that the crowd in Jerusalem was expecting, a messiah that will save us from all the bad people, or are we wanting to follow the Jesus of the Beatitudes, where mercy, forgiveness, justice, and peacemaking are used to create God’s kingdom here on earth?

In the beatitudes, old barriers lose their power and old wounds can lose their sting.  In the beatitudes, we are revolutionaries to the world, we become the agitators of what is not right, we can speak the true word of Love, and dine with sinners and most of all forgive when we have been wronged.  By living a Beatitude filled life, we are on that donkey with Jesus, riding toward the cross that tries to deny God’s power in a world that thinks it holds the power.  Amen

Posted in: Sermons-by-Steven
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