SUNDAY'S SERMON - Jan 30
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I don’t have a Top Ten list, but there are a few things I really, really hate hearing:
“Sir, would you please take out your license and registration?”
“Now this won’t really hurt, but you might feel a slight pinch.”
“Oh, NO!!!! Rick, you need to come in here! QUICK!!!!”
“Ok, I’ve looked it over, and we have a little problem here.”
“Oh, you can’t miss it.”
“Hello, Dad? Now don’t freak out…”
One of the things said to me from time to time that I really hate to hear is this:
“You know what your problem is?”
Don’t you really hate that question? “You know what your problem is?”
Maybe we do, and maybe we don’t. Maybe our problems are things we don’t know about. But often, perhaps more likely, we do know what our problem is, but are clueless about what to do about them. And we're fairly sure that the critic is just as clueless -- perhaps more so.
Maybe our problem is that we’re human beings, and we have more problems than we can list. Maybe our problem is that we have some enormous problems that nobody can really help us solve. Maybe our problem is that we have some enormous problems that others could help us solve, if only they would. But they won’t. We wish somebody would help us, we really do. But usually our problems are not only beyond us, but beyond anybody else’s ability. Maybe our problem is that usually we’re stuck with our problems, all by ourselves, and that we just have to live with them, or chip away at them piece by piece for years on end. Often our problems will stay with us all our lives, and we’re free of them only through death and resurrection.
Maybe our problem is people who say, “You know what your problem is?”
Why do people do that to us?
Why do people, who likely have their own problems clinging to them like dog hair on a coat, feel free to say, so critically, so judgmentally, so infuriatingly, “You know what your problem is?”
Why do people, who obviously need fixing themselves, feel free to say, “Here, let me fix you.”
Perhaps it is because our society really prizes competency, skill, efficiency and effectiveness more than openness. We are a nation of fixers and problem solvers more than we are listeners. We prefer Yankee ingenuity more than Christian compassion. We want to fix the world. We can fix one another. But more than likely, it's so we don't have to face the reality of our own failures. If I can focus on fixing you, I won't notice the embarrassing reality of my own brokenness. “You know what your problem is? Here let me fix you.”
In stark contrast, Jesus declares, “Blessed are the meek… blessed are the peace makers.”
Instead of honoring the busybodies and the critics, Jesus honors the meek. Those who inherit the earth are not those who swagger, those who judge, but those who refrain from sticking their finger in your eye, knowing they have things in their own eye.
The Kingdom of God is not realized through self-righteousness, for unless our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the self-righteous, we will never find our place in the Kingdom.
I can imagine James or John, the Sons of Thunder, swaggering up to Andrew or Peter, poking a rigid finger in his chest, jutting forward a chin, and challenging, “You know what your problem is? You’re not pure in heart.”
But the Sermon on the Mount must not be reduced to a new set of rules by which to judge others. We must not hang the Beatitudes over another person’s head like a new sword of Damocles, and think that the Kingdom is ours. If we do so, then we find that the Kingdom most certainly is not ours after all.
The Beatitudes are not a way of diagnosis, to end only in guilt or self-deception. Rather, they are a wild and bold declaration of a whole new way of being.
Jesus declares that the Kingdom has come near. And those who will be honored in the Kingdom, those who are the blessed, are not the ones our culture has encouraged us to be. In our world, we have been taught that the way to win is to look out for number one. The way to win is mount the best offence. The way to win is to dominate, overcome, overpower, win at all costs.
But this culture is bankrupt, imploding, disintegrating and collapsing. It is passing away. It has no future.
The Kingdom is coming. And the way of this coming Kingdom is most definitely not the way of the going-away Culture.
They way of the Kingdom is just the opposite of every way our culture urges us to go. If you want to really win, says Jesus, then let the other guy win. If you want to really live, then let having your own way die. If you want to be blessed, seek the blessing of others. If you want to have it all, you must let it all go.
That is why God became one of us. That is why Jesus let go of heaven. Let go of power. Let go of majesty. Let go of sovereignty and took on the form of a servant. Let go of life and embraced the cross. Because that is the way of the Kingdom. The only way to victory.
“You know what your problem is?”
Well, maybe. I sure know what SOME of my problems are. And frankly, I doubt very much that you can solve them. But, would you like to come join me as I embrace the Savior?
The Lord be with you.