SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:1-12
At the preschool Chapel time we talked about Be Attitudes, like be happy, be friendly, be nice, be kind, be forgiving, be good, be helpful, be caring, be loving. This was one way to describe the people of God, who follow Jesus. And yet, we often times look at this as what we need to do in order to receive blessing from God. In the nearness of the reign of God, these are the blessings that come to us with God’s rule over us irregardless of what we do. Blessings are not contingent on our behavior or what we do. A Blessing is God’s free gifts to us. Being Blessed is a sign of our covenant relationship with God.
The poor in spirit, are those who are empty spiritually. They maybe broken with little hope. Like those who mourn. They have loved and lost and their lost has made them empty. The meek are those who have remained silent. They are none confrontative but deprived. Just as those who hunger and thirst of righteousness, the justice that they desire eludes them and they are empty. Can you imagine being a refugee who is apply to enter the United States, having gone through a rigorous process and been granted a visa but now is stopped from going forward for the next 120 days because of an executive order? The hunger for a righteousness to let them come into our country. It is not what they
are doing that makes them deserving of blessing but, it is the reign of God that blesses us. Look at how God blesses them, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven, they will be comforted in their loss, they will inherit the earth, and they will be fill with what is right.
The second half of the beatitudes are about those who are acting in ways according with the reign of God by being merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and advocating for what is right. They will have mercy, they will see God, they will
be called children of God and they belong to the reign of God.
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ radical vision of what God’s reign on earth could look like. It is a vision of wholeness for all people. Jesus expresses what it is like to live in our work a day world with God. What blessings does the
nearness of God’s reign brings in us and to others? The Beatitudes seem to be divided into two groups dealing with those who are empty and then with those who are engaged in the activity of God’s justice. Both are blessed by God’s sheer gift of the reign of God. Brokenness allows us to receive from God’s promise and grace. We have hope in the midst of emptiness.
We have a future beyond the circumstances we presently find our selves in. God is gracious and abundant in the promises given to us. Here is Jesus who comes to reveal the in breaking of God’s abundant life. Those that are down trodden, weak, and marginalized have hope in God’s future for all. Then there are those who are doing the work of justice. Walter Brueggemen made this comment on the Micah passage but it describes our participation in the works of justice described here in the beatitudes. “Do justice: to be actively engaged in the redistribution of power in the world, to correct the systemic inequalities that marginalize some for the excessive enhancement of others.” When we learn God’s truth, then we need to find practical ways of living it. The pipeline in South Dakota is being looked at again to put steelworkers back to work, to bring oil from Canada to Texas, over the concerns of protection a native american holy site and clean water. We see this, as fear is the motivation for prejudice to keep those traveling from muslim countries from crossing our
boarders. Or the appointment of people to positions where they have no expertise to create a particular governmental profile. At yesterday’s Winter Aha Makua meeting, someone asked me if the TIA can have a prophetic voice to speak to these issues. What is it the bible tells us about the immigrant and sojourner among us. How are we to treat those who are
different from ourselves? Why does the pursuit of money trump any other values? At the Fall Aha Makua we sat around round tables and had a discussion on Black Lives Matter. What do the Beatitudes tell us about how to treat those
who are empty and to approach the injustices we see in our community, our nation and the world? An easy way to begin to get a perspective on what is happening in our nation and world is to go to National Public Radio. Their reporting is not based on selling a national brand of product so they are frees to report the news without biased. The other source that gives us a faithful perspective is Sojourner Magazine. They read the new through the perspective of our Christian faith and
what the Bible says about this. This gives us a handle on how to begin to wrestle with these tough issues before us.
The beatitudes is not just about being nice, but there is an edge to them, that the presence of the rule of God brings. It fills us with hope when we are empty. But it also calls us to action to deal with the inequities in our world and the marginalization of neighbors over the excessive enhancement of others.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 4:12-23
When we realize that God answers prayer, we can draw the conclusion that God is real. When God is real, then it makes it is possible for Jesus to die as a payment for our sins. When we believe this, then we have to find out as much about Jesus as we can and to learn about God. A good place to begin is with the Gospels. In this season following Christmas called Epiphany, Matthew continues to give us an account of Jesus’ life.
John the Baptist’s ministry comes to an end with is arrest by Herod. Jesus who has been hanging out in the Judean countryside, finds this area hostile with Herod’s activity and withdraws to Galilee. His withdrawing is similar to Joseph’s
taking of his family to Egypt when Herod’s dad was on a killing rampage after the wise ones failed to return to him with news of the Christ child. But instead of Nazareth, Jesus takes up residence in Capernaum by the sea. An area, where Matthew reminds us is ancient Zebulun and Naphtali. A crossroads of Gentiles and Jews, where the Assyrian army trampled over Israel and caused the Babylonian Captivity. A war torn area of darkness. It is here that Jesus takes up the ministry of John the Baptist of calling people to “repent For the kingdom of heaven has come near”. Like Light, shining in the darkness, Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee. He was walking along the Sea of Galilee where he begins, by calling disciples. In the Gospel reading of Matthew it seems the things happen right away, immediately, without any forethought or preparations. But as we learned last week in the Gospel of John, it was John the Baptist who introduces Andrew to
Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’. It is from this initial contact that Andrew decides to spend the rest of the day with Jesus and later call his brother Peter to come and see the ‘Messiah’. They must have been thinking about Jesus since then, even while casting their net, so when he appears on the seaside and calls them to follow, they drop their nets and go. The same thing occurs when Jesus comes across the sons of Zebedee, James and John. He calls them and they too leave what they were
doing, their lives, even their family, to follow Jesus. Katheryn Matthews’ commentary calls their dropping of everything to follow Jesus a “re-set” of their lives. Where we are called to leave everything—to let go of stuff—for exactly such a reorientation and renewal, as we would say today, a “re-set’ of their lives. Jesus confronts us with how important following God is in our lives.
God calls us to focus on Jesus and follow him, it ‘re-sets’ our lives for God. What would a re-set of our lives look like? If left to our own devices, we can be very self centered and short sighted. Our view of the world could be limited by only our perspective or of how things are as far as they affect me. But there is so much more to consider and be aware of than ourselves. This is what happens to us when God calls us to follow Jesus. These fishermen who's main concern were fish, how to get fish, lots of fish, fish to provide for their families and support a livelihood were reset to do something even more important, that would have a consequence beyond themselves, for the world and that was to follow Jesus.
Jesus calls them to reset their lives and join in the work God is doing, in Capernaum, in Galilee and in Judea, for the kingdom of heaven and the world. They followed Jesus throughout Galilee; teaching in synagogues, proclaiming the news of the presence of God’s reign, healing and calling more disciples to follow. They were reset from a view that included their lives, family and neighborhood to that of Galilee and the realm of God. But this is what happens when we turn to
God we realize that we have a call that is greater than just ourselves. We have a new direction open to a radical renewal. One that is concern about others, about how what we do effects their journey with God, and how they too can be called to
a ‘reset’ that is greater than themselves. In our day of technological advantages, we are dependent upon our devices
for communication, to keep us organized, for entertainment, for work and for leisure. But we have all had our technology fail us; a screen freezes on us or a program get stuck from over use, or find ourselves using on device the some
many windows open that all we get is a spinning color wheel. We get anxious, annoyed, angry and frustrated. No matter what we try remedies our situation. So we ask the teenager what to do. And they say, “power down, pull the plug,
press the reset button for ten seconds and power up, plug it in and wait.” All we can do during that 10 seconds of black screen is pray! Pray to reset our lives, drop our nets, follow Jesus, see that there is a calling more than what we have
been doing, how we can teach, proclaim, heal and call others to something more. These that Jesus called to follow were not perfect (Just like us). They were seeking God way. They didn’t find it in the way Judaism was being practiced with a strict adherence to the Law. They had good hearts. They were come as you are and learn as you go. They lived a technique called ‘shadowing’ where they learned as much as they could, by following Jesus around. The disciples had three years of this. For us it is from reading the Gospel and living as Jesus did now until forever. We learn as we go and get better and better at it. Even with following Jesus, it is easy to get distracted, have to many windows open, and find ourselves frozen. Turn off from time to time to ‘reset’. Pause, listen, pray, center yourself on what God wants for us and live into it.
After Christmas that season on the church calendar is 12 days ending with Epiphany. “My true love gave to me” Yeah God is my true love! That is how we get the twelve days of Christmas, opening up the give of Christ. Epiphany is the day that they Wise men make it to Bethlehem to worship Jesus. Epiphany means to ‘reveal’ We are in this season of ‘reveal’ until we turn the corner towards Easter with Ash Wednesday and Lent. The Church calendar helps us to prepare for the holidays that are coming up as we celebrate the important events of Jesus’ life. The Gospels reveal to us who Jesus is. This is our way to begin our shadowing of Jesus to be a disciple. Finding ourselves with Jesus in situations and see how Jesus works it would with love, compassion, wisdom and the help of God. Then in some way, we can teach what we know from our experience with Jesus, we can proclaim what we know about having God rule in our hearts, we can pray for healing where thing are not right and we can invite other to re-set their live through prayer towards the greater calling that God has for us beyond our selves.
SCRIPTURE: John 1:29-42
Last week from the Gospel of Matthew we heard the account of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. This week the Gospel according to John tells us what John the Baptist knows about Jesus. It begins on the next day.
The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” But this does not mean that Jesus is the worthy sacrifice that pays the price of our sin, Lambs were not used as a sacrifice for sin, rather, it draws us back to Exodus and the deliverance and liberation from slavery in Egypt. The blood of
the lamb marked the door post of their homes as a sign for the spirit of death to pass over. This would have been understood by the first hearers of the Gospel. So the ‘Lamb of God’ who brings deliverance and liberation, takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is identified as the mark that alerts the spirit of death to passover us and takes away the sin of the world. Jesus liberates us from slavery to sin and brings the world into a fresh new contact with the presence of God. This brings an end to our alienation with God. We have a new beginning with God as the Israelites had with God being
delivered from slavery and Egypt. John continues his witness of who Jesus is by saying that Jesus is eternal in nature, referring to his Godly nature as alpha and omega. ‘Jesus is after me, ranks ahead of me and is before me all at the same time.’ Then John the B identifies Jesus as the one he was preparing Israel to recognize though his ministry of baptism with water. Turning towards God and believing that the realm of God is at hand creates a mood seeking the champion of God, John admits that he didn’t know who the one who was to come after him was, but when Jesus was baptized and one who sent JB to baptize with water said ‘He whom you see the Spirit descend upon and remain will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ JB concluded, ‘I have seen the Son of God.’ This is a messianic term, a rallying word for the people of God to take heart, God’s rule is at hand. The next day, the day after the day after, JB was standing with two disciples and identifies Jesus as ‘the lamb of God’ again. That was all they needed to hear and they took to following Jesus. Jesus asks them “What are you looking for?” and they answer “Rabbi, where are you staying“ in essence, “You”, Jesus replies “Come and see” and they do,
staying the day with him. That was all Andrew needed. He left to get his brother Simon Peter telling him, “We have found the Messiah” which means ‘anointed one’ When Simon gets there Jesus looks at him and knew who he is, “Simon, son of John, called Cephas or Peter”.
The Lamb of God at Passover is a sign of liberation and deliverance. Jesus as the Lamb of God creates new possibilities of liberation and deliverance from sin. What shape does our liberated lives take? Being taken away from sin what does
our world look like? When we only think of Jesus as a sacrifice that pays the price of our sin then we a find ourselves in a continuous cycle of sin and forgiveness. True but there is more to what Jesus does for us. The liberation from sin that Jesus gives, frees us to live away from keeping an accounting of our sin, to participating in life with God. The deliverance we have is from a place of sin to one of creativity and joy as we live with God. We don’t only see what would make life better, but we have a vision of how God wants us to live. We don’t only have sense of what is right, but we have a whole new concept of how our community could be. There is a NFL football commercial about public service that the players preform. This player brought a clip to show a classroom of how he was behaving after another player got under his skin. He told the class that he didn’t like the way he behaved after that, as the clip showed him angry, hitting things, and vindictive. He said we have to learn how not to let people get under our skin to make better choices and behave better. The class agreed. Pre frontal Cortex living, instead of the primitive amygdala controlling our behavior. We we don’t let people get to us, then we can think about how we are going to respond and make good choices. Our liberation from sin helps us to be patient with the rest of the world that is still seeking the Anointed one. God has been gracious with us, giving us what we don’t deserve with Jesus, we can do the same as we offer to them Grace in Jesus’ name. As God has been gracious with us, we can show them grace. Being in contact with God is not to get God to do what we want. Rather it is about truth that changes us. The more we learn about God, the more we have the opportunity to become more of what God wants us to be. We are delivered from a world of sin to live in a world with God options. The invitation Jesus gives to the disciples is the same we can extend to our neighbors to come and see how we live, that they may be drawn in to see how forgiveness is lived out, to see how grace is lived out, to see how we deal with sin, and how we are called to life with God that continues to shape and form our
lives according to God’s ways of love for God and others. We are delivered from a place of sin to a place of grace in the presence of God.
What John the B has witnessed about Jesus, he concluded that he was the ‘Lamb of God’, the anointed one, the Son of God, ranks higher than he, is eternal, before and after himself. He then tells others what he thinks about Jesus. JB tells what he saw at Jesus Baptism with the Holy Spirit. He talks about his call to ministry and Jesus’ call to ministry. He tells his disciples what he knows about Jesus and they go off to follow Jesus. As they come and see where Jesus is staying they come to know who Jesus is for themselves and they respond by telling others to come and see for themselves. The Lamb of God brings liberation and deliverance and takes away the sin of the world. We have a new relationship with God, free from the fear of sin. Free from keeping an accounting of sin that makes us free to live according to the will of God and participate in what God is doing in our world. We can have the truth of God change us and we can begin to live gracefully into the will, ways and mission of God.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 3:13-17
After Herod dies Joseph is given the ‘all clear’ sign to return from Egypt, but when he discovers that Herod’s son is ruling over Judea and decides to settle north, in Nazareth, in Galilee instead. Today’s passage takes place 30 years later as Jesus begins his Ministry. It has the look of an invasion as Jesus crosses over from Galilee into Judea to be baptize by John in the Jordan.
John wasn’t so sure about this. He would have prevented Jesus from being baptized saying “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?” But Jesus whispers to him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” The mission of Jesus is about right relationship with God. Jesus places himself in relationship with God at his baptism. God’s mission in the world is through us, with John the Baptist baptizing and with our participation. So Jesus’
baptism is not about Jesus repenting from sin, but as an inaugural event, showing who God is and that Jesus is in relationship with God. Baptism shows Jesus covenanting with God. Jesus represents our rebellious humanity being engaging in God’s ways. Jesus is doing God’s mission to bring all people in relationship with God. Then just as Jesus was baptized and coming out of the water, God speaks, a sign that Jesus is headed in the right direction, “This is my son.” God is affirming their relationship. They are kin. “The Beloved” God expresses love for Jesus. “with whom I am well pleased” which can also be translated as ‘chosen one”. God affirms Jesus’ relationship with God and Jesus’ following in God’s will.
Jesus going from Galilee into Judea is an invasion of sorts. It is to establish the territory of the realm of God. The mission is to bring people into relationship with God. How are we able to live in righteousness with God? Righteousness means relationship more than it means being perfect. In our relationship with God, we are righteous with God despite our imperfections. Our righteousness before God is not a product of our own, but a result of God’s love for us and God’s graciousness towards us that results in forgiveness. God’s response to Jesus is like God’s new response to us; the heavens are opened and God’s Spirit is given. We are called to be children of God, God affirms that we are dearly loved and pleasing to God. God’s mission for Jesus is to bring all into relationship with God. Not to live self righteous lives of perfection, but to be in a grace filled living relationship with God as our loving parent. Jesus’ ministry will show us how to live in relationship with God and in turn how we can live graciously with our neighbor, loving in our ways and forgiving of
On NPR they interviewed Maggie Rowe. A Christian, she has been on Comedy Central and written for Arrested Development. She talked about taking Christianity to the Extreme. She was filled with self doubt and afraid of sin and eternal damnation. She live her faith, fearful of being judged by a vengeful God. At 19, her fear of eternal damnation was so great she checked herself into an Evangelical Psychiatric Facility. She wrote a memoir called Sin Bravely that tells of her wrestle with her fears of not being good enough and the grace she found in Martian Luther’s concept of pecca fortirer which means brave sin. Basically the idea is that the most important thing is to understand God's forgiveness. We don’t
have to be perfect And if we find ourselves wrestling with sin that there is forgiveness enough to help us back to God. She say, “my psychiatrist told me all these fears that you're having, it's drawing you further and further away from God. The best thing that you can do is to do exactly what you feel in your heart that you want to do…follow what you intrinsically believe and then let the Bible follow,”
This was a way for her to redefine the sin that was debilitating her with fear, to see that the love that God has for her and that forgiveness from God was greater than any sin.
When we find our selves in trouble, and nothing helps us except when we pray to Jesus, we need to find out more about this Jesus who answers prayers. Our journey of faith begins with reading the Gospels that reveals the Good News of Jesus Christ. After quite a rough start, with Mary and Joseph, fleeing to Egypt and all, Jesus now begins his ministry with the inaugural event of Baptism by John in the Jordan. Crossing into the territory of Judea, the realm of God is taking territory with people’s hearts. John the Baptist is one of the first. The mission of Jesus draws all of us to God. The heavens are open, the Holy Spirit is released, Jesus creates the way for us to enter into relationship with God as our beloved. Grace, love and forgiveness enrich our lives with God and others.