Listen to the sermon here:
Scripture: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31
What kind of life counts with God? Who gets the most blessings? Look around! Think! What brings happiness? Should those of us who are blessed moderately or extravagantly with material blessings settle into a comfy attitude and think that we can glide to a timely passing into the land of heavenly abundance?
Well, guess who will eventually have the blessings; guess who will eventually be happy! Not those of us who are comfy now! Listen to Jesus speak on the subject of who is blessed and who is happy. I read from several versions of God’s word on this subject.
Good News Bible (Today’s English Version)
Luke 6: 20-24
“Jesus looked at his disciples and said, ‘Happy are you poor; the Kingdom of God is yours! Happy are you who are hungry now; you will be filled! Happy are you who weep now; you will laugh! Happy are you when people hate you, reject you, insult you, and say that you are evil, all because of the Son of Man! Be glad when that happens and dance for joy, because a great reward is kept for you in heaven.’”
“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them! Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them! Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised! Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully! Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them! Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God! Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children! Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them! Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kind of evil lies against you because you are my followers. Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven.”
The Message by Eugene Peterson
“You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all; God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning.
Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – skip like a lamb,if you like,for even though they don’t like it, I do … preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.
“But it is trouble ahead if you think you have it made. What you have is all you’ll ever get.
And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself. Your self will not satisfy you for long. And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games. There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.”
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being care-full, you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
“Not only that – count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – give a cheer, even! For though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”
We have just heard the word of the Lord in different translations and from both Matthew and Luke. We call this section of scripture “The Beatitudes.”
All of this comes under the umbrella of “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” It is about the kingdom of God. The kingdom is here now. If we are part of this kingdom, the rules are different than in the kingdom of the world. The last will be first. We are talking about being saints.
Today is All-Saints Day! The idea is that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as Savior is a saint. The key word is “believes” not “behaves!” We in the United Church of Christ believe that sainthood is an open possibility, not reserved for certain chosen people. We believe that certain people serve as great models for our own lives but sainthood is not limited to these people. We believe that sainthood starts in the earthly kingdom. It is everyone who believes.
Being in the kingdom of God on earth depends on our believing that Jesus Christ is Lord. Being in the kingdom of God is all about attitude and beliefs. If attitude and beliefs are genuine then actions – behavior – will follow accordingly. Do you think that Jesus and therefore God is asking us to purposely become poor? I don’t know … it seems like a difficult thing to do. It is a reversal of our goals in many of our lives. It is a scary idea for sure. Has this ever worked in the past? Does God really want us to go to the bottom of the economic scale like sitting at the foot of the table instead of the head so that we can possibly be called to a higher seat?
What about our children? Did we not build our nest egg so that we could pass it to our children? No? Then we should surely and rightly keep our nest eggs for the care we will need as we age and face the heavenly kingdom of God, trading the earthly for the heavenly. This makes sense. Do not flatten that nest egg! By all means, do not smash this egg! But, what do we do with these verses called “The Beatitudes?” We can work on changing our attitudes and maybe our very lives one step at a time or we may be led to change our lives drastically, immediately. Let ourselves be in prayer. Listen. Wait. This thing about being in the earthly kingdom of God is big.
In the Daniel passage today – Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18 – I read from verse 18: “But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever – forever and ever.”
Remembering the question about saving our nest egg to pass to our children, Paul is saying in Ephesians 1:11 and 13: “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.”
The longing to be part of the kingdom of God now should take precedence over any nest egg we have accumulated. It should take precedence over financial security for our children. Giving them passageway into the kingdom of God on earth is a greater gift than financial security. Do we need to forsake one goal for the reaching of another goal? Is being in the Kingdom of God on earth exclusive of having financial security? Then again, what is financial security? How dependable is it? Bad habits and circumstances beyond our control can wipe our financial resources out of sight! Think about these words from the song, “Seek Ye First The Kingdom of God,” based on Matthew 6:33 and composed by Karen Lafferty.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness,
and all these things shall be added unto you. Allelu, alleluia.
Ask and it shall be given unto you; seek and you shall find;
knock and the door shall be opened unto you. Allelu, alleluia.
We do not live by bread alone, but by every word
that proceeds from the mouth of God. Allelu, alleluia.
Are we going to pretend that Jesus was not addressing us? Or, are we going to claim these writings as a directive for our own lives? Are we going to be brave and draw on our faith to focus on the attitude of “The Beatitudes” and being in the Kingdom of God – both the earthly, imperfect kingdom and the heavenly, perfect kingdom?
Let us knock on the door which Jesus will open. Let us receive the Holy Spirit and the Word of the Father. Let us change our attitudes and living patterns now. Let us feel the blessings and be comfortable with the title of “saint.” Amen.