Sermon – 02-17-19 – Epiphany VI – Cycle C
Scriptures – Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26
Sermon Title: “Are We Among the Blessed?”
If we lived in the golden age of the ‘50s, the accepted way to say b-l-e-s-s-e-d was bless / ed. Nowadays, we hear that same spelling pronounced as blest. Bless/ed or blest? I think of bless/ed as a mellow and honored and holy adjective. It is a state of being. While I think of blest as a verb – having received the act of blessing.
I think of bless / ed as having a rounded feeling, a nice, safe, secure feeling – something like floating in a big inner tube on a lake of calm water on a warm day with no agenda on the horizon. With blest, I perceive a quickness – something like a splash of cold water on a hot day.
Then our scriptures today emphasize the opposite of the state of blessedness. We see a balance of being righteous or being evil and cursed. Where does “cursed” fit into this picture. I think of someone poking a knife into my safe inner tube leaving me to flounder, to splash for dear life.
Let’s explore these alternatives. First, bless / ed are we if we trust in the Lord, if we remain faithful to God. Picture ourselves being trees planted by water. Because we have the water by our side, we don’t need to worry. Our roots will reach for the water in a dry spell. Our leaves will not wither in a dry spell. We will still bear fruit because we are supported by the water which does not disappear.
In contrast, the people who do not remain faithful to the Lord, are like a shrub in the uninhabited, parched desert. These people are cursed. Oh my! Where am I, where are you?
Our scripture lessons today do not sugarcoat God. There is no dodging the idea that God will not be turning the other cheek to us if we don’t show our face to him. God wants to see our full face, not a full back of the head, or a sideway profile. No, God is a jealous God. He expects obedience. Do we want to be planted by the stream or in the parched desert?
Can we plant ourselves or does it just happen to us? Or is this part of God’s plan. Would he purposely plant some of us in the desert? These are very deep questions. Does God give us a neutral spot until we show that we deserve a place by the stream or a dry spot in the desert? In other words, do we earn our spot – being blessed or cursed – or is it our choice or God’s choice?
Well, if we look at Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul is saying it depends on our belief. If we believe that Christ was resurrected from the dead and is now with the Father and if we believe that because Christ was resurrected, we too shall be resurrected to the heavenly life, we shall be called “bless / ed.” This is our hope – our Christian hope. How do we explain this to people who have not heard? Or to people who have heard but cannot take the leap of faith to believe? How do we believe this ourselves with conviction? How can we claim the joy?
Do you find it easy to believe because it has been told to you? Or are you natured to have a questioning mind? Do you need to have things proven to you? There is nothing wrong with that nature. We need you in the kingdom. We need you in our society. Religion needs scientists just as science needs religion. Religion needs searching and questioning minds. Religion needs ongoing research.
My question is, “Is there no place in the blessed category for people who are happy now and full now and comfortably rich now and well-thought-of now? We read in Luke 6, “Woe to you who are rich, woe to you who are full now. Woe to you who are laughing now.”
But, I only need to look at the Psalm today to see happiness being approved. It reads, “Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, not lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!” What is that – “sat in the seats of the scornful?” I think it means making fun of other people or bullying other people or putting down other people – scornful.
To me it boils down to, “Do we lift people or do we squash people? Have we learned to phrase our comments in a favorable way or an unpleasant way? The words in the English language can be arranged and re-arranged endlessly. While we go our way – whether merry or disgruntled – let’s practice saying things to people in our minds. The more we practice, the better the chances are that, when we are actually speaking to someone, our comments will be uplifting and not discouraging.
I like to think that being blessed or being cursed is not a permanent division. Perhaps one day we have had our mind on God in a really connected way, and our language or our actions helped someone. So we are in the blessed category. Another day, something may have happened to weaken our connection with God, and we are out of sorts, and kindness does not readily flow from our minds and bodies. On those days, cursed may apply to us. Which happens the most – a blessed day or a cursed day? Check it. Start a diary. Or start a log. Pray to God asking for a transformation of your thinking. Say, “Am I lifting or am I squashing?” Was this a blest day or a cursed day?
We heard John read this statement. “Life with God brings blessing; the power and vitality of God is active in our life. Life without God brings a curse, the power of death.” We also heard these words from Jeremiah. “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse – who can understand it? I, the Lord, test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.” So what is our fruit on any given day? What about yesterday? Did you and I display and share the fruits of the spirit which are listed in Galatians 5:22 which says, “God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled.”
Think then. When we are a tree planted by the water – partly because we worked on our personalities and partly because God honored and approved our desires – we grow fruit. Not easily recognizable, not necessarily oranges and apples, plums and pears, but uplifting fruit in a humble way. Did we encourage someone without claiming a reward? Are you ready? Can we review our day and feel that we need not be ashamed when we stand before God and feel God’s eyes upon us? Did we squash someone or did we lift someone?